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Fantasy top 30 goalies: Value of backups worth noting

by Evan Sporer /

Every Thursday during the season,'s Evan Sporer will provide you with in-depth analysis of goaltenders. From updated weekly top 30 rankings to trending players and more, Sporer will be your go-to guy for advice on fantasy goalies all season long.


In standard fantasy hockey leagues, two goalies can be started on any given night. With a bench to fill out, most fantasy owners will carry three goalies on their roster. And that means, if you play in a league with at least 10 teams, in theory every No. 1 goalie -- by definition -- could be owned.

The question, though, is whether it's worth owning every No. 1 goalie out there, or if there are other options that could add more value to your roster?

Before the season started, one could have ranked the 30 teams' projected starting goalies, and worked off of that. Yet few would have projected a guy like Michael Hutchinson having his value skyrocket after supplanting Ondrej Pavelec on the Winnipeg Jets depth chart, or a John Gibson injury that paved the way for Frederik Andersen (plus a League-leading Anaheim Ducks team).

What does happen about every season without fail is a handful of backup goalies outperforming some starters. While there's value in owning a goalie on a bad team who will start more games, and thus likely win more than one of these backups, the gap isn't as wide as some would think, and in terms of value based on how that backup is acquired, it's worthwhile strategy.

To date, eight goalies rank among Yahoo's top 30 who are true backups. That list doesn't include Hutchinson, nor does it include either of the two Ducks goalies ranked in the top 30.

Some of the players, like Scott Darling of the Chicago Blackhawks and Troy Grosenick of the San Jose Sharks, are likely to slip. But there are still a handful of backups who will provide excellent value year-round despite their footing on the depth chart and, when compared to starters on the League's bottom-dwellers, are worth owning.

Antti Raanta, Chicago Blackhawks -- When Corey Crawford was out with a foot injury, Raanta became a short-term, top fantasy goalie. Now that Crawford is healthy, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has a very reliable backup he can use on one of the NHL's top teams. Raanta's goals-against average (1.74) and save percentage (.944) are much better than Crawford's and most goalies in the League. Raanta has started nine of Chicago's games this season, a combination of his backup duties, and splitting time with Darling while Crawford was injured. With 42 games remaining on the schedule for Chicago, it's not unrealistic to think Raanta could get into at least 13 games, which represents about 30 percent of the schedule (Raanta's workload last season). And with the way the Blackhawks and Raanta are playing, those are at least 13 valuable starts.

Martin Jones, Los Angeles Kings -- Since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, Jones has posted a better GAA (1.86) and save percentage (.926) than Quick has by a pretty significant margin (2.15 and .916, respectively). Jones was featured a bit more last season when Quick missed significant time with a groin injury. This season, Quick has started in 33 games to seven for Jones, while Jones' numbers have dipped a bit from what he posted a season ago. Yet Jones still ranks 26th among all Yahoo fantasy goalies, and if his numbers regress and the Kings keep winning, Jones will continue to be a commodity worth owning.

Cam Talbot
RECORD: 3-3-1
GAA: 2.02 | SVP: .928
Cam Talbot, New York Rangers -- When the Rangers goaltending situation got dire last season, something the franchise never expected to face, it was the 26-year-old, undrafted Talbot who stepped up in a big way. Talbot helped stabilize the Rangers goalie play and went 12-6-1 with a 1.64 GAA and .941 save percentage, each of which would have led the League had he qualified with enough appearances. Talbot already has three shutouts this season, which matches his total from his rookie season. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has repeatedly said the team needs to rest Henrik Lundqvist more than it used to during the regular season so he's fresh come playoff time, and with Talbot starting seven of the Rangers 37 games so far this season, he'll likely get over 10 more starts from here on out.

Alex Stalock, San Jose Sharks -- Before the season began, there were questions as to whether Stalock could unseat Antti Niemi as the Sharks starter. Niemi has firmly been San Jose's No. 1 this season, but when he's been called upon Stalock has been just as good. While his 5-4-1 record isn't sparkling, his 2.33 GAA and .916 save percentage have him ranked 29th among Yahoo fantasy goalies. San Jose is still a playoff team, and Stalock should start double-digit games down the stretch.

Braden Holtby
RECORD: 19-8-6
GAA: 2.29 | SVP: .921

Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals -- Holtby has started 16 in a row for Washington, going 11-2-3 over that stretch with a .941 save percentage. Can't ask for a whole lot more from a guy who is literally starting every single game.


Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs -- While Bernier's play has remained steady, it's the Maple Leafs that have slipped of late. In four of his past seven starts, Bernier has faced 36 or more shots, three times facing more than 40. He's somehow managed to come away with wins in three of those appearances, which include a 43-save shutout and a 42-save, winning performance against Anaheim. Still, if Toronto keeps allowing teams to take shots in volume like that (and only the Buffalo Sabres have allowed more even-strength shots per night than the Maple Leafs), it will be a difficult situation for any goalie to succeed in

Darcy Kuemper
RECORD: 13-12-1
GAA: 2.68 | SVP: .902

Minnesota Wild -- Darcy Kuemper has plummeted out of this top 30 and was just placed on injured reserve, Niklas Backstrom isn't playing much better, and for a roster that's performing pretty well otherwise, Minnesota has been saddled with some very subpar goalie play. Unless the Wild decides to turn to its American Hockey League affiliate Iowa for help, the Wild seem like a team that could be in the market for a goalie at the NHL Trade Deadline -- or sooner.


These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie's fantasy output for the entire season. Our ranks are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, goals-against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%). 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 Pekka Rinne, NSH (SAME) 16 Jonathan Bernier, TOR (-5)
2 Corey Crawford, CHI (SAME) 17 Craig Anderson, OTT (SAME)
3 Ben Bishop, TBL (NR - IR) 18 Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ (-4)
4 Carey Price, MTL (-1) 19 Michael Hutchinson, WPG (-1)
5 Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (-1) 20 Kari Lehtonen, DAL (-1)
6 Brian Elliott, STL (NR - IR) 21 Cory Schneider, NJD (-5)
7 Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT (-2) 22 Ryan Miller, VAN (-7)
8 Frederik Andersen, ANA (+1) 23 Semyon Varlamov, COL (-1)
9 Jonathan Quick, LAK (-2) 24 Antti Raanta, CHI (-1)
10 Antti Niemi, SJS (SAME) 25 Martin Jones, LAK (-1)
11 Tuukka Rask, BOS (-5) 26 Cam Talbot, NYR (SAME)
12 Jaroslav Halak, NYI (-4) 27 Alex Stalock, SJS (SAME)
13 Jimmy Howard, DET (SAME) 28 Jonas Hiller, CGY (NEW)
14 Roberto Luongo, FLA (-2) 29 Jake Allen, STL (-9)
15 Braden Holtby, WSH (+6) 30 Steve Mason, PHI - DTD

Dropped out: Calvin Pickard

Key injuries: Darcy Kuemper, Karri Ramo, John Gibson, Jonas Gustavsson

*DTD: Day-to-day; NR - IR: Not ranked last week because of injury


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