Fantasy hockey roundtable: Goaltender edition
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Here is a comprehensive breakdown of the goaltender position going into the 2016-17 NHL fantasy draft season, courtesy theScore's team of fantasy experts:
Which re-located goalie should be targeted first in drafts?
Josh Wegman: Calgary Flames G Brian Elliott. His save percentage and GAA will both take a hit moving away from Ken Hitchcock's goaltender-friendly system, but a guaranteed starter's workload should give his overall value a boost. Ds Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton anchor one of the NHL's most underrated D corps. A reliable goalie will provide confidence.
Jason Wilson: With the status quo being maintained almost across the board, it is slim pickings as to which old face in a new place is worth targeting. Unless the Lightning trade Ben Bishop, the choice has to be between Maple Leafs G Frederik Andersen and Elliott. Neither team is especially impressive on defense, but I have more faith in Calgary's top two. So, Elliott it is.
Esten McLaren: While not in a starting role or having any possibility of winning the job without injury, Montreal Canadiens G Al Montoya is worth a roster spot as a third or fourth goalie. He'll be available at the last pick in the draft, and he had a stellar 2015-16 season with a .919 save percentage and a 2.18 goals against average. He'll be worth starting when he's given the nod.
Which goalie starting the season as a backup will return the most fantasy value by season's end?
Wegman: Most depth charts have Michal Neuvirth listed as Philadelphia's No. 1 netminder, so I'll go with Steve Mason. He has a .922 save percentage and a 2.41 GAA in parts of four seasons in a Flyers sweater, but Neuvirth's seemingly unsustainable play allowed him to steal the starting job last year. Mason played great down the stretch and could retake his starting job.
Wilson: With Bishop still wearing a Lightning sweater, albeit temporarily, this designation has to go to Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning could very easily trade Bishop before the deadline, but I'd expect Vasilevskiy to get closer to an even split than before.
McLaren: Perhaps it'll be Matt Murray, maybe it'll be Marc-Andre Fleury. The two are likely to be in a fairly even timeshare in 2016-17, with both worthy of a roster spot whether it's on the same or different fantasy teams. Fleury is routinely one of the best regular-season goaltenders, and his playoff troubles shouldn't be considered at draft time. Pick both in the middle rounds.
Which once-elite goaltender will disappoint owners the most?
Wegman: Roberto Luongo is now 37 years old and coming off hip surgery. He really struggled down the stretch, posting a .905 save percentage in his final 21 games. Though none are household names, the losses of defensemen Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson and Willie Mitchell will hurt more than people think. All four averaged over 19:50 in ice time.
Wilson: Ryan Miller has deteriorated with age like a spoiled wine. He's 36 years old and, while age didn't stop Luongo from returning solid value, the Panthers boasted a more balanced team overall in 2015-16 than the Canucks did. If the Canucks allow the second most shots on goal again (32.5 per game last season), it will be a long season for Miller and those who drafted him.
McLaren: After finishing each of December and January with a .902 save percentage for the month, Nashville Predators G Pekka Rinne rebounded to post a .924 mark in February. He immediately reverted in March, posting a .901 rate, and he stopped just 41 of 46 shots faced in April. He has a save percentage of just .913 over the past three years.
What is your bold prediction for the goaltender position in 2016-17?
Wegman: Sabres G Robin Lehner will actually stay healthy and finish the season as a top-10 goalie. In the 21 games he played in last season, he was great. Buffalo's roster was rounded out nicely in the offseason with the additions of W Kyle Okposo and D Dmitry Kulikov. The Sabres could compete for a playoff spot this season.
Wilson: My bold prediction may not seem too bold, but I expect there to be next to no surprises. Every year, goalies come out of the woodwork to become a top fantasy performer at the position - see Braden Holtby relative to his ADP in 2015-16. Expect a minor amount of deviation and don't anticipate any audacious jumps.
McLaren: Arizona Coyotes G Mike Smith will finish as a top-10 performer. The Coyotes are improving, thanks to the addition of young talent. They added a stabilizing force on defense in Alex Goligoski, who is known primarily for his offensive abilities, but he'll also serve as guidance for younger members of the rearguard. Smith will at least improve on last year's .916 SV%.