2014 Outlook: Given the relatively small sample size, the jury is still out on Holtby becoming the Caps' next franchise netminder. However, as a starting option in fantasy hockey, Holtby is one of the more exciting young prospects at the position, and it wouldn't be surprising if he winds up among the No. 1's by season's end. In 57 appearances over three NHL seasons, Holtby has posted a 37-16-0 record, with a 2.39 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. 57 appearances sounds an awful like a typical workload for a No. 1 whose team employs a talented backup (such as Michal Neuvirth), and while it's foolish to believe Holtby would maintain that same winning percentage in 57 such starts in 2013-14 alone, something in the 30- to 35-win range doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility. Furthermore, Holtby has continued to get better as his NHL career continues. To wit, his monthly save percentages in 2013: .863, .907, .925 and .937, followed by a .922 mark in seven playoff games. He shouldn't be the first goalie taken by a fantasy team, but he has the potential to finish the campaign as one of the Top 10.
2014 Outlook: One of the goalies in the NHL with truly elite talent, Ward has generally failed to deliver elite fantasy hockey seasons for leagues that use the standard categories, with 2008-09 (39 wins, 2.44 goals-against average, .916 save percentage) and 2010-11 (37 wins, 2.56 goals-against average, .923 save percentage)being the notable exceptions. The 'Canes are a team on the rise, and given that Ward will be in the crease for the vast majority of contests, it's a distinct possibility that this could be another elite fantasy season for the Alberta native.
2014 Outlook: One-third of the NHL's only three-man goalie Halak is believed by some to be the alpha dog of the group: his 2.14 goals-against average was the lowest of the group. On the other hand, he posted the lowest save percentage (.899) of the trio; the low goals-against and low save percentage are a testament to Ken Hitchcock's system, a system which can yield a lot of victories on the ice, but not the gaudy save percentage stats that we love in fantasy. Halak's projection is therefore limited, and along with the fact that he's in a timeshare, his ceiling is that of a No. 2 for our purposes.
2014 Outlook: Bernier has waited a while for an opportunity to be the primary starter for an NHL team -- he spent the past few seasons behind Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles -- but he'll have to battle James Reimer for the rights to that title. Yes, Reimer, the guy who almost single-handedly brought the Leafs back to the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04. It's not a question of talent -- in fact, Bernier's win percentage (.643), goals-against average (1.87) and save percentage (.922) were all better than Quick's in 2013. But given the uncertainty of how this battle is going to go -- or whether the team will simply run a timeshare throughout the season -- Bernier's ceiling is limited to that of a high-end No. 2 in fantasy.
2014 Outlook: Unlike a number of the other European NHL netminders, Lehtonen chose not to play in a pro league over in Europe during the lockout last season. Coincidentally, his final ranking on ESPN's Player Rater amongst goalies dropped from No. 10 in 2011-12 to No. 25 after 2013. The unfortunate news for Lehtonen supporters, however, is that his 2011-12 appears to be the career outlier -- he posted a 2.33 goals-against average and .922 save percentage that season, compared to a 2.78/.913 split for the other seasons of his NHL career. There were some significant changes in Dallas this offseason -- the acquisition of Tyler Seguin and the hiring of Lindy Ruff as the new coach -- however it's hard to suggest Lehtonen as anything more than a No. 2 in fantasy this season.
2014 Outlook: The goaltending carousel in Philly continued to spin this calendar year. During the tail end of the season, the club traded for Steve Mason. Then in the offseason, they bought out Ilya Bryzgalov's albatross of a contract, and brought Emery back to serve in tandem with Mason. Emery started off well in his last Philly tenure, until an injury derailed things; since then, he's recovered from a bout of avascular necrosis, and was phenomenal as part of the Blackhawks' goaltending timeshare in 2013 (posting a 1.94 goals-against average and .922 save percentage, along with 17 wins in 21 appearances). The Flyers aren't the Blackhawks by any means, but they're not the Sabres, either: there's enough talent among the skaters that Emery has a chance to post another solid season and entrench himself among the No. 2's in fantasy for sure, with upside as a low-end No. 1.
2014 Outlook: If all things had gone to plan for the Islanders, Rick DiPietro would be in the middle of playing out his legendary contract, but earning every penny. Unfortunately, that plan backfired wildly, and DiPietro was bought out of that deal by the club this offseason. The Isles had a slew of other netminder options in recent campaigns, but only Nabokov has really stuck as a legitimate option. In two seasons with the Islanders, Nabby has posted a 2.52/.912 ratios split, and last season he posted 23 wins, which was just one off the league leaders. The Isles are another rising team with a lot of young talent, and Nabokov is the perfect backstop for them -- he should again finish amongst the No. 2's in fantasy, and can be had at a relative discount in drafts.
