Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup Final 2021
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Like the real-life NHL, it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve Fantasy success without stable goaltending. 

The tricky part is figuring out how early in your draft you should take the plunge. The answer to that question usually lies in your league's settings. If the requirement is to start two goaltenders, especially in a format with weekly lineup changes, you want to make the investment earlier than you would in a single goaltender league. It also depends on when your opponents start drafting goalies, as well.

Also, if you pass on all the guys in the first few tiers, it's imperative to work the waiver wire aggressively throughout the season. In short, decide before your draft how much time you plan to invest in managing your team throughout the season, and keep that in mind when making your draft choices.

Now let's get to the netminders...

Tier 1 – Best of the best

Andrei Vasilevskiy (TB)

Connor McDavid is the unanimous No. 1 Fantasy skater, and Vasilevskiy is the unquestioned top goaltender. What's more, he's arguably the only netminder capable of carrying your league to a Fantasy championship. The Russian has won back-to-back Stanley Cups, led the NHL in wins for four straight seasons, and he's still just 27 years old. In short, Vasilevskiy is a stud and well worth a mid-first round investment.

Tier 2 – Best of the rest

Connor Hellebuyck (WPG), Robin Lehner (VGK), Jordan Binnington (STL), Darcy Kuemper (COL), Jacob Markstrom (CGY), Igor Shesterkin (NYR), Thatcher Demko (VAN), Marc-Andre Fleury (CHI), Ilya Samsonov (WSH)

Every goaltender in this group should be the undisputed starter, all of which feature for teams with legitimate playoff chances. Breaking down the tier a bit further requires figuring out how much risk you want to take with the position. Hellebuyck, Binnington, and Markstrom are a lock to post big numbers because they play a ton, and none of their three respective clubs have a backup threatening to steal many starts. Lehner was supposed to be the starter for Vegas last year before Fleury went off and won the Vezina Trophy. Lehhner is a prime rebound candidate. Fleury, on the other hand, will have a chance to run away with the job for the Blackhawks, but he's already 36 years old. Some say the Avalanche are the best team in the NHL, and they gave up a ton in order to bring Kuemper in from Arizona via trade. Shesterkin, Demko, and Samsonov are the three young goalies in this tier. Samsonov is by far the riskiest, as he barely played a season ago and has the most capable backup (Vitek Vanecek) behind him. 

Tier 3 – Older, untested, steady, expansion, rebound options

Carey Price (MTL), Linus Ullmark (BOS), Cam Talbot (MIN), Philipp Grubauer (STL), Carter Hart (PHI)

Price is a future Hall of Famer, but he's getting up there in years, had offseason surgery, and the Canadiens coaching staff loves backup Jake Allen. Ullmark signed a four-year, $20 million contract to leave Buffalo for Boston in July, and he'll be given the keys to the kingdom despite never playing more than 37 games in a season. Talbot was great last season for an overachieving Wild team. I've always been a fan, but I'm sure there are plenty who think his year was a fluke. Grubauer is going from arguably the best team in the NHL in Colorado to an expansion team in Seattle. The Kraken also have a solid backup in Chris Driedger. As for Hart, NHL goalies rarely get the benefit of the doubt when posting a 9-11-5 record, 3.67 GAA and .877 save percentage (in 2020-21), but the Flyers have no choice but to run Hart back out there with the hopes he rediscovers his game.

Tier 4 – Timeshares

Islanders (Semyon Varlamov/Ilya Sorokin), Hurricanes (Frederik Andersen/Antti Raanta), Maple Leafs (Jack Campbell/Petr Mrazek), Panthers (Sergei Bobrovsky/Spencer Knight), Stars (Jake Oettinger/Anton Khudobin/Braden Holtby)

This is where things get messy. There's a case to be made that the first four teams listed above are among the 10 best teams in the NHL. However, all feature ambiguous goaltending situations at the moment, and in the case of the Islanders, they seem likely to go with a timeshare more often than not. It's really risky to rely on any of these guys in a league with weekly lineup changes. You could theoretically take both goaltenders in your draft to cover your bases, but then you're limiting potential upside. 

Tier 5 – Low-end starters

Tristan Jarry (PIT), Mike Smith (EDM), John Gibson (ANA), Cal Petersen (LAK), Mackenzie Blackwood (NJ), Alex Nedeljkovic (DET)

The Penguins should be a solid team once again, but Jarry had a dreadful playoff, and I know the club is high on backup Casey DeSmith. Smith's ADP is laughable for a guy who finished last season with a 21-6-3 record, 2.31 GAA, and .923 save percentage. Betting on a 39-year-old goalie (Smith) is a bad idea, but his backup in Edmonton is Mikko Koskinen and he plays for a team with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. I'll take him all day long at his suppressed price and hope he makes it through another season in one piece. Gibson and Petersen will be the starters for the two rebuilding California teams. I do wonder if a goalie-needy team will make a heavy trade offer on Gibson at some point during the year. Blackwood should start for the Devils but will lose playing time to veteran Jonathan Bernier, while Nedeljkovic – who finished third in Calder Trophy voting a year ago – will be the starter for Detroit following an offseason trade from Carolina.

Tier 6 – Value-play backups

Jake Allen (MTL), Jeremy Swayman (BOS), Vitek Vanecek (WSH), Casey DeSmith (PIT)

These are the four backups with the best chance to potentially steal a starting job at some point during the year. All four play for likely playoff-bound teams. Allen has the worst chance of the four, but he's also the one most likely to get consistent playing time to keep Price fresh in Montreal.

Tier 7 – In case of emergency

Elvis Merzlikins/Joonas Korpisalo (CBJ), Adin Hill/James Reimer (SJ), Matt Murray/Anton Forsberg (OTT), Josef Korenar/Carter Hutton (ARI), Craig Anderson/Aaron Dell (BUF)

Drafting goaltenders on poor teams is generally a not-so-savvy idea, and selecting goaltenders in a timeshare on a poor team is an easy way to torpedo your Fantasy season. If forced to choose, the player listed first for each team is the guy I'd rather own, but that's a pretty low bar to clear at this point.