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Fantasy Hockey Sleepers 2017-18: Goalies

This week our focus will be on my top five sleeper goaltenders that can help solidify your fantasy team.  Sleeper goalies are hard to come by due to the limited number of goaltenders in the league. Most teams already have their starter, and only a few will have competition for the backup job this season. This list will consist of the five goalies I think will make a difference this year. Here are some of my past sleeper articles: Fantasy Hockey Sleepers for 2017-18: CentersFantasy Hockey Sleepers for 2017-18: Right Wing, Fantasy Hockey Sleepers for 2017-18: Left WingFantasy Hockey Sleepers 2017-18: Defense

Scott Darling, Carolina Hurricanes

Scott Darling will finally get his chance as a starter with Carolina this season. Darling spent three years in Chicago as Corey Crawford’s backup, putting up impressive numbers. In 75 games, he was 39-17-5, with a 2.37 goals against average (GAA), a save percentage of .923 and four shutouts. Those are good numbers for any starter, let alone a backup. Now in Carolina, Darling will get a chance to show the NHL what he can do over a 60+ game span, backstopping an improved Carolina team. Although Carolina still has Cam Ward, it seems his days as a starter are over and the organization is already prepared to have Darling as their main guy from day one. If Carolina’s defense worries you, keep in mind that they were fifth in the league in shots against last season, while Chicago was 21st.

Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks

[the_ad id=”384″]With Ryan Miller going to Anaheim, the door is open for Swedish goaltender Jacob Markstrom to shine in Vancouver. Having never played more than 33 games in a season, a 60+ game schedule could be taxing on the 27-year-old. The Canucks General Manager Jim Benning stated in 2016 that they were grooming Markstrom to be the starter that replaced Miller, which should give Markstrom full confidence to go out and excel in Vancouver. His win-loss numbers don’t look great, with only 25 wins in 66 games with the Canucks, but his .911 save % is respectable. His 2.71 GAA could be lower, but he hasn’t had a great defensive core in front of him. With the signings of Micheal Del Zotto and Patrick Weircioch and the emergence of Ben Hutton, Vancouver’s defense should be greatly improved from last year. This improved defense will help Markstrom put up fairly good numbers this season.

Mike Smith, Calgary Flames

On any other team but Arizona, Mike Smith would probably be considered an elite goalie. He is a top pick for most international teams, including Canada’s Olympic team, and is a former All Star. However, the Coyotes have been so horrible over the years that his numbers don’t reflect how good he really is.  That all changed this offseason, when Smith got traded to the Calgary Flames. They needed a top-tier goalie, and they got one. With the Flames’ steady defense and rising young offense, Smith will finally have a good team in front of him, which will help improve his fantasy stock. With the Flames, Smith can be a frontline pick for any fantasy team and be used as your main goalie. The only downfall here is that he has been known to catch the injury bug. He is also 35, so if you’re in a dynasty league, make sure you have a good goalie prospect ready to go in the next three years or so.

Carter Hutton, St. Louis Blues

Carter Hutton is probably the best backup in the league, with Antti Raanta now starting in Arizona and Darling in Carolina. He will be backing up Jake Allen again this year, but don’t let that discourage you from drafting him. Hutton had very similar numbers to Allen last season. In 30 games, he was 13-8-2 with four shutouts, a GAA of 2.39 and a .913 save percentage. Meanwhile, Allen had a 2.42 GAA with a save percentage of .915 in 60 games. The likelihood of Hutton stealing the starting job from Allen is slim, but look to see him push for more starts and continue to improve his stats. I wouldn’t count on him being the No. 1 guy on my fantasy team, but he could be a solid backup who does the job when you need him. Also, if anything should happen to Allen, he is a capable guy to take over in net. If Hutton goes undrafted in your league, he will be a great waiver wire pickup.

Jussi Saros, Nashville Predators

Jussi Saros was one of the top goaltending prospects going into last year, and he proved that by having an exceptional season backing up Pekka Rinne. At only 22, Saros is still a few years away from being the No. 1 guy in Nashville and can only get better playing behind one of the greats in Rinne. Since finishing second in the Vezina race in 2014-15, Rinne’s numbers have slipped. Over the past two seasons, his GAA has been over 2.40, and his save percentage has been under .920. This should give some fuel for the Predators organization to allow Saros to play more games and increase his workload from 21 games to 30+. He had a .923 save percentage and a GAA of 2.35 (which were both better the Rinne) in his first full year. He may not be a starter now, but in 2-3 years he should be the main guy in Nashville. Get him on your team now, and you should be set for years to come.

Other goalies to keep tabs on are Brian Elliot in Philadelphia, James Riemer in Florida, and Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa. I would also keep an eye out for a young goalie named Thatcher Demko in Vancouver. He could very well make the team this year and could possibly push for the starter job sooner than later. Good luck in your fantasy season, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for all your hockey fantasy needs.

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