Fantasy Hockey 2022-23: Goalie draft tiers
By Jon Litterine, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Fantasy hockey analyst Jon Litterine outlines his draft tiers for 2022-23. Finally, the goalies!
TIER 1 – TAKE YOUR PICK
The Skinny: The unquestioned top two goalies in the NHL.
Igor Shesterkin, Andrei Vasilevskiy
I don't have a strong preference as to which of these two should be the first netminder off the board. Shesterkin is coming off a season in which he went 36-13-4 with a 2.07 GAA and a .935 save percentage en route to winning the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender. And Vasilevskiy certainly didn't perform poorly (39-18-5, 2.49 GAA, .916 save percentage).
TIER 2 – THE NEXT BEST THING
The Skinny: Goaltenders who could find themselves in the top tier at the end of the year if everything breaks correctly.
Juuse Saros, Ilya Sorokin, Jacob Markstrom
Saros played 67 games in 2021-22 en route to being named a Vezina finalist. His underlying numbers (2.64 GAA, .918 save percentage) weren't super strong, but the massive workload he'll likely be handed in 2022-23 makes him the No. 3 overall goaltender in my view.
I'm all-in on Sorokin this year. He was legitimately one of the best goaltenders in the league last season (26-18-7, 2.40 GAA, .925 save percentage). I'm still worried Semyon Varlamov is going to get a significant amount of playing time in 2022-23, but Sorokin's ceiling is the highest in the league outside of Shesterkin and Vasilevskiy's.
Markstrom had the best season of his career (37-15-9, 2.22 GAA, .922 save percentage, nine shutouts) for an overachieving Flames team last year. The losses of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk certainly hurt, but the additions of Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and MacKenzie Weegar should ensure Calgary doesn't take much of a step backward in 2022-23.
TIER 3 – INVEST WITH CONFIDENCE
The Skinny: Unquestioned No. 1 fantasy goaltenders with minor red flags attached.
Thatcher Demko, Connor Hellebuyck, Darcy Kuemper, Jake Oettinger, Frederik Andersen, Tristan Jarry
I was tempted to move Demko up a tier following a 2021-22 season in which he made 67 appearances and played well (33-22-7, 2.72 GAA, .915 save percentage). Much like Saros, Demko's massive workload will give him a high fantasy floor.
Hellebuyck came in at No. 2 in my rankings a year ago behind Vasilevskiy. He went out and posted a 2.79 GAA and a .910 save percentage in 66 games, some of the worst numbers of his career. Hellebuyck is a bet-on-talent bounce-back candidate.
Kuemper played one season in Colorado (37-12-5, 2.54 GAA, .921 save percentage), helping the team to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2021-22. He then signed a five-year deal with Washington this summer. His overall numbers are likely to dip on a weaker team, but the Capitals added career journeyman Charlie Lindgren to serve as Kuemper's backup, suggesting a large workload is forthcoming.
Still just 23 years old and coming off an epic playoff performance in Dallas' seven-game first-round loss to Calgary, it's time for the Stars to ride Oettinger.
Andersen should be, at a minimum, at the top of this tier, but he simply can't stay healthy. He played 52 games last season (35-14-3, 2.17 GAA, .922 save percentage) and missed Carolina's entire postseason run. If he's your guy, make sure you have a solid backup plan in place.
Jarry was much better than I expected (34-18-4, 2.42 GAA, .919 save percentage) as Pittsburgh's No. 1 man last season, but a broken foot caused him to miss a boatload of time late in the campaign and into the playoffs.
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TIER 4 – THE RISK/REWARD GROUP
The Skinny: Goaltenders with high ceilings but lower floors.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Alexandar Georgiev, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jordan Binnington, Jack Campbell, Cam Talbot
Perhaps I'm being overly skeptical, but I refuse to believe the Wild are going to hand the soon-to-be 38-year-old Fleury a full starter's workload in 2022-23. And even if they do, I'm not sure Fleury will be able to handle it. That said, youngster Filip Gustavsson appears to be the favorite for the backup job, so maybe Flower will play more than I expect.
