No position is more difficult to improve in season from a Fantasy perspective than goaltending. The guys who begin the year as unquestioned starters are almost always still the No. 1 option when the season ends. Thus, you shouldn’t be afraid to reach in your draft to ensure you get a top option on your roster. With that in mind, let’s break down this year’s crop of goaltenders into tiers.
Tier 1 – The best of the best
The first two names here should come as no surprise. Vasilevskiy had arguably the worst season of his career in 2022-23 and still won 34 games. His secondary numbers (2.65 GAA, .915 save percentage), while nowhere near what we are used to seeing from him, were still plenty reasonable. Shesterkin predictably regressed from his Vezina Trophy-winning performance two seasons ago (36-13-4, 2.07 GAA, .916 save percentage) in 2022-23, but he still set a new career high in wins with 37 while posting above-average marks in both the GAA (2.48) and save percentage (.916) departments. The newcomer to this tier is Oettinger. Finally healthy a season ago, Oettinger appeared in 62 games, tying Shesterkin and Connor Hellebuyck for third in the NHL with 37 wins while posting top-ten marks in both GAA (2.37) and save percentage (.919). He’s legit. Unsurprisingly, all three of these netminders play for three of the better teams in the NHL.
Tier 2 – Best of the rest
Ilya Sorokin, Connor Hellebuyck, Alexandar Georgiev
There’s a real case to be made for Sorokin being the most talented goaltender in the league. He would have been a legitimate Vezina candidate last season (31-22-7, 2.34 GAA, .924 save percentage, league-high six shutouts) if he played for a better team. So, why isn’t he in Tier 1? Well, I think the odds are against the Islanders making the postseason in 2023-24. Plus, they seem committed to giving backup Semyon Varlamov a fair amount of playing time in hopes of keeping Sorokin fresh. Hellebuyck is a tricky one. He was much better last season (37-25-2, 2.49 GAA, .920 save percentage) compared to his dreadful 2021-22 campaign (29-27-10, 2.97 GAA, .910 save percentage), but he’s a pending unrestricted free agent and the Jets cannot allow him to walk for nothing if he doesn’t plan on re-signing. In other words, there’s a chance he finishes the year somewhere other than Winnipeg. Georgiev’s first season as the full-time starter in Colorado was a rousing success. He finished tied for third in games played (62) and tied for first in wins with 40. He has additional value in league’s which place an emphasis on victories.
Tier 3 – The volume guy
This one is scary. Saros is an excellent goaltender, but a good portion of his Fantasy value is the result of his massive workload. I think there’s a real chance the Predators are one of the more disappointing teams in the NHL this season. They have no offense. Seriously. Their best offensive player is a 33-year-old defenseman. Tread carefully with Saros.
Tier 4 – The youngster & some bounce-back options
Filip Gustavsson, Ilya Samsonov, Stuart Skinner, Tristan Jarry, Thatcher Demko, Jacob Markstrom, Sergei Bobrovsky
Gustavsson’s emergence a season ago as the goaltender of the future in Minnesota was an awesome story. However, I’m still concerned the Wild will hand too much playing time to 38-year-old future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury this year. If they don’t, Gustavsson will end up being at least a tier too low. Samsonov is an easy top-10 guy if healthy and he looked the part a season ago (27-10-5, 2.33 GAA, .919 save percentage). I’m just worried about the constant, nagging injuries he is seemingly always dealing with. Skinner has real potential if he can pull away from Jack Campbell for good, but I have my doubts. The next four names all disappointed a season ago. Sure, Jarry won 24 games and Bobrovsky led Florida to the Stanley Cup Finals, but neither were a foundational piece of a stable Fantasy roster. Virtually nothing went right for Markstrom or Demko last season. That can largely be attributed to the fact they were playing behind poor teams.
Tier 5 – The timeshare guys
Ullmark was the best goaltender in the league last season. He won the Vezina Trophy on the heels of a year in which he posted a 40-6-2 record, 1.89 GAA and .938 save percentage. Hill led the Golden Knights to their first Stanley Cup championship last year. The issue for these netminders is despite their past successes, both are expected to be in some sort of a timeshare this season. Swayman would be a starter on at least two-thirds of the teams in the NHL, but he’ll once again be stuck behind Ullmark in 2023-24. Thompson was a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate (21-13-2, 2.65 GAA, .915 save percentage) before getting injured. He’ll have additional value in formats which allow for daily lineup changes this season.
Tier 6 – Veterans on lesser teams and veterans on good teams
Darcy Kuemper, Jordan Binnington, Phillip Grubauer, Frederik Andersen
Kuemper (Washington) and Binnington (St. Louis) are both unquestioned starters on their respective teams, but the Capitals and the Blues could struggle this season. Grubauer (Seattle) and Andersen (Carolina) both have strong supporting casts, but the former has been dreadful in two years with the Kraken and the latter has been unable to remain healthy for any significant length of time.
Tier 7 – More Starters
Korpisalo is my favorite under-the-radar target in drafts this fall. He’s scheduled to be Ottawa’s full-time starter following a year split between the Blue Jackets and the Kings. I’m expecting improvement from both Detroit and Columbus this season, giving Husso and Merzlikins a bump in value. Hart is plenty talented, but the Flyers will likely be one of the worst teams in the NHL this year.
Tier 8 – More questions than answers
Vitek Vanecek, Devon Levi, Pheonix Copley/Cam Talbot
The Devils are one of the best teams in the NHL. I’d be all in on whomever their unquestioned starter might be, but I don’t think they have one. Vanecek and Akira Schmid figure to split time. Levi is clearly Buffalo’s best option in goal, but are the Sabres really going to go all in on a 21-year-old with just seven NHL games under his belt? Copley and Talbot look headed for a full-blown timeshare in LA.
Tier 9 – Only if you’re desperate
Karel Vejmelka, Petr Mrazek, Kaapo Kahkonen/Mackenzie Blackwood, Jake Allen/Sam Montembeault
I expect some improvements from Arizona, making Vejmelka the clear best bet from this group. The Connor Bedard-led Blackhawks will be fun to watch, but they’re likely going to give up a ton of goals. You don’t want to be leaning on the committees likely to form in San Jose or Montreal if you hope to have any success in your league this year.