Crease Chat: Blind Taste Test, Rankings, and Sleepers

The armchair managers of the world are approximately one month away from pre-season hockey and I am elated. You should be too. One reason for this excitement, other than the simple fact that hockey is back, is that you should be preparing for your fantasy hockey draft. One popular dilemma that gets raised quite often is drafting goalies. A lot of people prefer drafting the popular guys like Boston’s Tuukka Rask, who I expect to be the first goalie off of the board this season. However, I am a firm believer in waiting on your netminders. I want to prove to you that there is a lot of value late in your draft.

A healthy Pekka Rinne will excite many fantasy owners.

A healthy Pekka Rinne will excite many fantasy owners.

This is an exercise famously known as the blind taste test. I will show you the regular season stat line for two unknown goalies and it is your job to figure them out.

Goalie A: 59 GP (34-20-5) 2.32 GAA, .927 SV%, 6 SO

Goalie B: 36 GP (19-14-1) 2.30 GAA, .926 SV%, 1 SO

Goalie A and Goalie B had very similar ratios throughout the regular season, despite their 24 game gap. The standout statistic is the large spread in shutouts, which is likely the result of a better team in front of the crease and/or individual skill. If you need a hint, Goalie A was generally being drafted in the first two rounds in 12+ team leagues while Goalie B went UNDRAFTED in most leagues. Give up yet? Goalie A is the dashing Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. Goalie B is the tough-battling Anton Khudobin of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Analysis: It’s obvious why Carey will be drafted in the first two rounds this season but wouldn’t it be better value and more fantasy-savvy to get a similar goalie a whole lot later in the draft, say the 10th round or even later (by my estimate)? I think so. I’m targeting Khudobin this year for a few reasons: 1) Eric Staal. Alex Semin. Jeff Skinner. All healthy to start the season. 2) New coach Bill Peters has preached a responsible, defensive game as he takes the reins of the Canes. 3) Anton has the 3rd highest SV% over the last two seasons of goalies that have played in at least 50 games. The majority of those starts are with a struggling Canes team.

I’m avoiding Carey for a couple of reasons as well: 1) His draft position is too rich for my taste. Passing up a guy like Shea Weber or Jamie Benn in the second round is just bad value. 2) Josh Gorges will not be on the Canadiens this season as he was arguably their best penalty killing blue liner and he was tied for 5th in blocked shots last season with 177. Next highest for the Canadiens was Alexei Emelin with 126 (albeit only in 59 games).

Next round:

Goalie A: 45 GP (16-15-12) 1.97 GAA, .921 SV%, 3 SO

Goalie B: 49 GP (27-17-4) 2.07 GAA, .915 SV%, 6 SO

Goalie A looked quite dominant with a sub-2 GAA last season, although Goalie B was right behind him. Goalie A also looks to be a bit more snake bitten due to his 12 overtime losses, yet beat out Goalie B in both ratios. Goalie A in this scenario is the new thing in New Jersey, Cory Schneider. Goalie B is the flashy Jonathan Quick.

Analysis: Cory Schneider should be higher on everyone’s fantasy radar, regardless of where you put him. He is very ready to take over the starting role, after the departure of all time great Martin Brodeur, behind a stout New Jersey squad. I have him at #11 in my rankings but he could likely creep his way up into the top 10 on my list in the near future. A big reason I won’t take Jonathan Quick this season is because, like Carey, way too rich for my blood and will become overvalued due to his recent playoff success.

One to go:

Goalie A: 63 GP (33-24-5) 2.36 GAA, .920 SV%, 5 SO

Goalie B: 65 GP (33-20-10) 2.41 GAA, .919 SV% 5 SO

As you can see by the numbers, we have two workhorses on two pretty good teams. Now this matchup, in my opinion, will be the closest matchup for the reader from the stat line. With further examination into next season, one might be the best value of the draft among goalies. Goalie A is the Rangers beloved Henrik Lundqvist. Goalie B is the Finn Kari Lehtonen of the Dallas Stars.

Analysis: Henrik Lundqvist will most likely be the 2nd goalie off of the board and should be gone by the 2nd round. There is one reason why I think Lundqvist, at this price, is way too high. Cam Talbot. The 28 year old had the highest SV% (.941) and lowest GAA (1.64) of any goaltender last season, hell those are the best numbers of any goaltender in the past 25 seasons. Due to Talbot’s success (and if it continues), Lundqvist will not have another 60+ game season for the rest of his New York career. Is this a guarantee? Not at all. Henrik has played the most games in the past 4 seasons and why would it stop now? The reason I’m not drafting Lundqvist in the first two rounds is not because I think he is a bad goaltender, the reason is he has a great backup that could possibly steal appx. 8-12 of his starts next season.

And for the reason opposite of Lundqvist is the reason I am targeting Lehtonen. His newly acquired backup, Anders Lindback, hasn’t proven that he is a professional level goalie in his career. So Lehtonen is likely to play another 60-65 games again, but this time around, he is playing behind the best team he has played with in Dallas yet. Adding players like Hemsky and Spezza show that Jim Nill and his Stars are in now mode. Lehtonen is generally underrated in fantasy hockey, but this year its almost criminal.

