It’s been an up and down season for fantasy goalies this year to say the least. With so many back to backs and condensed schedules, it’s created a ton of injuries among goalies. This has given a number of goalies who were well off of fantasy radars at the beginning of the year a chance to become fantasy relevant. Fantasy managers have been scouring the waiver wire for goalies each week with highly variable starts across the league.
So far this season, 21 of 31 teams in the league have used at least three different goalies. As well, 26 of 31 teams in the league have started two different goalies at least 10 times. Considering no team has even played 40 games yet these numbers are pretty substantial. Among the massive crowd of goalies in fantasy this year, there have been a few that have risen above the pack recently and cemented themselves as legitimate fantasy starters. Let’s take a look at one goalie from each division to add in fantasy right now.
North Division – Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s not often that the starting goalie for a divisions top team is available for free in fantasy, but in the case of Jack Campbell that might just be the case. With starter Frederik Andersen struggling and now injured indefinitely, Campbell looks to have secured one of the most valuable starting jobs in fantasy.
The Maple Leafs backup goalie had just three starts before playing the Flames on March 20th. Since then, including that game, he’s started five of six games for the North Division’s top team, putting up wins in each start in the process. He’s not just getting carried by a high powered Leafs offense either, as he’s currently sitting at a sparkling .951 save percentage and 1.35 GAA.
Campbell also currently sits 7th in the league with 8.56 GSAx. His even strength save percentage of .954 is currently first in the league. Put that together with his undefeated 8-0 record and you’ve got a major fantasy asset.
Another important factor for Campbell’s value is that we still don’t know how long Andersen will be out for as he is currently out indefinitely right now with no return in sight. Considering the Leafs’ next best option after Campbell is Michael Hutchinson, I’d expect Campbell to be given a ton of starts in April.
I think his value will continue for the rest of the season as well though even when Andersen comes back. Andersen has been brutal this year and the Leafs certainly won’t want to rush him back. I would assume that as long as Campbell is playing well, the net is his. In fantasy leagues, he has gone from pretty much being on very few rosters to just over 60% owned in a week. Get him while you can.
West Division – Cal Petersen, LA Kings
We highlighted Cal Petersen earlier this year as one of the unexpected breakout goalies of the season. The 26-year-old keeper is having the best season of his young career for the surprising Los Angeles Kings, and has cemented himself as a solid fantasy option in net.
He currently sits with a .926 save percentage and 2.49 GAA. Among goalies with at least 15 starts this season his save percentage ranks fifth in the league ahead of top fantasy goalies like Marc-Andre Fleury and Connor Hellebuyck. His GSAx of 8.49 is currently fifth-best in the league. He’s also only allowed four or more goals in four of his 19 games played and one of those games he still made 41 saves.
Despite all this Petersen still seems to be splitting starts with veteran Johnathan Quick who has frankly been terrible for most of this season. Quick has a .894 save percentage and 2.98 GAA, yet has started 15 of 35 games for the Kings this year. Over his last five starts he has a 1-4 record and has put up a save percentage over .900 in just one game.
For comparison, Petersen has put up a save percentage over .920 in six of his last seven starts, while going 3-4. In three of his four losses over that span he’s made at least 35 saves and allowed three or less goals. Even when he loses, he still puts up some decent fantasy points.
It’s time for Petersen to get the full-time job in LA and if it happens he’ll bring some nice value to the table for teams needing an extra goaltending option in fantasy. The Kings have 13 games left this year against either the Coyotes, Ducks or Sharks. That’s a lot of potential wins and fantasy points against very beatable teams. At 27% owned, Petersen is incredibly undervalued in fantasy and would be a great pickup.
East Division – Ilya Sorokin, NY Islanders
After spending five seasons in the KHL after being drafted by the Islanders, Ilya Sorokin finally made his way to North America this year and came with a ton of hype. With Thomas Greiss leaving the team in free agency after splitting duties with Varlamov last season, there was a big hole to fill in the Islander net.
Many expected Sorokin to step right into a 1B role for the team, and perhaps even take the starting job to start the season. Unfortunately that didn’t happen as Varlamov started the year on fire while Sorokin struggled in his first three career starts in January. Although he started just two games the next month in February, he put up shutouts both times which earned him the 1B role many predicted.
Since the end of February, Sorokin has been getting a much bigger workload and has handled the duties well. In the month of March he went an impressive 6-1 with a .910 save percentage and 2.28 GAA. Overall this season, his record sits at 8-3-1 with a .911 save percentage and 2.24 GAA. Among goalies with 12 or less starts this season, his eight wins sit tied for first with Ilya Samsonov.
The Islanders are currently eighth in the league and are as usual one of the best defensive teams in hockey, sitting third in the league for goals against per game. There aren’t many better spots to own a goalie in fantasy than on Long Island with the type of hockey they play.
With Varlmov sitting tied for fourth among goalies with 26 games played, the Islanders will surely want to give him more nights off as the season goes on, especially considering they’ve essentially locked up a playoff spot. Sorokin is just 45% owned on Yahoo right now which seems low considering he’s currently splitting starts on one of the best teams in hockey.
Central Division – Alex Nedeljkovic, Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes are one of the best teams in the NHL this season sitting at 24-8-3, good for third place in the league. Despite their impressive results this year, they don’t have a set starting goalie, instead having three goalies each with a case for the starting role.
Petr Mrazek started the year with a .955 save percentage over four games and was locked into the starting role, but unfortunately suffered a long term injury in January and hasn’t played since which left the job up for grabs. It was assumed James Reimer would be the one to take on the role, however rookie Alex Nedeljkovic has slowly been building his case to be the go-to guy for one of the league’s top teams.
He didn’t get his first start until February 8th, but since then he’s been spectacular. He currently sports an 8-3-2 record with a .927 save percentage and 2.05 GAA. His save percentage and GAA both rank fourth in the league among goalies with at least 10 games played.
After getting just four starts in February, he started eight of the Hurricanes’ 14 games in March. Throughout the month he played absolutely lights out too, winning six of those starts with a .934 save percentage and 1.85 GAA. His play did not go unnoticed, as it earned him the Rookie of the Month for March.
It’s too early to consider him a starting goalie as it’s a crowded crease in Carolina right now with three very capable goalies, but the more Nedeljkovic plays the more confidence it seems the Canes have in him. Reimer has struggled of late and Mrazek is still working his way back from a major injury so Nedeljkovic has a perfect opportunity to seize the starting role if he continues his strong play.
At 49% owned, Nedeljkovic offers a great opportunity for fantasy teams needing some help in the crease for the rest of the year and into the fantasy playoffs.
Some much needed insurance going into the playoffs
Goaltending can be one of the most valuable positions in fantasy, and can be the difference between a win or a loss almost every week. With so much uncertainty and changing of the guard among NHL teams in net this year, there have been some very valuable options in net that have climbed to fantasy relevance in March.
Adding any of these four goalies would be perfect for a team needing a little extra depth at the position through the stretch drive and into the fantasy playoffs. All four options are starting a good chunk of games right now, with Campbell, Petersen, and Nedeljkovic having great shots at becoming full time starters in the month of April. With the fantasy playoffs approaching fast, extra depth in net could be the difference between a first round exit or fantasy gold.