Always willing to look outside the box for a solution, Colorado GM Joe Sakic let Kuemper walk in free agency and acquired Georgiev from the Rangers to serve as the Avalanche's No. 1 goaltender this year. Georgiev wasn't very good through 33 games in 2021-22 (15-10-7, 2.92 GAA, .898 save percentage), but he's always played better in a starter's role. Pavel Francouz should still get his fair share of playing time as Colorado's No. 2 option.
It's difficult to complain about a guy who posted a 39-7-3 record last season, but Bobrovsky's value is largely tied to the fact that he plays for an excellent Panthers team. The looming presence of Spencer Knight doesn't help matters, either.
Binnington played behind Ville Husso for a good chunk of last season, but the latter was dealt to Detroit this summer and the Blues brought in Thomas Greiss to serve as the team's backup behind Binny, meaning he should be in for a hefty workload.
Campbell started last year on fire before completely falling apart. He left Toronto and joined the Oilers on a five-year deal this offseason, giving him the biggest opportunity of his career.
Talbot appeared destined to split time with Fleury in Minnesota this year before he was traded to the Senators in July. He's one of my favorite "sleeper" picks as the unquestioned starter on what should be a much-improved team in Ottawa.
TIER 5 – STARTERS (but that's it)
The Skinny: Starting goaltenders on what project to be non-playoff teams.
Elvis Merzlikins, Jake Allen, John Gibson, Philipp Grubauer, Carter Hart
Merzlikins is my favorite option in this group for two reasons. One, the Blue Jackets could be significantly improved following the offseason addition of Johnny Gaudreau, and two, his backup, Joonas Korpisalo, had a 4.15 GAA and a .877 save percentage in 22 games last season.
I'm working under the assumption Carey Price isn't going to play this season. Allen has played well at times in the past and is a clear upgrade over Sam Montembeault.
The Ducks tried to bolster their lineup in free agency, adding John Klingberg, Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano. Toss in talented youngsters such as Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish and there's some hope for Gibson.
Grubauer's numbers a year ago (18-31-2, 3.16 GAA, .889 save percentage) don't inspire much confidence, but Seattle could improve to the point Gruby turns in low-end No. 2 goaltender fantasy value.
I couldn't be more out on both Hart and the Flyers this season. They could end up being one of the worst teams in the NHL.
TIER 6 - THE TEAM BATTLES
The Skinny: Teams – some good ones – with unsettled goaltending situations.
Boston (Linus Ullmark/Jeremy Swayman), Toronto (Matt Murray/Ilya Samsonov), Vegas (Logan Thompson/Laurent Brossoit), New Jersey (Vitek Vanecek/Mackenzie Blackwood), Detroit (Ville Husso/Alex Nedeljkovic), Los Angeles (Jonathan Quick/Cal Petersen)
Ullmark and Swayman split playing time last season, and I expect a similar arrangement in 2022-23. Swayman is probably the better player, but Ullmark has the big contract on his side. I don't love either option.
The Maple Leafs are going with Murray and Samsonov this year, which is an odd move for a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations. I personally prefer Samsonov, but I have no idea if Toronto feels the same way. Neither goaltender has been good for multiple seasons.
The Vegas situation is a mess. Robin Lehner is expected to miss the entire season due to a hip issue. Brossoit also isn't expected to be ready for Opening Night due to surgery for an undisclosed issue. That makes Thompson the No. 1 man by default to start the year, a job he could keep if he plays well.
The Devils acquired Vanecek from Washington and inked him to a three-year deal worth more than $10 million this summer. He should have a leg up on Blackwood.
The same goes for Husso. Detroit acquired him from the Blues and handed the Finn a three-year deal worth more than $14 million this offseason.
Quick will be 37 years old in January and is a massive injury risk. He did, however, play well (23-13-2, 2.59 GAA, .910 save percentage) when healthy last season. Petersen likely isn't the long-term answer for the Kings.