Fantasy: 3 goalies who will become elite

Kim Klement / USA Today Sports

Here are three goalies who will become elite fantasy netminders this season:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning

Vasilevskiy is just 23 years old and could start becoming a perennial Vezina Trophy candidate as early as this year. While splitting time with Ben Bishop he performed admirably, but once Bishop was traded and Vasilevskiy was handed the keys to the car, he took off:

Stat Pre-Bishop trade Post-Bishop trade
Record 11-13-5 12-4-2
GAA 2.81 2.27
SV% .909 .930

It appears the title of being the surefire No. 1 goalie drastically increased Vasilevskiy's confidence. A full season of being the starter, behind a Lightning team that can't possibly deal with as many injuries as they did a year ago, will result in his status as an elite fantasy goaltender.

Scott Darling, Hurricanes

One might think that moving from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Carolina Hurricanes would result in a downward trajectory in terms of fantasy value, but not so fast.

The Hurricanes actually boast one of the league's best, young defense corps, featuring three-time 15-goal scorer Justin Faulk, former fifth overall pick Noah Hanifin, and one of the most underrated players in the league, Jaccob Slavin.

Last season the Hurricanes allowed the fifth-fewest shots per game, but were let down by the goaltending of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack. Now, in steps Darling, who was actually the best goalie on the Western Conference's best team in the regular season last year:

Stat Corey Crawford Scott Darling
Record 32-18-14 18-5-5
GAA 2.55 2.38
SV% .918 .924

As you can see, Darling outplayed his teammate Corey Crawford last season. As the undisputed No. 1 on an up-and-coming team, the 6-foot-6 netminder could very well finish as a top-five fantasy goaltender.

Mike Smith, Flames

A change of scenery should do wonders for Mike Smith.

The veteran netminder was in fantasy hockey purgatory during his time with the Arizona Coyotes, but should find new life with the move to the Calgary Flames.

Smith still managed to post a .914 save percentage while playing behind one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL a year ago. Not only did Arizona allow the second-most shots against per game, but its 41.4 HSCF percent (high-danger scoring chances for percentage) was the worst in the NHL, meaning the Coyotes gave up a ton of quality scoring chances.

In Calgary, Smith will have the luxury of playing behind one of the best blue lines in the league. The Flames' back end is anchored by Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie, and the newly acquired Travis Hamonic. They will also have Michael Stone, who was acquired at last season's trade deadline, for a full campaign.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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Fantasy: 3 goalies who will become elite
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