Fantasy owners of Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick are in a serious bind before the new NHL season has reached its first weekend.
Quick sustained a lower-body injury in the season opener Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks, and was placed on injured reserve Thursday. He's week to week with the injury, forcing the Kings to turn to former Pittsburgh Penguins backup Jeff Zatkoff (37 percent owned) for now. The Kings also called up goaltender Peter Budaj from Ontario of the American Hockey League.
Zatkoff, 29, stopped 15 of 16 shots faced in the opener and won one of his two Stanley Cup Playoff starts last season for the Penguins, but has 36 games of NHL regular-season experience. He is fortunate to have a stout defense in front of him, led by Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez, but does not instill a great deal of confidence from a fantasy standpoint.
Quick, who finished second among goalies behind Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay Lightning) in Yahoo's performance-based fantasy rankings last season, is a tough player to replace, especially with little opportunity for value spikes at the position this early in the season. If you have the roster space, we recommend you add Zatkoff as soon as possible and/or consider one of the readily available options below.
Antti Niemi, G, Dallas Stars (56 percent owned)
Like last season, it's an even time-share situation for the Stars. The goal support should be there more often than not from an offense that led the NHL in goals per game (3.23) last season and scored four in its first game this season. But Niemi and Kari Lehtonen have struggled in peripheral categories, preventing either from emerging as the full-time starter. Niemi excelled in the preseason and won the opener against the Anaheim Ducks, stopping 33 of 35 shots. The Niemi-Lehtonen tandem combined for 50 wins last season.
Michal Neuvirth, G, Philadelphia Flyers (45 percent owned)
The tandem of Neuvirth and Steve Mason were severely underestimated in fantasy drafts, but either could be a steal this season. Neuvirth especially was efficient last season, with a .924 regular-season save percentage that jumped to .981 in three Stanley Cup Playoff games. The Flyers have the third-most back-to-back sets this season, so Neuvirth should close the starts gap on Mason and could emerge as the starter if Mason gets injured or struggles at any point.
Video: CAR@WPG: Hellebuyck makes save, freezes puck in OT
Connor Hellebuyck, G, Winnipeg Jets (39 percent owned)
If you don't want to go in-house with Zatkoff, Hellebuyck is the best goalie replacement bet on the waiver wire right now. He had a shaky start in the Jets' opener, allowing four goals on 27 shots, but got the win because of a young, explosive offense. Hellebuyck is a fringe top-20 fantasy goalie at this point but has a chance to join the top 10 by season's end. His ownership has risen five percent in the past three days, but Quick owners in shallow leagues should jump on the bandwagon before it's too late.
Jimmy Howard, G, Detroit Red Wings (13 percent owned)
Petr Mrazek lost the Red Wings' season opener at the Tampa Bay Lightning, allowing five goals on 35 shots, and struggled to solidify himself as the clear-cut No. 1 down the stretch last season and into the postseason. Howard, 32, has the edge in experience and could steal time from Mrazek in the near future. His ownership is low given his track record; of the 16 active goalies with at least 350 career games played, he ranks seventh in goals-against average (2.45) and tied for seventh in save percentage (.915).
Strong backups worth considering in deep leagues: Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL; 27 percent owned), James Reimer (FLA; 45 percent owned), Al Montoya (MTL; 9 percent owned)