June 16, 2024

Is this the season of the shutout?

Last season through Nov. 4, 2022, NHL goaltenders had played a collective 20,983 minutes in the crease and earned 13 shutouts.

This season through Nov. 4, 2023, NHL goaltenders had played a collective 20,818 minutes in the crease and earned 22 shutouts.

As you may guess, this season’s collective goals-against average (GAA) of 2.93 sure beats last season’s collective GAA through Nov. 4 of 3.02. And it’s the same story for fantasy points from goaltenders, which are 692.6 this season compared to 666 last season through Nov. 4.

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Goaltenders are off to a better start this fantasy season, that’s for sure.

There are some other fun comparisons. Such as a goaltender from the Vegas Golden Knights and Boston Bruins being among the top three in fantasy points both seasons, but it’s a different goaltender. Whereas Linus Ullmark and Logan Thompson were Nos. 1 and 2 last season, it’s Adin Hill and Jeremy Swayman ranked Nos. 2 and 3 this season.

Jake Oettinger is the only goaltender in the top five for fantasy points both this season and last season through Nov. 4. Oettinger, Thompson and Igor Shesterkin are the only three in both top 10s.

Let’s have a closer look at some of the goaltenders, remembering how they finished last season, evaluating how they fared at this time last season and where they stand at the moment. To clarify, these rankings are among goaltenders exclusively, not the fantasy landscape as whole.

But before getting into the individual looks, we’d be remiss not to take a pit stop in the crease that keeps on giving — not giving fantasy stats, the Carolina Hurricanes keep giving us different goaltenders.

With Frederik Andersen out indefinitely due to an issue with blood clots, we are left, once again, with Antti Raanta, Pyotr Kochetkov and now, perhaps, Jaroslav Halak, who joined the Canes on a tryout. This is not dissimilar from the script that made Kochetkov a fantasy darling for a couple of months last season when Andersen was sidelined; Kochetkov was fourth in fantasy points among goaltenders for the entire months of November and December last season.

Halak adds a level of complication, but the bottom line here is that the Hurricanes are, in recent seasons, one of the best places to tend twine. Troubling October aside, the chances are that a valuable fantasy goaltender will be in this crease before we get to December. Just who that is, however, is now a much deeper question. I’m taking a chance on Kochetkov in leagues where he is available, but going after Raanta — or even Halak in deep formats — makes sense too.

Alexandar Georgiev, G, Colorado Avalanche (Last season rank: 2; last season Nov. 4 rank: 10; current season rank: 14): While the Avalanche arguably got a little less imposing in the depths of the lineup this season, that shouldn’t keep Georgiev from being a top-five goaltender over the course of the campaign. As you can see, he wasn’t a rocket out of the gate last season either, so ranking 14th at the moment doesn’t spell doom and gloom. Remember: Work usually equals fantasy points. Of last season’s goaltenders that had greater than 70% crease share, all of them finished ranked No. 2 through No. 8 with the lone exception of Jordan Binnington (27th).

Stuart Skinner, G, Edmonton Oilers (Last season rank: 12; last season Nov. 4 rank: 13; current season rank: 68): Emerging from behind Jack Campbell last season to be more than serviceable for fantasy managers, Skinner and the Oilers have had a rocky beginning to the current campaign. Pulling him back to starting territory for fantasy is going to be a team effort, as the sputtering Oilers offense hasn’t been keeping pace. That said, if there is any team with the personnel to quickly pull out of this nosedive, it’s the team with the best player on the planet. In no world should you be starting Skinner, but I’d be hesitant to outright drop him.

Juuse Saros, G, Nashville Predators (Last season rank: 7; last season Nov. 4 rank: 42; current season rank: 21): Can you believe he was doing even worse last season? The Predators workhorse has a very slow start to the 2022-23 campaign, but was right there in the top 10 by the end of it. As implied, a lot of Saros’ value comes from his crease share, which was greater than 77% by the end of last season. He’s a buy-low candidate among goaltenders.

Thatcher Demko, G, Vancouver Canucks (Last season rank: 38; last season Nov. 4 rank: 67; current season rank: 1): As goes the Canucks collective fortune, so goes Demko’s fantasy value. Of course he won’t stay on top all year, but why not a top-five finish among goaltenders? Even accounting for some of the puck luck for the Canucks bucking current trends, the team has shown itself to be dangerous on offense and responsible on defense — which are enough ingredients to build a stock that gets you quality goaltender soup. Demko finished 10th among goaltenders in 2021-22 and the Canucks offense wasn’t nearly this dangerous.

Filip Gustavsson, G, Minnesota Wild (Last season rank: 9; last season Nov. 4 rank: 62; current season rank: 64): Does it make you feel better that Gustavsson was essentially in the exact same boat at this time last season? It should a little bit, but he also had a much smaller crease share last November (23% last season versus 55% this season). Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t been doing much better, so this feels more like a team-wide issue. Perhaps getting captain Jared Spurgeon back on the blue line will help right the ship; he could be in the lineup as early as Tuesday, but is expected by the end of the week.

Tristan Jarry, G, Pittsburgh Penguins (Last season rank: 16; last season Nov. 4 rank: 21; current season rank: 26): Frankly, none of these rankings are good enough for the expectations placed on Jarry. Injuries hampered him last season, but coming in healthy with a committed contract, Jarry should be one of the 70%-plus crease share starters that pushes for the top 10 by virtue of quantity alone. Keep the faith, as the Penguins are still competitive on paper and it’s not as if there have been zero bright spots (Jarry does share the league lead with two shutouts).

Ilya Samsonov, G, Toronto Maple Leafs (Last season rank: 10; last season Nov. 4 rank: 11; current season rank: 57): Samsonov hasn’t done anything redeeming yet this season, but take a look at his Nov. 4 ranking from last season at No. 11; Now note that Joseph Woll, before coming in to save Samsonov against the Lightning on Monday, sat at No. 12 this season. Woll’s crease share was already above 50% before Monday, so the pendulum is clearly swinging in his direction. There is still plenty of runway for Samsonov to get on track, but for the medium-term, look to Woll here. But even with a 50% crease share last season, Samsonov managed to finish 10th among goaltenders for fantasy points, so there is opportunity aplenty backstopping this Leafs team.

Short list

Digging deeper still, don’t overlook the fact that there are half a dozen goaltenders in their early 20s currently mopping up the competition in the AHL just waiting for their chance. Much like Kochetkov jumped on the opportunity last season to make a name for himself and earn a contract extension, any one of the goalies of the future are primed to take a chance in the NHL when it comes their way.

Goaltenders who are 22 and younger don’t always translate their game to the NHL perfectly, but there are also plenty of examples of them storming in. We have a particularly strong crop at the moment, headlined by Dustin Wolf (Calgary Flames), Jesper Wallstedt (Minnesota Wild) and Yaroslav Askarov (Nashville Predators), with Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers) also back in the mix.

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