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In the Cage: New kids on the block in fantasy

Thursday, 10.03.2013 / 2:00 PM
Justin Goldman  - NHL.com Correspondent

Every Thursday during the season, Justin Goldman, a regional goalie scout for USA Hockey and founder of The Goalie Guild, will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy goaltenders in NHL.com's weekly segment, "In the Cage." From updated goalie rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Goldman will be your fantasy goalie expert all season long.

Sixteen goalies get their regular season started Thursday night, so we figured this was a good time to introduce you to the new kids on the block.

This group of first-year goalies may not play often, but their ability to chip in a few wins could mean the difference between a bubble team making the Stanley Cup Playoffs or just missing the cut. The same goes for your fantasy team, as third and fourth goalies need to produce quality starts despite seeing limited action.

But if you have never seen these goalies before, how do you know what value they bring to the table? Well, let us eliminate some of the guesswork by ranking their projected fantasy value for the season.

Editor's Note: Robin Lehner of the Ottawa Senators and Jacob Markstrom of the Florida Panthers are not included due to games played and previously established fantasy value.

5. Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: "The Dazzler" has a chance to earn some starts for Detroit over the next few weeks while Jonas Gustavsson deals with another groin injury. Mrazek is an ultra-competitive, confident and athletic talent that relies on instincts to be successful. He's known as one of the top second-effort goalies in the AHL, as he led Grand Rapids to a league title by posting a .916 save percentage in 66 games last season.

4. Alex Stalock, San Jose Sharks: He's playing behind a workhorse in Antti Niemi, but Stalock still has the raw skills to win. The Sharks have been patient with his development since a scary leg laceration injury two seasons ago, which proves they trust he can thrive in the NHL. His ability to move the puck like a third defenseman helps him stand out, so while Stalock sightings will be rare, you will enjoy his combination of speed, tenacity and agility.

3. Eddie Lack, Vancouver Canucks: Despite undergoing serious hip surgery over the summer, Lack had flashes of brilliance during the preseason. He plays a positionally sound game that relies on economical movements and strong pad seals, but his style is infused with some quality athleticism and aggressive instincts. He could earn anywhere from 20 to 25 starts for Vancouver this season and will likely establish his presence as a future starter.

2. Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh Penguins: The 26-year-old Michigan native has played in 163 AHL games over the past five years, posting a .920 save percentage in consecutive seasons for Manchester and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Zatkoff mimics some technical elements of Marc-Andre Fleury, as he likes to challenge shooters with aggressive angles, while relying on explosive footwork and quick reactions to surprise shooters.

1. Chad Johnson, Boston Bruins: After posting a .954 save percentage in four games with the Phoenix Coyotes last season, Johnson staved off a threat from Niklas Svedberg in the preseason and nailed down the backup role in Boston. The 27-year-old utilizes his size very well by incorporating conservative angles and depth in order to stay square to pucks. He doesn't have the pedigree of Lack or Zatkoff's golden opportunity, but behind this Bruins team, his odds for quality starts are high.

TRENDING UPWARD

Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche: It's only one game, but Varlamov's season debut was impressive. Explosive, confident and controlled, he made 35 saves in a 6-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night and proved that his offseason training with new goalie coach Francois Allaire is already paying off.

Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs: After a hefty preseason schedule and back-to-back games to kick off the season, Toronto relied on 31 solid saves from Bernier in a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night. He could not only push James Reimer for playing time this month, but possibly usurp the throne by December.

Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings: With a full bill of health heading into the regular season and without Bernier breathing down his neck, there's nothing stopping Quick from being one of the most valuable fantasy goalies in the League.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks: Stopping just 23 of 29 shots, Fasth looked very ordinary in a 6-1 loss to Colorado on Wednesday night. Jonas Hiller is looking to elevate his game in a contract season, and in a tandem situation where either goalie could become the legit starter, Fasth has already stumbled out of the gate.

Jacob Markstrom, Florida Panthers: In terms of sheer workload and shot volume, Markstrom trends down due to the arrival of Tim Thomas. But even though he's now projected to play in less games, the chance to learn from one of the most dynamic and competitive goalies of all time will boost his long-term value.

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: After losing a significant amount of five-hole coverage due to new leg pad restrictions, Lundqvist struggled in the preseason. Between contract negotiations and playing under a new system and head coach, his adjustment period could be a bit tougher than originally expected.

KEEP AN EYE ON …

Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers: The former Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup winner is back. He's rested, inspired and ready to transform the Panthers into a playoff team. The same could be said for your fantasy team, as he's currently owned in only 45 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues.

TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES

These rankings are a projection of a goalie's fantasy output for the entire season. Our rankings are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, and GAA and SP%. It is important to note that our rankings reflect sheer fantasy value, not talent. A less-talented goalie could be ranked higher due to their team's strong defense and offense.

1. Tuukka Rask, Bruins

2. Jonathan Quick, Kings

3. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers

4. Antti Niemi, Sharks

5. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings

6. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks

7. Mike Smith, Coyotes

8. Roberto Luongo, Canucks

9. Pekka Rinne, Predators

10. Carey Price, Canadiens

11. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets

12. Craig Anderson, Senators

13. Kari Lehtonen, Stars

14. Ryan Miller, Sabres

15. Niklas Backstrom, Wild

16. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins

17. Braden Holtby, Capitals

18. Cam Ward, Hurricanes

19. Cory Schneider, Devils

20. Devan Dubnyk, Oilers

21. Jonas Hiller, Ducks

22. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche

23. Jaroslav Halak, Blues

24. Tim Thomas, Panthers

25. Jonathan Bernier, Maple Leafs

26. Viktor Fasth, Ducks

27. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets

28. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders

29. Martin Brodeur, Devils

30. James Reimer, Maple Leafs

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