Will Marc-Andre Fleury flourish or flounder with the Pens' personnel changes?

Will Marc-Andre Fleury flourish or flounder with the Pens’ personnel changes?










Now that we have learned a bit about goalie value, here are my top 25 goaltenders of the 2014-2015 season:

Top 25 goaltenders:

1. Tuukka Rask

2. Henrik Lundqvist

3. Carey Price

4. Johnathan Quick

5. Ben Bishop

6. Kari Lehtonen

7. Sergei Bobrovsky

8. Pekka Rinne

9. Semyon Varlamov

10. Corey Crawford

11. Cory Schneider

12. Jonathan Bernier

13. Ryan Miller

14. Anton Khudobin

15. Steve Mason

16. Antti Niemi

17. Marc Andre Fleury

18. Mike Smith

19. Braden Holtby

20. Brian Elliott

21. Frederik Andersen

22. Jaroslav Halak

23. Roberto Luongo

24. Jimmy Howard

25. Ben Scrivens

UP: Pekka Rinne, NSH

Rinne is the definition of a workhorse goalie. Occasionally, he has carried the Predators to a victory with his fast reflexes, poise, and intimidating 6’5” stature that covers the majority of the net. While on the other hand, Rinne has lost many 1-0 or 2-1 games due to the unfruitful offense of years past. This year, not so much. With the addition of 40 goal scorer James Neal, 1 year prove-it guys Derek Roy and Mike Ribiero, the emergence of young talent like Craig Smith, Gabe Bourque, Calle Jarnkrok, and Filip Forsberg, and offensive-minded coach Pete Laviolette, and the super squad of blue liners featuring future stud Seth Jones, progressing stud Roman Josi, and best defensiveman in the league Shea Weber, Mr. Rinne is in store for one of the most productive and winning seasons of his career. It’s quite possible we see him return to 2010 numbers.

UP: Ryan Miller, VAN

Ryan Miller is jumping on the roller coaster that is Vancouver. After the goalie controversy, the coach swap of Vigneault and Tortorella, and the firing of GM Gillis and hiring of Jim Benning, Ryan Miller should be in store for another solid season. Eddie Lack, now backup, played well considering the internal volcano that was the Canucks organization at the time. Ryan Miller joins the Canucks at a better time than most people think. He posted his best SV% since 2009 behind a squad that was hunting and gathering draft picks. No doubt in my mind that Vancouver’s team is much better than Buffalo’s. With the additions of Nick Bonino, Radim Vrbata, and the young Linden Vey, along side a healthy double dose of Sedin, and emerging sniper Nicklas Jensen, Vancouver should not be off as many people’s radar as it seems.

DOWN: Jaroslav Halak, NYI

There was no doubt that the goalie in St. Louis was considered a must start, that was usually the Halakness Monster. After jumping from a couple clubs, the Slovak finds himself in Long Island, NY.  The forward platoon of the Islanders has improved with physical winger Nikolai Kulemin and streaky scorer Mikhail Grabovski, along with the emergence of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen. John Tavares will lead this squad with an improvement in the scoring department, however the blue line leaves something to be desired in its current state. Removing Andrew MacDonald was one good thing, however they did not bring in a better replacement. The status quo of their defense is young and improving with players such as Hamonic, De Haan, Hickey, and future Islanders Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Pulock. A healthy Lubomir Visnovsky would benefit the Islanders both at even strength and on the power play. This may not be the best year for Halak, but things should improve soon.

Brian Elliott and Jake Allen should form a strong 1-2 punch for the Blues.

Brian Elliott and Jake Allen should form a strong 1-2 punch for the Blues.

Super Sleepers:

Petr Mrazek, DET: No doubt in my mind that Mrazek is going to be a quality goaltender at the NHL level. With the vanilla stylings of average goaltender Jimmy Howard and the career backup Jonas Gustavsson as his only competition, Mrazek could have a shot at the starting reins in Detroit possibly this season. However, the cards are going to have to fall in place for Petr. For one, Jimmy Howard needs to get on Pavelec-esque play or succumb to injury, and two, Mrazek needs to take the next step in the AHL and put up dominant stats. Don’t draft him in redraft leagues, but keep your eye out for spot starts in case you’re in need.

Mike Hutchinson, WPG: It’s obvious to everyone but the GM of the Winnipeg Jets, Ondrej Pavelec is not the answer. Even Al Montoya put up some strong numbers behind this team and for some reason, Pavelec still has a job here.  However, many Jet fans are excited about the emergence of Michael Hutchinson. After three very solid seasons in the AHL, including a Calder Cup finish with the Ice Caps, its very possible to think that the 24 year old will get NHL starts this year as long as Pavelec somehow manages to play worse than he did last season.

Jake Allen, STL: The current backup of the Brian Elliott. If the past has told us anything, its Ken Hitchcock does not mind using both his goaltenders, especially when they have the hot hand. Allen posted 33 wins, .928 SV%, and a 2.03 GAA with the Chicago Wolves last season and he has a solid chance to repeat behind a stellar Blues team.

One Comment

  1. DTMAboutHeart

    August 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Loved the blind tests, but I think some of your rankings are way out of order

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