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Fantasy Hockey 2014-15: Goalkeepers are your Secret Weapon

Continuing on with our Fantasy Hockey Draft Kit, Troy Langefeld provides goalkeeper rankings for the upcoming NHL season.

All Schneider ever needed was more starts. Now he'll get them. Expect him to carry teams to a championship this year. - Photo Credit
All Schneider ever needed was more starts. Now he'll get them. Expect him to carry teams to a championship this year. - Photo Credit
Bruce Bennett

Our fantasy hockey draft kit here at Fake Teams is moving right along and today's installment marks the halfway point in our draft kit. Damn, that was fast. Training camps have opened and we're finally starting to see some hockey news in the media. I like it. I've also decided to change part of my draft kit coverage. Instead of doing mock draft analysis later in the month, I'm considering inviting the Fake Teams community to participate in an actual draft with me and then play the upcoming season in a free Fake Teams hockey league. There will still be two drafts and draft recaps/analysis, one for a snake draft and one for an auction draft, but I want to change them to real drafts because mock drafts don't usually show a true representation of what you'll see in your draft given the tendency for people to autodraft. And I don't have enough clout to invite a bunch of industry experts to a draft and have them accept the invite in order to bypass the autodraft issue. So what do you say? Would you like to participate in a hockey league with me? Message me through Twitter with your contact info if you don't want it public or provide it below in the comments and I'll invite you. Make sure you specify which league you'd prefer to play in, the snake draft or auction draft. I'm going to use standard Yahoo! leagues with very slight modifications and you must be alright with me critiquing your picks in the upcoming articles. If I can't get enough interest, I'll open it up to the greater Yahoo! public to fill it out.

A quick recap of where we're at: we've already introduced our plan for the rest of the offseason, showed you how to set up an effective league, outlined the offseason changes, and provided our rankings for each forward group and defensemen for the upcoming season. If you missed anything, you can find it all here:

Fake Teams 2014 Fantasy Hockey Draft Kit

I'm not going to go into the process in which I rank players, I've already wrote about it once. You can read about it in the intro to my center rankings: Fantasy Hockey 2014-15: Centers Will Anchor your Team. I will say though that there may be differences between ranks in different positions for dual eligible players and the individual rankings might not always be consistent. As I continue to do research, my thoughts will change. Always use the most recent article when there are differing opinions. You've been warned.

Let's just address the elephant in the room. Goalkeepers are an odd bunch. It's true, what goalie have you ever met that didn't have a quirk about them? They're also your best friend and the one person on your team that you appreciate more than anything. They have the largest impact on any given game and they've saved your bacon so many times with a clutch save. And they do it in fantasy sports as well, not just in real life. Goalkeepers really are your secret weapon to success. You can ride the right one to a rousing victory or have the wrong one sink your championship hopes. Let's bring out the first tier of goalkeepers:

Tier One:

1 Tuukka Rask Bos G
2 Jonathan Quick LA G
3 Henrik Lundqvist NYR G
4 Carey Price Mon G

The first tier is distinguishable by their high volume, great ratios, strong history of success, and the good defensive teams that they play for. It takes a lot to be in the first tier and these guys are in a select class of their own. Rask is the reigning Vezina winner and I see no reason to bump him from his lofty perch. Quick was injured for parts of last year, but his numbers don't reflect it. An injury free year and he's pushing for the top spot on this list. Lundqvist had a slow start to the year, but finished last year as one of the top goaltenders over the final stretch. He's arguably been the most consistent goalie over the past five years. And Price is the bubble goaltender on this list. He puts up near equivalent numbers despite not being on as strong a defensive team. I like him in tier one, but I can't blame you if you drop him down a tier. The top three will be gone around the turn of the first round and Price will likely be gone around the turn of the second round so you're going to have to pay to get tier one services. That said, they are worth it. Like running backs in football, the top workhorses are a scarce commodity and can single-handedlly bring you a championship. These top four rarely have downturns in their game and can be relied upon all year.

