Can’t Miss Selections
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings-
After having a breakout playoffs, Jonathan Quick has been proclaimed to be the best goalie in the NHL. I wouldn’t go that far, but for sure, Quick is a sure fire top goaltender in this league. Posting career bests in both goals per game (1.95) and save percentage (.929), I believe that he is going to continue to play at a superior level this season. With the continued improvement of the King’s defense, as well as an increase in the offensive puck possession, Quick’s win numbers will definitely improve, while his GAA and save percentage should stay relatively constant. Definitely look to pick him up in the early rounds, and to not invest in a backup until late in your draft.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Rinne was the backbone of a Nashville Predator team that defied expectations and picked up the fourth seed in the playoffs last year. With the loss of Ryan Suter and some offensive role players, I am assuming that Rinne’s win total will undoubtedly fall, but his constant improvement between the pipes should make up for it. He registered a 2.39 GAA and a .923 save percentage last season, but really found his stride in the playoffs, and should be able to continue that momentum into the upcoming season. To be sure, the Predators will be depending on Rinne’s play more than ever, and I believe he will rise to the occasion. Look to pick him up in the early-middle rounds, and expect him to be the rock of your fantasy squad.
Overrated, Risky Propositions
Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes
Smith had an amazing run last season, helping to propel the Coyotes to a Pacific Division, posting a career high .930 save
percentage and a 2.21 GAA. He also tallied 38 wins, and with a mediocre (at-best) defense, carried Phoenix into the postseason. In the playoffs, Smith was even better, allowing only 1.99 GAA with a .944 save percentage. In his first year as a starter, Smith had an amazing season. Not to say that Smith cannot have a great season in 2012-2013, but it will be very difficult to replicate his stats from 2011-2012, especially with the further depletion of the defense corps, the possible loss of Shane Doan, and the turmoil surrounding the ownership situation in Phoenix. Smith could still be a top goalie, but I would not be willing to use a pick in the first three or four rounds for him.
Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues
Ranked as the number five goalie by ESPN, it’s clear to me that Halak is overrated. Although his numbers last season were impressive, registering a 1.97 GAA, a .926 save percentage, and 26 wins in only 46 games last season. However, because he will be splitting time with Brian Elliott, it is not wise to pick Halak as your top goaltender. As the Blues bring back a majority of their defense (sans Carlo Colaiacovo), I would expect the penalty kill to further improve, and for the continued chemistry among the D to aid in the improved numbers of the goalie. However, I would be wary to expect the same types of numbers from Halak this season, as his other career numbers suggest that his 2011-2012 season may have been an anomaly. Before last year, Halak’s best GAA was 2.40, and I expect him to move more towards that number in the upcoming season. Do not draft Halak as your number one goalie, if only for the reason that he will not play in as many games as most starters.
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks-
After months of trade speculation, Roberto Luongo is still a Canuck. After a down-season last year, many have begun to give up on him as a top-tier, Stanley Cup goaltender. In fact, many in Vancouver have been calling for the turnover to Cory Schneider, whether Luongo is traded or not. It’s not a terrible argument – Luongo finished the season with a .919 save percentage, and allowing 2.41 goals per game. I think all of these reasons will allow him to escape all of the hype and expectations, and have a stellar season between the pipes. Whether he is traded to a smaller-market team or remains in Vancouver, Luongo will be free of the pressure, and could finally start playing up to the level his massive contract permits. I would not draft him in the high rounds, but if he is still around late in your draft, he may be worthy of a backup position – which could pay huge dividends.
Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild
If Backstrom can manage to win the starting job from Josh Harding, he could have a turn-around season in Minnesota. With additions of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, both sides of the ice have improved, and with another offseason of work, the young defensive corps should improve. Last season, Backstrom posted a .919 save percentage and a 2.43 GAA. These were his best numbers since 2007-2008, and I think his numbers should continue to improve this season, beginning with the win totals. If the offense can generate another goal per game, the Wild could be a playoff team, resulting in maybe 10 more wins for their starting goaltender. If he can manage to keep the starting job, Backstrom could have a breakout season at 34 years old.