Fantasy Hockey: Goalie confidence ratings

Steven Psihogios
·15 min read
Tristan Jarry has been a fantasy nightmare to start the year. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Tristan Jarry has been a fantasy nightmare to start the year. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

We’re not even a week into the NHL season, but a lot has already happened — especially between the pipes. Some of the top goaltending options in fantasy hockey drafts have faltered thus far, and you may be a little nervous about your selections. Goalies like Ilya Samsonov, Igor Shesterkin, Frederik Andersen and Tristan Jarry have been a little underwhelming, and although it’s extremely early, there is less time this season than usual for puck stoppers to figure it out.

Here is my confidence rating for each starting goalie in the NHL:

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Confidence rating: 6/10

I’m a big fan of Gibson, as he’s proven in the past to be an excellent netminder under good conditions. The current status of the Ducks defense is less than ideal for any goalie, something that hurt Gibson and his overall numbers last year. He followed up a poor performance last Thursday with a stellar outing on Saturday, and an absolutely masterful performance on Monday against the Wild (zero goals on 34 shots). Ryan Miller’s not going to take his job, but wins will be hard to come by for Anaheim this season.

Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes

Confidence rating: 7/10

If you drafted Kuemper, you knew that Antti Raanta was also going to see his fair share of action. Both goalies have been extremely reliable and coming into the year were actually tied for the NHL lead in save percentage since the 2017-18 season. Despite losing in a shootout in the team’s season opener, Kuemper still had a solid outing against the San Jose Sharks. Wins will be harder to come by with an expected lack of goal support, but his numbers should be just fine.

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Confidence rating: 9/10

Rask is as skilled and reliable as they come. He will lose some starts to Jaroslav Halak, but that was the expectation entering the year. He looked good in Boston’s opening game, surrendering a pair of goals to the New Jersey Devils on 22 shots, and just as good in a loss against the Islanders on Monday. Your G1 is solid if you have him.

Carter Hutton, Buffalo Sabres

Confidence rating: 3/10

Hutton didn’t start the 2021 season on a positive note, as he conceded five goals on 27 shots and recorded a horrid -8.214% save percentage above expectation against the Washington Capitals in the team’s opener. Teammate Linus Ullmark was slightly better, as he only allowed two goals on 21 shots in the second meeting between the teams. Considering both goalies’ shaky track record, this will likely be a hot-hand approach from head coach Ralph Krueger.

Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames

Confidence rating: 8/10

Markstrom got some sweet revenge on the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. The 30-year-old slammed the door shut on his former team as he stopped all 32 shots directed his way for a shutout victory. He beat them again on Monday night, allowing two goals on 27 shots. The Flames will be competing for the top spot in the North Division, and Markstrom’s play will be a major factor in whether they claim first or not. Playing behind a good defense and a solid offense, Markstrom is the unquestioned No. 1 netminder on his team.

Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes

Confidence rating: 6/10

Mrazek was hardly tested in Carolina’s season opener, as he turned aside 14 shots to earn a shutout against the Detroit Red Wings. His second effort of the year brought a little more action, but he struggled and surrendered three goals on 20 shots in a loss in the rematch. I expect Mrazek to be the 1A to James Reimer’s 1B, and while he shouldn’t have a problem picking up wins, his numbers likely won’t be league-leading.

Collin Delia, Chicago Blackhawks

Confidence rating: 1/10

Delia has started two of Chicago’s three games, and he’s been bad. He’s allowed 10 goals and there isn’t anything that suggests he’s going to play much better. Malcolm Subban started on opening night for the Blackhawks and the results were similar as he allowed five goals. This is a situation to avoid entirely.

Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche

Confidence rating: 7/10

I was impressed with Grubauer and the Avalanche last week. After a disappointing 4-1 loss on opening night, Grubauer did his part in helping Colorado earn a commanding 8-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues in the rematch. It was a major positive that Avs head coach Jared Bednar stuck with Grubauer after a less-than-perfect first game. Pavel Francouz will get his opportunities, but early usage suggests Grubauer will be given more chances.

Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets

Confidence rating: 6/10

Korpisalo received the first start of the season and was really good in a losing effort, allowing just two goals on 34 shots to the Nashville Predators. Elvis Merzlikins came apart in the third period in Columbus’ second game of the year, which obviously isn’t a bad thing for Korpisalo’s fantasy value. I still prefer Merzlikins in this tandem, but the early returns suggest goal support will be infrequent.

Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars

Confidence rating: 8/10

Khudobin has yet to play during the 2020-21 season due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the Stars.