Tier Two:

5 Cory Schneider NJ G
6 Semyon Varlamov Col G
7 Corey Crawford Chi G
8 Ben Bishop TB G
9 Marc-Andre Fleury Pit G
10 Antti Niemi SJ G
11 Sergei Bobrovsky Cls G
12 Kari Lehtonen Dal G

Tier two is missing one of the four characteristics common to tier one. Schneider tops the list despite his lower ranking from Yahoo! due to his elite numbers and the fact that the only thing he's been missing over the years is the volume. With Brodeur out of town, the volume should be there for him this year and I'm expecting big things out of him. Varlamov, Bishop, and Bobrovsky are not playing for top defensive teams and are early in their career making them tougher to trust. They could all well be top tier goalkeepers, but it's too early for me to go there. Bishop in particular is coming off a wrist injury and last year was his first year as a starter. I have no idea how he is the consensus fourth goalie off the board right now as there are a few goalies who I'd prefer to have right now. Crawford, Fleury, and Niemi are veterans who have been around for a while, but are less consistent. Still great goalkeepers to have on your team though. Lehtonen is at the bottom of the tier because of his tendency to miss time. Last year was good for him in terms of not missing time, but in recent years this has been a recurring issue and I'm still a bit leery. Most of these guys will be gone by the end of the fourth round and you'll want to make sure you get at least one of them. I usually like to have two.

Tier Three:

13 Pekka Rinne Nsh G
14 Mike Smith Ari G
15 Brian Elliott StL G
16 Roberto Luongo Fla G
17 Ryan Miller Van G
18 Jimmy Howard Det G
19 Jaroslav Halak NYI G
20 Braden Holtby Was G
21 Steve Mason Phi G

Rinne could easily be in the second tier, but he missed nearly all of last year with a hip injury and subsequent surgery that then got infected. In addition, Trotz has left the team and the Predators have decided to try and become a more offensive team. Prior to injury, he was a tier one goalkeeper, but the risk involved in picking him is significant and drops him to the third tier. Most of the third tier are starting goalkeepers with high volume that play on poor teams or are not quite as good as their peers. The obvious exception to this is Elliot who I believe will still be in a split workload with the Blues. If I'm wrong and he receives the higher volume, he's instantly a tier two goalie which might make it worth the risk to reach slightly for him. Just make sure you pick up Jake Allen as well in case I'm right and he doesn't receive the volume. Regardless though, whoever is playing, Elliot or Allen, should put up good numbers on a great Blues team.

Tier Four:

22 Frederik Andersen Anh G
23 John Gibson Anh G
24 Jonathan Bernier Tor G
25 Anton Khudobin Car G
26 Jake Allen StL G
27 Craig Anderson Ott G
28 Ondrej Pavelec Wpg G
29 Jonas Hiller Cgy G
30 Ben Scrivens Edm G
31 Jhonas Enroth Buf G
32 Josh Harding Min G
33 Darcy Kuemper Min G
34 Robin Lehner Ott G
35 James Reimer Tor G
36 Viktor Fasth Edm G
37 Niklas Backstrom Min G
38 Cam Ward Car G
39 Alex Stalock SJ G
40 Martin Jones LA G
41 Niklas Svedberg Bos G
42 Antti Raanta Chi G
43 Chad Johnson NYI G
44 Thomas Greiss Pit G
45 Carter Hutton Nsh G
46 Justin Peters Was G

Tier four is large. Really large. It's a mix of goalkeepers who are fighting for starting roles or are good backups on great teams that should provide decent numbers when they occasionally play. There are also a few starting goalies who are not quite average and are on terrible teams. If paired properly, certain groups can be a fantasy asset this year. Andersen and Gibson with the Ducks is a good example of this. Boudreau likes to play the hot hand, so they could come through in a pinch for a week or two at a time, but I don't think either plays enough to be a season long asset on their own which is why they must be paired in order for them to contribute. Harding, Kuemper, and Backstrom is the same story in Minnesota with one additional player in the mix. It's a tough one to decipher as Harding just released that he's dealing with an ankle injury and Kuemper still hasn't resigned as an RFA. Does this make Backstrom the one to own right now? We're going to have to wait for more information to come out of this situation. For now I'm assuming the Harding injury is minor and that it's just a matter of time until Kuemper resigns.

Tier Five:

47 Martin Brodeur NJ G
48 Ilya Bryzgalov Min G
49 Tim Thomas Dal G
50 Tomas Vokoun Pit G

Tier five marks some intriguing free agent options. Even if they sign, I wouldn't get my hopes up given their struggles over recent times, but sometimes a starting goaltender is a hot commodity. At least stay up to date on what's going on with them.

If you want a Microsoft Excel version of my rankings, here's the link: Goalkeeper Rankings 2014.

I'm new to the twitterverse, but I'd love to hear your feedback and questions. Follow me on Twitter @HockeyGauntlet for more of my thoughts and all of your fantasy hockey needs. And don't forget to send me your contact info so that we can play some fantasy hockey this year. #IsItOctoberYet