Goalies are often the backbone of fantasy teams, so knowing when to draft them is vital to your team's chances of success. All too often people panic and draft a goalie, not because they need one at that time, but because others are going off the board in that round.
If you can't get one of the top six goalies based on Yahoo average draft position (Braden Holtby, Ben Bishop, Carey Price, Jonathan Quick, Martin Jones, Cory Schneider), the best approach is to wait before drafting one. This allows you to stock up on forwards and defenseman, filling in necessary positions and still being able to draft a starting goalie or two later on.
FANTASY RANKINGS: TOP 250 | CENTER | LW | RW | D-MAN | GOALIE
DRAFT BARGAINS: FORWARD | D-MAN | GOALIE | BUYER BEWARE
Here are some bargain goalies that should outperform their Yahoo average draft position this season. Each player's NHL.com rank and Yahoo ADP among goalies are listed in parentheses.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL.com rank among 'G': 15; ADP: 20)
Matt Murray is going 15th on average in Yahoo, a number that's inflated by his performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he backstopped Pittsburgh's championship run. However, there's no guarantee Murray will be the starter, especially considering he will miss 3-6 weeks because of a broken hand sustained in the World Cup of Hockey 2016. Let's not forget that Fleury was a top-five fantasy goalie last season with 35 wins, a 2.29 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and five shutouts. In the past five full NHL seasons, Fleury has had at least 34 wins, a 2.37 GAA or lower, and a .913 SV% or better. He sustained a concussion last season and struggled in limited playoff action, but there's a reason he's ranked third among active goalies in wins and shutouts. Fleury may not come close to the 58 starts he made last season, but should play around half of Pittsburgh's games behind a deep offense.
Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders (NHL.com rank among 'G': 19; ADP: 22)
Halak is being drafted after Thomas Greiss on average, which shouldn't be surprising because he missed time because of injury late in the regular season and in the playoffs; his absence gave Greiss the opportunity to lead the Islanders to their first playoff series win in 23 years. However, Halak is healthy now and has shown he's still capable of being a starter with his play for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. Halak made 35 saves in a 3-0 shutout against Team USA on Saturday, and followed that with 28 saves in a 3-2 overtime win against Team Czech Republic on Monday. Halak was also efficient with a 2.30 GAA, .919 SV% and three shutouts in 36 starts last season. Coach Jack Capuano tends to rotate goalies, meaning they could be in line for a near 50-50 split. That said, Greiss could regress after a career year, which could make Halak a bargain.
Video: PIT@NYI: Halak stones Kessel's point-blank shot
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL.com rank among 'G': 23; ADP: 35)
Vasilevskiy made 21 starts last season (11-10-0) with a 2.76 GAA, .910 SV% and one shutout. His GAA may have been high, but it should get better with greater regular-season usage. He also has a .920 SV% in 12 career playoff appearances. It's more than likely Vasilevskiy will get more starts this season, given the fact that Bishop has an injury history and could be traded in his contract year. Bishop is being drafted as the No. 2 goalie overall on average, so drafting Vasilevskiy is a must for Bishop owners. He should receive plenty of support on both ends of the ice from a stacked Lightning roster, so there's every reason to take advantage of his low ADP by taking him with a late-round pick.
Mike Smith, Arizona Coyotes (NHL.com rank among 'G': 24; ADP: 41)
Smith, 34, was outside the top 30 fantasy goalies for much of last season, but that could change quickly. He missed three months after core muscle surgery but finished strong after his return, going 5-4-1 and allowing two goals or fewer in seven of the 10 games, including two shutouts. For the season, Smith was 15-13-2 with a 2.63 GAA and .916 SV% in 32 starts. He had more wins in an injury-shortened season than he did in 2014-15 (14 in 62 games), so it was quite an improvement. The Coyotes have gotten stronger at forward and on defense, so it's not a stretch to say Smith can win 30 games for the second time of his career (38 in 2011-12). He's being drafted outside the top 40 fantasy goalies on average, but is one of the few who has the workload and potential to be a big surprise.
Michal Neuvirth (NHL.com rank among 'G': 27; ADP: 40) and Steve Mason (31; 37), Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers' goalie tandem was one of the best in the League last season, so why not draft them together since it's so convenient? Neuvirth tied for fourth in SV% (.924; minimum 25 games) and tied for ninth in GAA (2.27) with an 18-8-4 record and three shutouts in 32 games (29 starts). He was even better in the playoffs with a .981 SV% in three games. Mason was 23-19-10 with a 2.51 GAA, .918 SV% and four shutouts in 54 games (53 starts), and took it up a notch in his final 11 starts of the regular season; he went 6-3-2, allowing two goals or fewer nine times. It should be more of a 50-50 split this season, with Neuvirth expected to see an uptick in starts. There's no use in wasting a higher pick on a mediocre goalie when the two Flyers are available on average in the 35-40 range at the position.
Other goalie draft bargains: Cam Talbot (EDM), James Reimer (FLA), Connor Hellebuyck (WPG)