2014 Outlook: We keep waiting for the big downturn for Backstrom, and it just hasn't happened yet. 2013 brought about a bit of a drop in save percentage (.909, off of his career average of .917), but his goals-against average of 2.48 wasn't too shabby, and oh yeah, he had 24 wins, which tied for best in the NHL last season. There was some thought that he wouldn't be re-signed by the Wild, but with that taken care of, he'll go back to being a reliable No. 2 option for fantasy.
2014 Outlook: Dubnyk was a very popular sleeper pick heading into last season, and his finish on the Player Rater (No. 19 among goalies) isn't terrible -- that's the realm of No. 2's. Perhaps more importantly, he was remarkably consistent. Here are his monthly save percentages in 2013: .921, .920, .920, .921. The Oilers have a young, improving core group, and the addition of Andrew Ference on the blue line should yield immediate dividends. Dubnyk should improve on his 2013 campaign, and finish somewhere among the high-end No. 2's or low-end No. 1's in fantasy in 2013-14.
2014 Outlook: The current record holder for save percentage in a season (.940, achieved in 2011-12), Elliott got off to a brutal start in 2013: through his first 11 appearances, he posted a 3.65 goals-against average and .851 save percentage. He did recover, posting a 1.28/.948 split in his final 13 appearances, and a 1.90/..919 split in six playoff games against Los Angeles. Elliott appears to be the top choice as the starter for St. Louis this season, but make no mistake -- this will be a timeshare again, which limits his value. He has a ceiling of a low-end No. 1.
2014 Outlook: Will Ryan Miller still be a member of the Sabres when his current contract expires at the end of the 2013-14 season? That's the big question, and it's one that will assuredly affect his fantasy value from a season-long standpoint. After all, taking residence in the crease of a contender will certainly yield more production than staying on for the rebuild in Buffalo. For now, he's a No. 2 for our purposes, but that projection could change if his zip code does as well.
2014 Outlook: Bishop began the 2013 campaign as the backup in Ottawa, and his work was pivotal when Craig Anderson went down with an injury. Despite 8 wins in 12 starts, with 2.45 goals-against average and .922 save percentage, the Sens believed that having a young forward (Cory Conacher) was more valuable, given that they have Robin Lehner in the pipeline. After his trade to Tampa Bay, Bishop added 3 wins in 9 starts, with a 2.99/.917 ratios split. He's the more accomplished of the Lightning timeshare, as Anders Lindback has not been as impressive in his time as a starter. In fantasy terms, Bishop is among the low-end No. 2's for the start of the season, but could wind up among the high-end No. 2's by season's end.
2014 Outlook: It's hard to project what we're going to get out of Varlamov on any given night -- from Feb. 11, 2012, through the end of that season (a stretch of 22 games), Varlamov posted a 1.87 goals-against average and .934 save percentage, while picking up 12 wins. Then, during the 2013 campaign (during which he appeared in 35 contests), he had just 11 wins, with a 3.02 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. Even worse, backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere easily out-performed him in both ratio categories. Varlamov has the talent to be one of the league's true forces in the net, and hopefully new goaltending coach Francois Allaire can work his magic on him. A risky pick if he's going to be your No. 1, he's more apt as a No. 2 at this point.
2014 Outlook: Reimer's career has been a captivating one to chronicle: after exploding onto the scene in 2010-11 with 20 wins in 35 starts, a 2.60 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, he won just 14 of 34 starts in 2011-12, and his ratios dropped to 3.10 and .900, respectively, as rumors of post-concussion problems circulated. 2013 was a return to top form for the Winnipeg native, as he almost single-handedly carried the Leafs back to the postseason, winning 19 of 31 starts with a 2.46/.924 ratios split. To "reward" him, the Leafs went out and traded for Jonathan Bernier, who will challenge Reimer for the starting job, and at the very least offer a very viable alternative any time Reimer has a tough game or two. In fact, from a fantasy perspective, Bernier appears to be a much better option. Depending upon how the timeshare proceeds, Reimer will be somewhere within the realm of No. 2 options in fantasy; if there's a true "No. 1 goalie," then he could be as valuable as a low-end No. 1, or just a rotational option.
2014 Outlook: One of the biggest surprises of the shortened 2013 season was the emergence of Fasth, who won his first eight NHL starts, and earned himself a lucrative contract extension during the campaign. Looking ahead to 2013-14, Fasth and Jonas Hiller will be splitting time in the Ducks' crease, so it's tough to argue that either is worth targeting as a No. 1. However, for owners who have already secured themselves a No. 1 workhorse early in the draft, Fasth does have the capacity to post excellent numbers: he finished 2013 with 15 wins in 25 games played, with a 2.18 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.