I have a few general rules when it comes to building a team in a fantasy hockey keeper league. One of the more important ones is to not plan beyond a two or three year window. You are not building a real NHL club, and too often fantasy hockey poolies place an emphasis on youth and prospects over proven veterans with gas still left in the tank. So using my general rule, take a look at your team(s). Can you realistically say you will have a shot at winning the league at some point within the next two or three seasons? If not, time to scrap the rebuild and start adding proven NHL talent.
Keeping my rule in mind, I have compiled a list of the top 10 keeper league goalies to own (assuming standard keeper league rules and scoring categories). Using the two or three season scope, I had to balance proven production with young goaltenders on the verge of breaking out. I hope you enjoy!
The goaltending position is far and away the toughest to predict in terms of development, which is why this list has more veterans than any of my other previous lists. It is too risky to rely on a young goalie compared to a young forward or defenseman. Additionally, many goalies can play at an elite level well into their late 30’s and early 40’s, unlike most forwards and defensemen. How the list works – since it is “in order,” my point is that I wouldn’t trade the second ranked goalie for the third ranked goalie in a standard, non-salary cap keeper league pool.
I also included where each of my picks ranks on Dobber’s Top 75 Goalies list. Don’t forget that his list accounts for playoff wins and trade carry-overs. Read his full criteria by clicking the link above. The list below drops off after the top six. There were a number of contenders for the final four positions, and those that didn’t make the cut get a mention at the bottom. The second tier of goalies (those from seven to 10, the honorable mentions, and a handful of others) is quite large.
My draft recommendation would be to grab one of the top six goalies, and then target one or two you like in the second tier, but don’t draft them early. Even if there is a crazy run on goaltenders, they seem to be enough surprises and dark horses (Sergei Bobrovsky, for example) each season to cover for leaving a draft with only one legitimate starting goaltender.
1. Henrik Lundqvist
The 29-year-old superstar had a career season in 2010-11. His 11 shutouts was the best mark of his career, and almost triple his 2009-10 total. He played 68 games, his lowest number since 2005-06. Lundqvist hasn’t won less than 35 games in any season since 2005-06, either. Simply put, he delivers elite stats on a very consistent basis. Elite + consistent is a winning combination in the fantasy hockey world. The Brad Richards signing may give him a few extra wins too, as he still lost his share of low scoring one-goal games. My only worry with Lundqvist is regarding the youth of New York’s defense. Ryan McDonagh and Tim Erixon will likely both become very good top four defensemen, but are they there yet?
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 3
2010 Ranking: 2
2. Carey Price
Price walked in extremely tough situation in Montreal at the beginning of last season. The Habs had traded playoff hero and fan favorite Jaroslav Halak away, putting their trust in Price. The two sides then proceeded to undergo a long and drawn out contract negotiation. One or two slip ups from Price early in the season, and things would have gotten ugly in Montreal. Price was rock solid from October through April, making big saves and quickly emerging as the franchise player for the Canadiens. Like Lundqvist, he will play a lot of games (count on 68-72 starts each season). As many other teams shift towards the tandem in goal, the thoroughbred goalies that play a lot (Price, Lundqvist) will see their fantasy value increase.
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 1
2010 Ranking: 10
3. Roberto Luongo
Last year’s number one slips a few spots on the list. Luongo had a very good regular season playing behind the league’s best offense and the league’s best defense. He was the third Vezina nominee, beating out the likes of Price and Bryzgalov. His postseason run was full of highs (game five against San Jose, games one and five against Boston), and lows (multiple blowout losses against both Chicago and Boston). He’s become somewhat of a polarizing figure in Vancouver, but don’t let it affect how you value him in fantasy pools. Cory Schneider, at least this season, will probably steal a few more starts (25-30). Luongo is still in his prime and is an elite goaltender on a fantastic team.
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 4
2010 Ranking: 1
4. Ryan Miller
Miller must have been one of the happiest goalies in the league after seeing his team go out Ehrhoff and Regehr to the defensive group. Regehr, in particular, is still a very sound and physical defensive defenseman. Ehrhoff isn’t great in his own zone, but he supplies a lot of offense and transitional play, which equates to more wins and less time in the defensive zone. Miller will give way to Jhonas Enroth a lot more than he did with Patrick Lalime, but he should still see at least 65 starts next season. Miller has a career high in shutouts of five, a mark that will likely be improved upon with a better defensive group in front of him.
