Over the next few weeks, I’ll attempt to give you the Eastern Conference low-down on fantasy players broken down by position and team (similar to my Western counterpart's "Fantasy Indicators of Success" series). I’ll begin with the goaltenders because I believe, as in real life, that it’s very difficult to win your fantasy league without exceptional goaltending.
Back in 2005-06, Kari Lehtonen had 34 wins in 68 games. Unfortunately, he’s been an injury-prone wreck ever since. Lehtonen is a restricted free agent next season, so he may not be in the Thrashers plans. Playing on the Thrashers, there needs to be some major improvements in order for any goalie to record a 30 win season in the near future.
21-year-old Ondrej Pavelec is the heir apparent in Atlanta and is getting a trial by fire right now in the NHL. He was stellar in the AHL this season prior to his call up with a 1.54 goals-against-average and an incredible 0.947 save percentage. He could be NHL ready as early as next year.
Tim Thomas (11-3-3) just doesn’t get the respect that his numbers deserve. Thomas led the NHL in goals-against-average (1.90) and was second in save percentage (0.940). Manny Fernandez (8-1-1) looks like he’s finally playing the way he was prior to his knee injury. Look for Tuukka Rask to play a large role next year. Rask is learning what it takes to be a pro in the AHL and has a 2.43 goals-against-average and a very respectable 0.920 save percentage.
Ryan Miller is 28-years-old and is a top ten fantasy goalie in any format. The Sabres have done the right thing by locking him up for the next five years. Miller will receive consideration as Team USA’s top goaltender for the 2010 Olympic games.
Cam Ward is a decent goaltender, but his fantasy numbers leave many poolies wanting more. Over the last two seasons, Ward recorded 30 and 37 wins, along with a pedestrian 2.93 and 2.75 goals-against-average. With the Canes struggling offensively this year, Ward will need to have a great second half to hit 30 wins.
Tomas Vokoun (5-10-0) has struggled to find his form this season, recording a 3.04 goals-against-average and a satisfactory 0.910 save percentage over 17 starts. The problem is that “back-up” Craig Anderson (7-2-3) has been excellent so far this season and has a goals-against average of 2.09 to go along with a league leading 0.941 save percentage in 12 starts.
Anderson has fully deserved his crease time; he’s just not in there because Vokoun has stunk it up. When the 27-year-old Anderson’s contract is up at the end of this season, he should get a shot at a number one job somewhere.
I still believe that Vokoun will heat up a little and Anderson will cool enough to get back to where there will be no goalie controversy. Vokoun has been one of fantasy hockey’s most consistent goaltenders averaging 0.919 save percentage over the last three seasons.
Carey Price (13-4-4) is doing pretty much what was expected. He has a 2.37 goals-against-average and a very good 0.920 save percentage. He is already one of fantasy hockey’