Josh Hutchinson (@JustJoshin41)
It’s finally here! The NHL season starts today and with it comes Week 1 of the fantasy hockey season. I hope you all drafted well and by that I mean faded goalies. Obviously I’m joking (kind of) but regardless of how you drafted, you may be in need of some goalie starts and if so, you’ve come to the right place.
#ZeroG Power Rankings
Every week I will be ranking the top 10 #ZeroG candidates. Only goalies that are less than 50% rostered on Yahoo will be included. There will be some subjectivity, but I will be taking a few things into consideration to inform my decisions. Potential for volume/starts will hold the most weight in the rankings followed by likelihood of quality starts. The likelihood of quality starts will be based on the quality of upcoming opponents, the quality of the defensive system in front of the goaltender and recent individual success. Since there haven’t been any games played, this will likely be the most subjective top 10 of the season. I’ll also pick three goaltending situations that I find interesting to elaborate on. Let the search for the 2022-23 #ZeroG gems begin!
- Philipp Grubauer – Seattle (28% Rostered)
- Vitek Vanecek – New Jersey (44%)
- James Reimer – San Jose (22%)
- Kaapo Kahkonen – San Jose (9%)
- Karel Vejmelka – Arizona (11%)
- Jake Allen – Montreal (18%)
- Petr Mrazek – Chicago (3%)
- Alex Nedeljkovic – Detroit (35%)
- Cal Petersen – Los Angeles (15%)
- Eric Comrie (7%)/Craig Anderson – Buffalo (3%)
Vanecek has shown a lot of promise over the years but it hasn’t translated into much more than league average goaltending at the NHL level. Nonetheless he comes into a situation in New Jersey where any improvement in net is welcome as they had the league’s worst team 5v5 save percentage last year. Vanecek, who was in a multi-year battle for playing time with Ilya Samsonov, seemed to win the starting job last year but unfortunately he struggled to stay consistently healthy. This year he’ll compete with Mackenzie Blackwood who seems to have lost favor with the Devils after multiple years of injuries and overall poor play. When you consider the multi-year deal Vanecek has signed along with the seemingly last shot for Blackwood who has one year left on his deal, I would think that Vanecek is the 1A in this tandem at least to start the year. This week, the Devils only have two games but they’re against weaker opponents (Flyers and Red Wings). If Vanecek gets both starts, he could provide you some nice week 1 value.
James Reimer/Kaapo Kahkonen
This should be a straight tandem. James Reimer got the majority of starts in San Jose last year and returned a really solid .911 save percentage on what was a very poor defensive team. He was a #ZeroG hero last year as I mentioned in my article last week. Kahkonen also had a very good year with a .916 in a smaller sample size of 11 games behind that same poor San Jose defense. I think long term, the Sharks hope that Kahkonen is their guy but for now, I think Reimer has the slight edge simply based on familiarity. Reimer likely will be dealt at the end of the year as San Jose is not expected to make the playoffs and this is the final year of his contract so that may open the door for some volume for Kahkonen near season’s end. For this fantasy week, the Sharks are one of two teams with 4 games and more importantly the only team with two back to backs. This likely means that each of these two will get two starts. They have a back to back against Nashville in Prague and then a back to back the following Friday and Saturday against Carolina and Chicago. Obviously whoever gets the start against the Blackhawks has a distinct advantage in terms of potential start quality, but at this point we don’t know for sure who that will be so pick your poison!
Remember him? Nedeljkovic was a name that was hotly coveted in fantasy leagues last year after a stellar stint with Carolina where he put up a .932 save percentage in 23 games. He promptly put up a brutal .901 last season on a very defensively porous Detroit team. This led to the Red Wings signing Ville Husso to a 3 year $4.75 million contract. This strongly indicates that Husso is this year’s starter, but given his short resume and his poor playoff performance last season there is a chance that he could falter which would open the door back up for Nedeljkovic. Detroit should be improved this year. They were one of the more active teams in free agency this past summer. I don’t expect them to be a playoff team but they should be competitive. I’m not as confident in Nedeljkovic being a strong #ZeroG option as I am in some of these other names but I think he’s someone that’s been forgotten that should be on your radar. Detroit has only two games this week but they are back to back so Nedeljkovic should have a late week start if you’re looking for some last minute help in your goalie categories. It’s worth noting that both of their opponents are fairly weak (Montreal and New Jersey) so the likelihood of an extra win is high.
Stats gathered from: