The NHL season is officially underway with the Sharks and Predators kicking off the 2022–23 season in Europe. Once your draft is complete it’s onto the waiver wire to improve your team. Perhaps the most fickle position in fantasy hockey is goaltending. Last year, 74 goalies played at least 10 games in the NHL.
Gearing up with goaltenders
Staying on top of the daily starting goaltenders across the league as well as back-to-backs, injuries, rest days, etc. can be quite the task. That’s why it’s worth looking into adding some of the below backup goaltenders to your team if you need some help in net. Backup goaltenders can typically be picked up for free off of waivers and at times can offer some solid fantasy value for their cost.
Pavel Francouz – Colorado Avalanche
Pavel Francouz looks set to start the season behind the newly acquired Alexander Georgiev on the Avalanche’s depth chart. That said there’s a good chance this is more of a 1A/1B situation as the season goes on. Georgiev has yet to post impressive results in the NHL and is far from trustworthy as a full-time starter.
Francouz has been listed a sleeper in net for the past couple seasons, but every season injury problems pop up that slow down the hype train. If he’s healthy this could finally be the year he becomes a mainstay on fantasy rosters. Across 57 career games he’s posted an impressive .921 save percentage and 2.46 GAA. Not too shabby.
The goaltender ahead of him in Georgiev has a career .908 save percentage and is coming off a season in which he struggled mightily en route to a .898 save percentage across 33 games. If Georgiev struggles to start the season, it won’t be long before Francouz grabs the starting job.
At 59% owned and an ADP of 155, Francouz can still be added in plenty of leagues or drafted quite low if your draft is still to come. He offers tremendous upside on one of the NHL’s top teams.
Vitek Vanecek – New Jersey Devils
Could the Devils finally take the next step this season? If they do, newly acquired Vitek Vanecek is in for a big season. The 26-year-old was brought in over the summer after the Devils struggled with terrible goaltending last season. Expect him to be the go-to starter right in game one ahead of MacKenzie Blackwood.
Vanecek posted average results last season, finishing the year with a .908 save percentage and 2.67 GAA. His save percentage was still higher than Robin Lehner, Carter Hart, John Gibson, and Jordan Binnington to name a few. He also played in a career-high 41 games and was a decent 20–12–6 overall. If the Devils can finally take the next step this season and become a competitive team, Vanecek is in a good spot to post solid numbers across the board.
Considering he’s currently just 44% owned and being drafted at an ADP in the 15th round, he provides some nice value if you’re in need of some depth at the position. His backup in Blackwood posted a .892 save percentage last year which made the Devils go out and acquire Vanecek. In other words, it’s clear who the starter will be. With the Devils being pegged as a breakout team, grabbing their starting goaltender could provide some hidden value.
Jaroslav Halak – New York Rangers
This one is more of an add to round out your team if you’re badly in need of starts. Jaroslav Halak signed with the New York Rangers in the offseason to be the backup for one of fantasy’s premier goalies in Igor Shesterkin, but that doesn’t mean he won’t bring value.
Over the last two seasons the Rangers showed us they like to give their superstar Shesterkin ample rest. Add on his history of minor injuries and whoever backs him up tends to play a decent amount. In 2020–21 he played in 35 games, leaving 21 for his backups. Even during his Vezina winning 2021–22 season he played in just 53 games, leaving 29 for his backups.
Last season, Halak got into 17 games for the Canucks, managing a 4–7–2 record and a .903 save percentage. On a much better Rangers team his record should be much better. Considering the departing Georgiev posted an ugly .898 save percentage last season and still played in 33 games, posting 15 wins, the outlook for Halak is pretty solid.
Halak won’t blow the doors off this season, but he does offer some hidden value considering the team he’s on and the starter in front of him if you’re desperate for help in net. There’s a good chance Halak is looking at around 20–25 starts this season behind one of the East’s top teams.
Stuart Skinner – Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers made a splash in free agency by signing Jack Campbell to a hefty five-year deal. He’s their clear starter for now, but his results are far from reassuring. Stuart Skinner meanwhile comes with plenty of upside and has impressed whenever called upon by the Oilers in recent years.
Campbell has yet to prove he can be a full-time starter across an entire campaign, as he’s never played more than 49 games in a season. Last season, his play fell off considerably after a hot start. When the calendar turned over to 2022 and onward, Campbell posted a .893 save percentage across 26 games. Good for 69th in the NHL in that span. The jury is still out on whether or not he can handle a full year of being a starter as well as delivering quality starts.
Skinner is now the full-time backup for the team with Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith no longer around, which presents plenty of opportunity. Last season he posted a .913 save percentage and 6–6–0 record over 13 games. Regardless of whether Campbell struggles, he’s never been a heavy workhorse in any season, so there’s a good chance Skinner gets into a good chunk of games.
If Campbell struggles which is certainly a very real possibility, Skinner will be waiting in the wings to prove his worth to the Oilers after an impressive rookie season. Currently just 9% owned and being drafted at an ADP of 177, Skinner provides some nice value for what he’ll cost to get.
Bolstering from the backend out
Drafting fantasy goaltenders is never a straight forward process and even the best goalies from last season may falter. Finding the goaltenders that have a good chance to succeed due to their new circumstances heading into 2022–23 can be just what a fantasy roster needs to go from good to great.