Hello everyone and welcome in for another article, this one providing a breakdown on hwo I am personally attacking the goalie position in my drafts this year. Before we jump in, be sure to check out the Apples & Ginos community on Discord and the Apples & Ginos Patreon for even more content; the weekly waiver wire article and guaranteed responses to all your fantasy hockey questions are only a portion of what I’m able to offer to patrons. I’m also in the Discord every day and would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about goalies, the size of the universe, or anything else that is ultimately unknowable.
If you’re coming across this article and it’s your first introduction to the #ZeroG draft strategy/lifestyle, I recommend going back to read this year’s #ZeroG analysis article in which I looked at how goalies performed versus their average draft position and came to some pretty important conclusions. Namely, that top end goalies were perhaps not as unpredictable as I thought but were still ultimately replaceable. The outcome of this thought process is that the best idea for your team is still to avoid taking early goalies. Since someone in your league is going to get a huge edge by picking up this year’s version of Ville Husso or Anton Forsberg, you can simultaneously put yourself in a position to be looking for that player religiously and optimize the skaters on your team by employing a #ZeroG strategy.
Keep in mind that the purpose of the #ZeroG draft strategy has never been to avoid goalies until round ‘X’ or wait until every other manager in your league has taken one or two before taking your first. The object of the #ZeroG draft strategy is to recognize that goalie is a very replaceable position in fantasy hockey with new viable options emerging every month or even every week throughout the season, and therefore spending draft capital on them is not an optimal use of resources. Instead, we should aim to spend less draft capital on goalies than our opponents. That doesn’t mean that you have to fade Andrei Vasilevskiy in the sixth or any other strange outcomes specific to your league, but it does mean that you should be relatively unconcerned about the position and avoiding the trap of overspending on goalies in your draft(which, in my view, 95% of fantasy managers do).
With that established, here are my goalie tiers and ranks and how I’m playing them.
Tier 1: Igor and Andrei
I could care less which order you put these two guys in; I won’t be drafting them in the first, second, third, or fourth rounds (or wherever it is they go). I will say I think Igor is probably more likely to bust due to team regression, personal regression, or simply not playing as many games (just 53 last year, 14th in the league and 10 less than Vasi). I am relatively proud of the fact that I see far less conversation about either of these two being worth a first round pick in sharper fantasy hockey circles (although they both have first round ADPs on Yahoo currently).
Tier 2: Starters With Big Upside
This is probably the tier that will get people’s hackles up the most, and grouping Kuemper with Saros will be a cardinal sin to some. But in my mind they aren’t far off in terms of ceiling talent-wise or situation-wise; I’m certainly not interested in paying an extreme premium for Saros when Kuemper goes two rounds later on Yahoo and five rounds later on Fantrax. I won’t get too bent out of shape over the actual rankings here, but if you’re contemplating taking a goalie relatively early for “peace of mind” then I’d aim for someone in the back end of this tier as late as you can comfortably get them.
Tier 3: Starters with Question Marks
Realistically, this is the tier where I’m starting to seriously consider a goalie. I’m not saying I need to get one in this tier, but if one falls to a good spot I’m definitely going to jump on it. I’m pretty bullish on Georgiev and Murray this year; both will be starters at the beginning of the season on what look like top-5 teams in the league across the other positions. Both have coaches who have shown a propensity to ride with a bellcow starting goalie. The upside is so high here that I’m more than willing to take a big swing. Georgiev and Murray are G17 and G19 on Fantrax and G18 and G27 (!) on Yahoo currently and I’m in at that 10th+ round draft price.
Tier 4: Starters on Bad Teams and Tandem Leaders with Upside
These are starters on bad teams who generally have their own performance-related question marks as well. There’s also the Swaymans and Forsbergs who I expect to lead a tandem and be pretty decent, and there’s the LA duo. I expect one of LA’s goalies to provide a really solid return on investment this year but I am unafraid to admit that I think it’s a 50/50 shot as to which one that is. I really don’t mind Grubauer as a very late flier; I think Seattle got a lot better in the offseason and goalies can often take a year to acclimate to a new system and goalie coach.
Tier 5: Prayers
I call this tier prayers because you’re really praying that these guys are somewhat playable. Francouz and Samsonov in particular have a lot of upside if Georgiev or Murray falter, but they’re just as likely to be unrosterable for the first month of the season while their counterparts get a bit of run to test things out. Really this tier has two projected volume starters for terrible teams, and then four of the best contingent upside based plays in the game. Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll be able to wait on them long enough to get much use out of them and you’ll be better off with one of (or a mix of) the volume starters on the bad teams.
Tier 6: Sure Maybe
These are guys who could have some relevance. Kahkonen and Reimer are a lesser version of Petersen and Quick in my mind; one of them will probably be halfway decent but I’m not convinced we know who it is now or that we’ll know a month into the season. Lots of people are all in on Talbot being at least a 1A in Ottawa and I think that’s fools gold for an aging goaltender who has posted declining numbers for the last three years on a Minnesota team that was very defensively solid. I’m also not out on the possibility that Nedeljkovic outplays Ville Husso and becomes fantasy relevant this year, but I’m also not drafting him in standard 12 team leagues.
Tier 7: Dart Throws
These are real lottery tickets, most of whom are currently irrelevant and will be irrelevant for the entire season. Some people are in on Logan Thompson in a big way but I can’t find it in myself to get overly excited about him. I guess you could put him a tier or two higher and maybe I’ll try him out in the early going of the season, but until we get a training camp report that says he’s the clear starter I think there’s every chance he’s just another guy who starts 20-25 games this year.
In summary, focus on finding upside at the position and not overspending. Don’t waste draft picks on guys who aren’t going to start more than half of their team’s games unless you need an extreme amount of rate stats and have deep benches. Be comfortable with not having one of the perceived elite goaltenders and focus on finding the next one; they’re always out there and they’re always league-winners. There will be a weekly Apples & Ginos #ZeroG article this year so keep coming back for those and we’ll find those league-winners that bring home the ‘ship.
That’s all for this one folks, I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter and join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.
Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!
Soundtrack to my writing: Skinny Dipping – Stand Atlantic
2 thoughts on “#ZeroG in 2022/23: Goalie Tiers and How to Play the Position”
Hey Nate! Love the article.
One thing I’ve been curious about is where exactly is the point you would draft the top 2 tier goalies. You mention it doesn’t really matter as you know they will go far earlier than you would, but I would still be curious if you were in a league of the most hardcore Zero-G managers, where exactly is the point where you break and become the first person to take a goalie.
I think for me I would take Vasi and Shesty in the fifth round probably. At that point the upside of them just being a cheat code at the position outweighs the positional benefit of fading goalies. Hope that helps!