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In the Cage: Ducks goalie depth is overflowing

Thursday, 11.07.2013 / 12:00 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.

From top to bottom, the Anaheim Ducks have an embarrassment of riches in goal.

Overflowing with size and long-term potential, the depth chart of Jonas Hiller, Viktor Fasth, Frederik Andersen, John Gibson, and Igor Bobkov is arguably the best in the National Hockey League.

To highlight their individual value, look no further than their international experience. Hiller will once again be the backbone of Switzerland's Olympic team, Fasth carried Sweden in the 2011 and 2012 World Championships, Andersen led Denmark to two gold medals during his junior career, Gibson dominated for Team USA in the 2013 World Juniors, and Bobkov won gold with Russia in the 2011 World Juniors.

If that wasn't enough, a report from Elias Sports recently revealed that only three active NHL goalies have won their first four starts, two of them belonging to Anaheim. After stopping 100 of his first 105 NHL shots over the past two weeks, Andersen joined Fasth and Kari Lehtonen in this exclusive club.

With a 1.36 goals-against average and .952 save percentage, including 23 saves on 24 power-play shots and only one goal against in the third period, Andersen is proving he's no flash in the pan.

Andersen's run includes a 24-save shutout in his NHL debut on Oct. 20, a relief effort in a wild come-from-behind 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars. Five days later, he made 26 saves in a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators, which was followed by a new two-year contract extension. Ten days later, Andersen earned "First Star" honors after making 32 saves in a 2-1 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Filling the net with his giant 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame, Andersen is a 24-year-old rookie playing with the poise, patience, body control and calming influence of a 30-year-old veteran.

He may be the first goalie from Denmark to play in the NHL, but he has an extremely well-rounded toolbox. He learned the Quebec butterfly from Francois Allaire, the Swedish butterfly during his record-setting tenure with Frolunda, and has a healthy dose of North American butterfly elements in his game thanks to the work of former Ducks goalie coach Pete Peeters and current coach Dwayne Roloson.

Put it all together and you have a cornucopia of clairvoyant style points that have combined to create a very enticing one-year and keeper-league fantasy asset.

Scouts and analysts appear to agree that he may have nothing left to prove at the AHL level. That may be over-hyping him with a four-game sample size, but if Ducks management agrees, they'll suddenly have a three-headed monster when Fasth comes off the IR, which could be as soon as this weekend.

Without knowing how this situation will play out, a good strategy is to add Andersen while he's hot. He's only owned in 20 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues, making him a low-risk, high-reward asset. Fasth is only owned in 45 percent of leagues, so he's readily available should things shift back in his favor.

But the odds Fasth produces quality starts on a consistent basis is low due to the solid play of Andersen and Hiller, who is now 3-0-1 in his last four games and 7-2-1 in 11 games this season.

One factor that could entrench Andersen in Anaheim is the stellar play of Gibson in the AHL. He's 5-1-2 with a 1.61 GAA and .951 save percentage, so the Ducks may not want to alter his playing time. If they choose to demote Andersen when Fasth returns, there simply won't be enough minutes to go around.

No matter how Anaheim's ultra-deep goaltending triad plays out next week, Andersen's new two-year extension may be the sign that proves he'll still be a rising fantasy asset when the dust finally settles.

TRENDING UPWARD

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars: With a 3-1-1 record in his past five games, Lehtonen has a 1.93 GAA and .937 save percentage, which is good enough for sixth in both categories. He's also averaging 30.2 shots per game.

Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild: The inspiring play of Harding continued with three more wins, including a 19-save shutout over the New Jersey Devils. In 12 games he has allowed just 12 goals, posting an NHL-best 1.09 GAA and .951 save percentage.

Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning: Not only has Bishop given up just six goals in his last four games, but his .931 power-play save percentage is near the top of the League. He has allowed just two of his 23 goals against in the first period.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: With nine goals allowed on his past 70 shots, Bobrovsky now has just four wins, a 2.79 GAA, and a .910 save percentage in 11 games this season. He's getting exposed on the power play, where he has allowed nine goals on just 58 shots.

Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders: With 13 goals against in his past three outings, Nabokov has now allowed three or more goals in six straight games. He currently has a 3.18 GAA and .897 save percentage in 12 appearances.

Jacob Markstrom, Florida Panthers: Tim Thomas's latest injury opened the door for Markstrom to once again run with the starting job. But with 11 goals against in his past three games and only one win in 11 games (1-5-3), Markstrom may end up back in San Antonio if he can't turn things around right away.

KEEP AN EYE ON …

Reto Berra, Calgary Flames: The Swiss netminder was spectacular in his NHL debut on Nov. 2, stopping 42 of 44 shots in a 3-2 win over Chicago. He was hung out to dry a few nights later against the Wild, but will have a chance to bounce back Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues, the team that originally drafted him way back in 2006.

TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES

These modified re-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%. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). 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. Antti Niemi, Sharks (same)

2. Tuukka Rask, Bruins (same)

3. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (same)

4. Carey Price, Canadiens (same)

5. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (+2)

6. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (-1)

7. Mike Smith, Coyotes (-1)

8. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (same)

9. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (+3)

10. Jonathan Quick, Kings (-1)

11. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (-1)

12. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (-1)

13. Steve Mason, Flyers (+3)

14. Braden Holtby, Capitals (+3)

15. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (+4)

16. Ben Bishop, Lightning (+5)

17. Josh Harding, Wild (+5)

18. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (-5)

19. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (-1)

20. Ryan Miller, Sabres (-5)

21. Jonathan Bernier, Leafs (-1)

22. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (+2)

23. Niklas Backstrom, Wild (same)

24. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Avalanche (+2)

25. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (+2)

26. Frederik Andersen, Ducks (+3)

27. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (-2)

28. Carter Hutton, Predators (NR)

29. Martin Brodeur, Devils (-1)

30. Cory Schneider, Devils (NR-IR)

NR: Jacob Markstrom, Panthers (30)

DTD: Craig Anderson, Senators (14)

IR: Cam Ward, Hurricanes (22)

IR: Tim Thomas, Panthers (NR)

IR: Pekka Rinne, Predators (10)

IR: Viktor Fasth, Ducks (NR)

IR: Anton Khudobin, Hurricanes (NR)

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