It’s important to consider past performance, longevity, health and supporting cast when evaluating whether a goalie qualifies as elite. Using that as a starting point, we can place this season’s goaltenders into two main tiers: Elite, and Best of the Rest.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
There are plenty of viable No. 1 goalies in the NHL who can anchor a fantasy roster, but in order to be truly elite, you need a guy you can count on to be in the lineup and produce at a high level. Pekka Rinne is arguably the stud of the elite group, as he has logged 60-plus games five times — he missed the mark last season by one game — and has hit 40 wins three times.
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Despite concerns that he may not still be with the team come opening night, Sergei Bobrovsky will be the starter wherever he might be playing and is another workhorse who has put together back-to-back campaigns north of the 60-game and 35-win thresholds. The 29-year-old is good enough that even if he lands somewhere without a good supporting cast, he is likely to still hit those marks.
Tukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Another battle-tested netminder is Tuukka Rask, who has registered five straight seasons with 30-plus victories. The Bruins brought in Jaroslav Halak to serve as the No. 2 following the departure of Anton Khudobin, which will likely result in the 31-year-old Rask being limited to closer to 50 games, but there is little reason to think he won’t once again rack up the wins this year.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup last season will only serve to drive up the price on Braden Holtby.
Prior to 2017-18, the knock on the 28-year-old was postseason performance, which isn’t going to affect season-long fantasy owners. He was limited to 54 games — his lowest since 2013-14 — in part to keep him rested, but also because Philipp Grubauer played so well in a backup role. Pheonix Copley is unlikely to see as many starts, which could boost Holtby back up over the 60-game mark.
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
If supporting cast could single-handedly win a goalie the Vezina Trophy, then Frederik Andersen might as well be declared the winner before the puck drops on the season. The towering Dane was already playing with Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau, but the addition of John Tavares further bolsters the Maple Leafs’ talent. Even when Andersen struggles — his GAA was 2.81 last year — he can still rack up wins backed by a high-powered offense and should push for his first 40-win campaign.
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks
At least 60 games played and 30 victories has been Martin Jones’ modus operandi for the last three seasons. He has never managed a 40-win season, but fantasy owners would be hard-pressed to knock his consistency. A solid team around him — including superstar blueliner Erik Karlsson — will help bail the 28-year-old out when he has an off-night.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
After missing the 2016-17 campaign due to injury, Jonathan Quick bounced back to record his sixth 30-plus-win season. The veteran is getting a little long in the tooth, so it’s unlikely he will play in 70-plus games — something he’s done twice in his career — but he should still hit 60. With an improved Kings squad that features Ilya Kovalchuk in front of him, Quick should have a shot at getting his GAA back to the 2.25 range, as well.
Best of the Rest
All three fall just short in terms of longevity but should move up after another season of proving they can keep hitting elite benchmarks. In Allen’s case, he logged 59 games last season but failed to reach the 30-win mark. As for Vasilevskiy and Hellebuyck, these two have nearly identical trajectories — 44 wins last season after 2016-17 campaigns in which they logged at least 50 games but failed to reach the 30-win threshold. Another 40-plus campaign for either of these goaltenders will vault them into elite status.
Former Penguin teammates Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray both miss the elite tier because of concerns over their health. The Flower was absent for much of Vegas’ inaugural season due to a concussion (though he was fantastic when healthy with 29 wins in 46 contests), while injuries held Murray to 49 appearances in his first season as the No. 1 netminder in Pittsburgh. If both Stanley Cup champions can stay in the crease, they are both capable of reaching 40 wins backed by talented offenses.
The uncertainty regarding whether Corey Crawford will be available at the start of the season prevents him from earning elite status. If he is back to 100 percent during training camp, the 33-year-old’s six 30-plus-win campaigns and two Stanley Cups should be enough to consider him one of the NHL’s best.
While goaltenders are no doubt the key to victory, they are also unable to do everything themselves. Henrik Lundqvist finds himself on a team that is admittedly going through a rebuild, which doesn’t bode well for his chances of earning 30 wins this year.
He registered just 26 last season, which his lowest total since the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign. The same goes for Carey Price, whose team seems to be in disarray and not sure if it’s trying to win now or build for the future. Prior to 2017-18, the last time the 31-year-old failed to crack the 20-win threshold, he only played in 12 games before suffering a season-ending injury.