Jonathan Bernier, Detroit Red Wings

Confidence rating: 4/10

Let it be known that all things considered, Bernier was actually pretty good last year. His 0.191% save percentage above expectation was ahead of goalies like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Robin Lehner, Jacob Markstrom, and Jordan Binnington. He started the 2021 season on strong footing, spearheading an upset 4-2 victory over the Hurricanes. Of course, regardless of how good he plays, the team in front of him nullifies most of his fantasy value. Thomas Greiss, who was acquired in the offseason, will also start a good portion of Detroit’s games this season.

Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers

Confidence rating: 5/10

Koskinen has allowed five goals in two of his three starts to begin this season and while part of the issue has been him, the defensive effort in front of him also hasn’t been great. He’s been peppered to start the year, facing 34 shots or more in each of his outings thus far. With one of the league’s worst defensive groups playing in front of him, more of the same should be expected.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers

Confidence rating: 7/10

The expectation is that Bobrovsky will start Tuesday against the Blackhawks. There’s not much news on Bobrovsky’s absence from training camp other than the fact he was deemed “unfit to play.” After a poor effort in 2019-20, I expect the two-time Vezina Trophy winner to bounce back. His backup, Chris Driedger, was solid last season and that carried over to the team’s opener this year, as the 26-year-old made 25 saves for a 4-2 win.

Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

Confidence rating: 4/10

It’s been about three years since Quick actually had an outstanding season. Of course, the Kings are a team that is still rebuilding and the defense playing in front of him shows that. He’s allowed eight goals in his first two starts and has no wins to his record. There’s not much fantasy appeal in the Los Angeles crease.

Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild

Confidence rating: 6/10

Talbot (53% rostered on Yahoo) is someone whose stock rose over the first week of the NHL season. It’s definitely worth noting that his first two starts came against the Kings, but he did enough for his team to earn a victory in each contest. The biggest question regarding the Wild was their offense, but led by rookie Kirill Kaprizov, the forward group has looked serviceable, potting eight goals in two games. With a good defense playing in front of him, Talbot is someone worth adding in fantasy hockey.

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Confidence rating: 8/10

After a rocky outing against the Toronto Maple Leafs on opening night, Price slammed the door on the Oilers, allowing just one goal on 35 shots during Saturday’s 5-1 victory. Although the expectation is that the veteran netminder will have more nights off this season with Jake Allen backing him up, Montreal has a defensive unit that will limit many high-grade scoring chances from opponents. A fresh Price should have an excellent statistical year.

Carey Price was dialled in against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Carey Price was dialled in against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

Confidence rating: 7/10

It was against a weak Blue Jackets offense, but Saros looked solid in a pair of victories against Columbus to kick off the year. He allowed just three goals through the two games despite facing a hefty 74 shots. The former All-Rookie netminder is just 25 years old and owns an impressive .919 career save percentage across 121 games played. Pekka Rinne shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than a backup in the Predators net.

Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils

Confidence rating: 6/10

Blackwood was excellent against the Bruins in New Jersey’s two-game series to start the year, limiting Boston’s offense to just three goals. My confidence rating in Blackwood would be much higher if the Devils weren’t a near-lock to finish in one of the bottom-two spots in the East Division. The former Barrie Colt has been superb to begin the season and is a prime breakout candidate.

Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders

Confidence rating: 7/10

Varlamov was available for New York’s game on Monday against the Bruins after taking a shot up high in warmups on Saturday, and he did more than impress. Varly stopped all 27 shots en route to a 1-0 victory. The 32-year-old earned a shutout in the season opener against the New York Rangers and looks poised to build off his resurgent 2019-20 campaign. Expect Ilya Sorokin to see a decent amount of work for the Islanders as well, although his first start (five goals allowed on 32 shots) was a little rocky. He’s still an intriguing prospect who could earn more of a role as the season progresses.

Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers

Confidence rating: 6/10

Behind a poor defensive performance, Shesterkin looked shaky in the season opener against the Islanders, giving up four goals on 33 shots. Shesterkin was someone who typically went earlier than he should have on draft day considering his small 12-game sample size and the presence of Alexandar Georgiev, who is a solid goalie in his own right. Georgiev earned a shutout on Saturday against the Islanders and he should see a decent amount of the team’s starts. Shesterkin is still the preferred fantasy option as his prospect profile is tantalizing.

Matt Murray, Ottawa Senators

Confidence rating: 5/10

Murray’s fantasy appeal grew over the first week of the season, playing in both of Ottawa’s games in back-to-back nights against the Maple Leafs. Although his numbers were actually better in a losing effort on Saturday night than they were in a win on Friday, early signs point towards Murray being the unquestioned No.1 netminder in Ottawa’s crease. The Senators won’t likely be a playoff team this year, but it appears the team’s young core has some fight. He should be viewed as a high-end G3. He’s available in 50 percent of Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues.

Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers

Confidence rating: 9/10

Hart’s on the verge of earning a perfect 10 as the Flyers netminder. Unfortunately, he had a rough outing on Monday, getting lit up for four goals and eventually being pulled. That said, the young puck stopper turned aside 62 of the 67 shots he faced in two games against the Penguins, earning a win in both outings. Philadelphia has all the makings of a legit Stanley Cup contender and it appears Brian Elliott will see a fewer percentage of the starts this year. Monday’s bad outing aside, Hart has a chance to rise into stardom in 2021.

Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins

Confidence rating: 5/10

Jarry couldn’t have started the 2021 campaign much worse. In the first game of the NHL season, the 25-year-old conceded six goals on 27 shots against the Flyers. In the rematch, Jarry was yanked early after giving up three goals on just six shots. It’s probably best to hold onto him for now, as you likely won’t like what you see on the trade market. Casey DeSmith (12% rostered on Yahoo) has been a little better between the pipes (.889 save percentage) and started in the club’s latest game, a 4-3 shootout win against the Washington Capitals. Jarry will presumably get another chance at some point to regain control of the crease, but fantasy managers will have to be patient in the meantime.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks

Confidence rating: 3/10

After a solid first start of the season against the Coyotes, Jones gave everyone a reminder about the volatility he carries on a nightly basis. After recording a .919 save percentage in a winning effort against Arizona, Jones allowed five goals on 24 shots in a losing effort in Saturday’s rematch. Devan Dubnyk came in as relief during the game, stopping both shots he faced (but then gave up five goals against the Blues on Monday). Acquired in the offseason, Dubnyk could have an opportunity to seize control of the net in San Jose. He’s the goalie I’d rather have in fantasy after Jones’ poor performance.

Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues

Confidence rating: 8/10

It was a roller coaster first week for Binnington. After allowing just one goal to the Avalanche in the team’s opener, he was shelled for four goals through two periods and watched the third from the bench in the rematch. His backup, Ville Husso, didn’t fare much better in relief (four goals allowed on 14 shots), which doesn’t change the narrative that Binnington will likely see a large volume of work this season. Don’t put too much stock into his poor performance against Colorado — any goalie would’ve struggled in those circumstances.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Confidence rating: 10/10

If you drafted Vasilevskiy, you paid a heavy price, but at least you know you’re well off between the pipes.

Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs

Confidence rating: 7/10

Andersen has looked shaky to start the season, but it’s only been two games. Years of heavy workloads may be catching up to the Danish netminder, but he’s still the clear No. 1 goalie on the Maple Leafs. Toronto will likely be jockeying for the top spot in the North Division, which means Andersen will be a solid source of wins. His overall numbers may not match the outputs we’ve seen in the past, but the chances of him losing his starting role are very slim.

Braden Holtby, Vancouver Canucks

Confidence rating: 7/10

Holtby has pretty much been as advertised for the Canucks through two starts. His days of being in the Vezina Trophy conversation are likely behind him, but he’s been a solid veteran presence behind an inexperienced Vancouver team. He’s recorded a .909 save percentage through two contests and owns a 1-1-0 record. Thatcher Demko struggled in his first start allowing five goals, although he was peppered with 46 shots, then struggled again on Monday, allowing 4 goals on 31 shots. All early signs point to this being Holtby’s crease at the moment.

Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights

Confidence rating: 8/10

Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury combine for what is arguably the best goalie tandem in the NHL. Lehner started the team’s first game of the year against the Ducks and only allowed two goals in a winning effort, while Fluery followed that up with just one goal against in another victory. Behind a stout Vegas squad, both goalies will carry substantial fantasy value, but Lehner remains the preferred option.

Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals

Confidence rating: 7/10

It hasn’t been a great start for the young Russian netminder as he’s given up seven goals en route to a 1-0-1 record. It’s not an encouraging sign for Samsonov, as he didn’t end the 2019-20 season on a high note, losing his final six appearances. Vitek Vanecek (8% rostered on Yahoo), a 2014 second-round pick, played well in his first-ever NHL start, stopping 30 of 31 shots in a 2-1 victory over the Sabres. Samsonov should turn things around, but if he continues his sub-par play, Vanecek could earn a larger role.

Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

Confidence rating: 10/10

Hellebuyck started the season off shakily, allowing three goals on 13 first-period shots to the Flames. He settled in afterward, however, turning aside all 13 shots from the second period on to earn a 4-3 OT victory. He allowed two goals on 37 shots on Monday but got little help from his offense. He’s going to see a heavy workload and his track record suggests he’ll excel in doing so.

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