I feel like it's safer trying to predict the rainfall on a day six months from now than it is to confidently state how the goaltender position will play out in the coming fantasy hockey season.
That's not to say there aren't safer bets out there -- but you have to pay for them. Igor Shesterkin, Ilya Sorokin, Jake Oettinger, Connor Hellebuyck ... they are likely to be better investments for your fantasy squad, but they'll cost a high draft pick.
But winning your league last year was better accomplished by drafting Linus Ullmark and Alexandar Georgiev, which was just a matter of backing the right two sleepers. Who will those sleepers be this season? As implied, that's a tough call.
More than ever, a winning fantasy strategy can be lifted from the world of tandems. When one emerges and dominates, it's a low-cost draft investment that can lead to championships (think Ullmark). But even if the time split remains, goaltenders can earn fantasy value -- Ilya Samsonov placed 108th overall last season with only 50.2% crease share and Filip Gustavsson was 81st overall with only 46.5% crease share.
We've listed the teams below most likely to use a tandem this season. Some are more likely than others and some are just a guess given the current status of their goaltenders. There's also a chance we missed some that could emerge. But when doing your draft shopping for your crease, don't overlook the potential value of a goaltender projected to get just 50% of the crease share.
Relevant stats for each goaltender include their crease share from last season, their overall ranking for fantasy, their fantasy points per 60 minutes, and their average draft position so far this draft season. Remember that an ADP higher than about 220 means they are not being drafted in most ESPN leagues.
Linus Ullmark: 58.9% crease share, fourth overall fantasy points, 5.38 fantasy points per game (FPP60), 38.2 average draft position (ADP)
Jeremy Swayman: 41.1% crease share, 144th overall, 4.04 FPP60, 108.6 ADP
This is the potential tandem that will offer the most headaches for fantasy managers. Ullmark blew away the field last season and would be a no-brainer first-round fantasy pick if we knew he was going to do it again. But so many offseason changes, not the least of which was the retirement of Patrice Bergeron, leaves a lot of questions. Are the Bruins as good defensively? Do they win as frequently? But even beyond those questions, Swayman earned himself a raise and a chance to prove he has a long-term future as a starter for the club.
I would not advise paying the premium for Ullmark given the question marks, but if he falls in your lap closer to the 70th-overall pick, I could get on board. Given that Swayman is on the weak side of the tandem, his draft price of 108th on average is also on the high end. But let's be clear: Both of these goaltenders have the potential to be fantasy difference-markers in 2023-24. The problem is that we can't say that with heaps of confidence for either one.
Adin Hill: 33.7% crease share, 451st overall, 3.02 FPP60, 211.3 ADP
Logan Thompson: 49.1% crease share, 248th overall, 2.99 FPP60, 241.9 ADP
Neither goaltender was a staple of fantasy clubs for most of last season, though Thompson had some nice runs earlier in the campaign. But we all know what Hill did after the regular season in leading the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup. There's an argument to be made that this isn't a tandem coming into the season, with Hill earning a massive raise, but Hill has never played more than 27 games in an NHL season before, so it's hard to call him a workhorse starter at this stage.
This will probably be a "hot-hand" crease, with whichever goaltender is having a solid run getting the lion's share of starts. After Hill was so dominant in the postseason, he would be my preference for a fantasy team. That said, there is a chance you can secure both later in drafts and have the crease of the defending champions locked up on your roster.
Stuart Skinner: 58.9% crease share, 132nd overall, 2.86 FPP60, 158.0 ADP
Jack Campbell: 41.1% crease share, 627th overall, 1.29 FPP60, 229.0 ADP
This tandem, like the Golden Knights, had a flip-flop from the regular season to the postseason. Skinner was the hero in the regular season, taking the starting job away from Campbell and keeping the Oilers on track for the playoffs. But Skinner stumbled in the postseason, with Campbell coming on in relief multiple times and not looking too bad. That narrative from the playoffs was arguably enough for a soft reset on whose crease this is coming into 2023-24.
The Oilers should win plenty of games with their overpowered offense and upgraded defense, but who is going to be in the crease for most of those wins? Skinner's ADP is very palatable, but you shouldn't completely count out Campbell at this stage. In fact, this might be an old school insurance scenario in which drafting Skinner means you should target Campbell in the final rounds to play it safe. There is value to be had here, as the Oilers are a 50-win team these days.
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Frederik Andersen: 40.1% crease share, 430th overall, 2.34 FPP60, 155.6 ADP
Antti Raanta: 31.5% crease share, 339th overall, 3.54 FPP60, 230.3 ADP
Pyotr Kochetkov: 28.4% crease share, 506th overall, 2.78 FPP60, 211.1 ADP
This is probably the messiest of the creases in the NHL, but also one of the best for a goaltender to generate fantasy value. When both Andersen and Raanta were hurt last season, Kochetkov had a chance to show he could do the job in net. But the rookie faded with his chances later in the season, ultimately leaving the Hurricanes to decide to re-sign both Andersen and Raanta on fairly short-term deals. Kochetkov, now 24, can be sent down to the AHL without risking waivers, so he'll be the No. 3 goaltender for the Canes this season.
Then there's the Andersen or Raanta debate. Raanta was the better goaltender of the two last season, posting better ratios and almost as many wins in fewer starts, but we are only two years removed from when Andersen finished 24th overall in fantasy in 2021-22 with 3.85 FPP60.
Health will be the first and foremost concern, as Andersen and Raanta were both fragile last season and the season prior (recall that Andersen missed the 2021-22 playoffs). That said, the Hurricanes wouldn't invest in Andersen and Raanta again unless they thought one of them could be the guy for at least one more season with Kochetkov still waiver eligible. Andersen's ADP is actually trending low if he ends up getting the bulk of starts here, which is the most likely scenario.
Pheonix Copley: 42.2% crease share, 351st overall, 2.56 FPP60, 230.2 ADP
As much as Copley saved the Kings from themselves last season, he apparently didn't do enough to get a clear shot at the starter's gig yet. Copley was a huge stabilizer for the Kings last season, winning twice as many games as anyone else on the roster. But his ratios weren't great and faded down the stretch. The Kings brought in Joonas Korpisalo at the trade deadline, but Korpisalo opted for the Ottawa Senators in the offseason. The natural choice from there? Sign the Senators goaltender from last season. Cam Talbot had a rough year, earning almost no fantasy value, and is now 36 years old. The age is a major concern, as Talbot is past the spot on the goaltender curve where they usually remain productive for fantasy. But Copley, adequate, wasn't exactly changing the game for fantasy managers in his 37 games last season.
Talbot hasn't had as much wear and tear as some other 36-year-old goaltenders, spending a lot of his career as a backup. So there is a world in which he can pull out another solid season behind a solid squad. Copley doesn't have a lot of upside, so the ideal situation here is Talbot hanging on for another year of value and getting the bulk of starts. He's the one to take a chance on.
Vitek Vanecek: 59.0% crease share, 111th overall, 3.08 FPP60, 116.2 ADP
Akira Schmid: 18.2% crease share, 574th overall, 3.48 FPP60, 228.4 ADP
Jordan Binnington: 71.4% crease share, 541st overall, 1.00 FPP60, 228.1 ADP
Joel Hofer: 6.4% crease share, 805th overall, 2.16 FPP60, 230.0, ADP
Neither of these teams look like they will have a tandem on paper. But Schmid and Hofer have both shown glimpses and are both 23 coming into the season, which is about the age goaltenders really start coming on. If you are drafting Vanecek, Schmid is a good idea to handcuff. You probably shouldn't be looking at Binnington for your crease, but Hofer has upside if he pushes for more time.
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