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 7
2010 Ranking: 3
5. Pekka Rinne
Rinne was far and away the best goaltender in the Western Conference last season. He’s big, incredibly agile, and possesses the best glove in the league. The Predators play a defensive system that helps him out at times, but they don’t also score a heck of a lot. With Shea Weber’s future a bit clouded, Rinne’s fantasy value is as well. Weber is a huge part of the team and he himself has a fairly large impact on Rinne’s game (as all top defensemen do on their respective goaltenders). There have been few NHL goaltenders more consistently elite than Rinne has been over the past three seasons.
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 9
2010 Ranking: NR
6. Ilya Bryzgalov
Ilya Bryzgalov saw many of his numbers drop a bit last year in Phoenix (the loss of Zbynek Michalek was a big part of it). He was still among the best in the league, and a move to Philadelphia will keep him in the upper echelon of fantasy ‘tenders. The Flyers are one of the best teams in the league (on paper, at least), and they made a huge financial commitment to Bryzgalov for the near future. He’ll be the guy they build around, and because of that he will likely be ranked among the best in the league in every significant stat recorded in the typical fantasy hockey pool.
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 2
2010 Ranking: 9
7. Jonathan Quick
Last summer, many Quick owners were worried about the potential of Jonathan Bernier stealing his starting spot with the Kings. Quick had a great 2009-10 season but ran out of gas in the playoffs. That season, Quick played 72 games, almost 30 more than the previous season. The Kings recognized their mistake and gave him a few more nights off last season (he finished with 61 games played). Bernier is a talented prospect, but Quick has a stranglehold on the number one gig. He’s still young and hasn’t reached his peak yet. The Kings improved this summer more than any other club (assuming Drew Doughty re-signs), and Quick will benefit from a better supporting cast in front of him.
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 10
2010 Ranking: NR
8. Cam Ward
After winning the cup as a rookie back in 2006, Ward has quietly cemented himself as one of the better goalies in the league. He recorded a career best 0.923 save percentage last year, playing behind a young Carolina squad. The Hurricanes upgraded from Joe Corvo to Tomas Kaberle, and the rest of the defense should largely be the same. Up front, Erik Cole left to Montreal, but the team is looking for big things from sophomore Jeff Skinner and rookie Zac Dalpe. Ward will be backed up by Brian Boucher, who will provide solid play in spot duty as he has in the past.
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 16
2010 Ranking: NR
9. Marc-Andre Fleury
Before last summer, Fleury was an overrated fantasy goalie. He won games and played for a very good team, but he seemed to struggle with consistency and his peripheral numbers reflected it. The Penguins surprised many by going out and improving an already strong defensive group with two huge signings – Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin. The moved paid off. Led by Fleury, the Penguins were a stifling group all season (as indicated by a career best 2.32 GAA). Like Miller, Fleury won’t get you a ton of shutouts. He has only 19 in his seven season NHL career.
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 6
2010 Ranking: NR
10. Tim Thomas
Tim Thomas is far and away the oldest goalie on his list, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave him off. With a three-year window to win, Thomas gives you the best chance of dominating your pool of any remaining goaltender. Last summer, he was considered chopped liver and Tuukka Rask was the next big ticket in Beantown. Thomas went out and turned in the most dominant season from a goaltender since Dominik Hasek in the late 1990’s. The Bruins have arguably the brightest future out of any team in the league, and Thomas will be a huge part of any short term success they have.
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 5
2010 Ranking: NR
Honorable Mentions (in no order):
Jaroslav Halak – first season as the legitimate starting goalie was full of ups and downs. Will likely be back on this list with a strong season.
Tuukka Rask – fantastic young goalie playing behind the best goalie on the planet right now.
Martin Brodeur – father time has caught up with Marty.
Tomas Vokoun – interested to see how he does on a contending team. Very skilled, but future isn’t rock solid.
Miikka Kiprusoff – Calgary struggled to do much last season, and lost a huge part of their defense.
Jonas Hiller – If his health wasn’t an issue, he’d likely be on the list.