The 2014-15 fantasy hockey season is fast approaching. Once the calendar turns to September, drafts will take place as NHL training camps get underway.
Over the next week, NESN.com will provide fantasy rankings for each position, a list of top rookies and a complete “Top 100” ranking to help hockey fans dominate their draft.
We’ll start with the top goaltenders.
Safest Pick: Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Rask won the 2014 Vezina Trophy with a 35-15-6 record, a league-leading .930 save percentage and a 2.04 goals against average (third-best in the league). He also led all NHL goaltenders with seven shutouts. The Bruins play a very defensive style of hockey — they ranked second in GAA last season — and have many talented defensemen, such as Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk, in front of Rask. Boston also is among the best puck-possession teams, which means it doesn’t make Rask work very hard on a lot of nights. As an elite goalie entering the prime of his career, Rask is the safest bet at this position.
Other Safe Picks: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Cory Schneider
Riskiest Pick: Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
Varlamov, seemingly out of nowhere, was an elite goaltender and a Vezina finalist last season. He led the league with 41 wins (15 more than his career high) and helped the Avalanche win the Central Division over the Chicago Blackhawks. The concern with Varlamov is that he’s only had one amazing year in his career, so we still don’t know if 2013-14 was a sign of things to come or just an outlier. Colorado also is a poor puck-possession team, evidenced by Varlamov being forced to stop a league-high 2,013 shot attempts last season. If he has to face a similar workload this season, it could be a real problem, especially when you factor in his injury history. Don’t bet on Varlamov being a top-five goaltender in 2014-15, with an average blue line in front of him.
Other Risky Picks: Sergei Bobrovsky, Antti Niemi, Braden Holtby, Steve Mason
Rookie To Watch: John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks have had success with rookie goaltenders in the past, and Gibson promises to be the best of the bunch. The 21-year-old American was 3-0 with a .954 save percentage and a 1.33 GAA in the 2013-14 regular-season, then played well in the postseason before allowing four goals in Game 7 of Anaheim’s second-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. Even if Gibson is Frederik Andersen’s backup to start the season, he still should receive enough starts to make him fantasy relevant as a No. 2 goalie. For fantasy players in keeper leagues, Gibson is a must-draft. He has superstar potential and plays on one of the top Stanley Cup contenders.
Other Notable Rookies: Jack Campbell (Dallas), Niklas Svedberg (Boston)
Top 15 Fantasy Goaltenders
15) Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
14) Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks
13) Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
12) Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
11) Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars
10) Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
9) Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
8) Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
7) Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
6) Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
5) Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
4) Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
3) Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
2) Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
1) Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins