The Journey: The Now, The Near and The Future of Goalie Prospects

Dave Hall


It's time to talk goaltenders, more specifically, those that are potential rising stars. We are currently seeing a nice crop of young, promising netminders rising from the depths. Whether it was on a full-time basis or just a few matches, 2019-20 brought us a nice glimpse into the future. The raw talent displayed in goal these days is nothing short of amazing.

For this week's installment of The Journey, I want to go over a few of those who could make an impact on your fantasy team for both now and in the near future. Considering it was a few months ago, which now seems like an eternity now, here is a reminder that Dobber dropped its Spring 2020 Top Goalie Prospects list in March. I will be focusing on only a select few from this list, so make sure you check it out in order to stay up to date on those prospects.

Goalies are a much different beast in regards to predicting their futures. There are so many factors that can change the course of a “superstar in the making", both for the good and for the bad. If you were to ask me, the lack of opportunity sits as the largest obstacle prospects face. While the 1A/1B options seem to be trending lately, there is nothing more confidence shattering than being stuck behind another young, solidified number one. Tampa Bay is the perfect example of this. At this point, with 25-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy sitting in his throne as the clear number one, the opportunity for a young goalie to squeeze in there seems nothing but a pipe dream.

Luckily, not every team is like Tampa Bay, and there are quite a few starting jobs to be had across the league becoming available in the next few seasons. Here are a few goalies that I think will become, or have already taken over that starting job.

The Now

Elvis Merzlikins – Columbus Blue Jackets – November Rank – 2, March Rank – 1

Equipped with a brand new two-year extension, Merzlikins will be gunning for that number one spot heading into his sophomore season. Of course, his counterpart Joonas Korpisalo will not make this an easy task but a little healthy competition never hurt anyone.

The Latvian-born netminder had been sensational over the past six seasons playing for HC Lugano of the Swiss League. As the starting goalie, he took home honors as the goalie of the year on two occasions as well as the league’s top rookie in 2013-14. Yes, his introduction to the NHL was as rocky as they come, but once he found his game in late December, he became the talk of the league. His epic run consisted of a 13-5-4 record which included five shutouts and a 1.97 GAA. His second-half heroics are an excellent sign that he is ready to take on a larger role on a more consistent basis going forward.

As mentioned, it will be an interesting situation next season, and we could even be looking at a 1A/1B. Regardless, Elvis is a must draft and could prove to be well worth the gamble, even with the uncertainty surrounding his role.

Igor Shestyorkin – New York Rangers – November Rank – 3, March Rank – 2

The time is upon us, folks. Igor is here and he is here to stay. It’s true, the Rangers are in a very odd spot as they sit with three very capable goalies. However, in my opinion, it's the Shestyorkin show from here on out and I am willing to argue that all day. It's hard not to feel upset for the King (Henrik Lundqvist), as he has had an incredible career on Broadway. However, unless they can find a suitable deal for Alexandar Georgiev, it looks like he could be on the outside looking in. If that is the case, let's hope they can find him a nice new home, perhaps on a cup contender.

Nonetheless, Igor has already transferred his incredible KHL success to North America and has come exactly as advertised. Starting the year in the AHL, he posted a 1.90 GAA and a .934 SV % over 25 games. He then followed this with a 10-2-0 record with a .932 SV% over a 12-game stint with the Rangers. He is the proud owner of an 80-19-15 record in the KHL and is poised to become one of the NHL's elite.

No matter the format your league runs on, keeper, or yearly, don’t be afraid to take a chance on him earlier than you expected. He has the upside to be a monster between the pipes and one of my personal favorites.

Ilya Samsonov – Washington Capitals – November – 1, March Rank – 3

This one will depend on your opinion as to what the Capitals do with Braden Holtby. Personally, since Holtby is 30 years old, I can definitely see the club moving on and turning their attention to the young and much cheaper option in Ilya Samsonov.

While he only received 26 starts this year, his 2.55 SV%, .913 GAA rookie season is nothing to scoff at. With such a small sample size, some argue that he may not be ready to take on a starting role yet. However, there have been games this season in which he definitely proved those naysayers wrong. He has played against men for many years now and has posted solid numbers at every level he has faced. I am personally all over the Samsonov train and believe he has proved himself to be at least considered the starter next year.

If Holtby is not re-signed in the offseason, make sure you snag Samsonov early as he is their official go-to for years to come. On the flip side, should they elect to extend Holtby, feel free to hold off for a few more rounds than originally expected.

The Near

Ilya Sorokin – New York Islanders – November – 5, March Rank – 4

Yes, this is the third Russian netminder in a row and yes, he is just as elite as the others. It seems goalies have been pouring out of this country lately, becoming a fantasy hockey hotspot in the process. Much like Shestyorkin, Sorokin has spent the past few seasons dominating the KHL. He has also been considered one of the best goalies in the world outside of the NHL. All of that should change next year as he rumored to be making the jump to North America.

His accolades are plentiful, taking home countless goaltender of the week/month awards along with a KHL championship and WJC gold. In Russia, he holds an incredible 134-64-22 record, 44 shutouts, a .930 SV%, and a 1.70 through 244 regular-season games. Cap this off with a stellar 50-17-0 playoff record.

I have him in the "near" section, as he could take some reps in the minors as he adjusts to the North American game. His talent is definitely there, but with two capable goalies already occupying the crease on the Island, some minor league time could be the most probable option. Don't let that bother you. Sorokin is as polished as they come and will bring you a very high level of upside for years to come. If you are in a win-now mode, he may be a gamble this year, at least for the first few months. But if you don't mind waiting, he could be a difference-maker.

Cal Petersen – Los Angeles Kings – November Rank – 6, March Rank – 5

Jonathan Quick is by no means washed up. But he, along with the Kings’ core group, is only getting older. Luckily, the club has Petersen, who is chomping at the bit to take over that number one spot as soon as it becomes available.

He has spent the past three years tending the organization's AHL squad. His numbers haven’t been terrific, but then again, neither has the team in front of him. It’s likely that Quick has some fuel left in the tank, so it may not be right away. However, with a deep prospect pool that the Kings own, they could be a strong team in just a few years down the road, and Petersen is definitely in the plans to be apart of that movement.

If you do decide to take a stab at an LA goalie next season, it may be wise to grab the other in a later round. They could split some time or at the very least, Quick could fall to injury again.

The Future

Alex Nedeljkovic – Carolina Hurricanes – November Rank – 16, March Rank – 9

Hurricanes' goaltender Petr Mrazek seemed to have found his game again since making the move from the Red Wings. Yet that doesn’t mean he necessarily has the starting job penciled in. In fact, depending on how he fares in camp, Nedeljkovic could make a case for himself to at least get a mention next year.

The former Flint Firebird has been lights out in the American League, posting the highest win total two years running as well backstopping his team to a championship. While he has seen a few NHL call-ups over the past three years, he has yet to be given a proper opportunity to show off his stuff. His AHL resume should warrant a chance in the very near future. With both Mrazek’s and James Reimer’s contracts expiring at the end of the 2020-21 season, I wouldn't be surprised if this comes sooner rather than later.

Cayden Primeau – Montreal Canadians – November Rank – 22, March Rank – 13

Montreal has Carey Price and if you ask me, he remains one of the best in the league. However, there has been a lot of trade talks revolving around the $10.5 million netminder, making his future somewhat uncertain. This makes Primeau all that more enticing.

While he isn't the only goaltending prospect in the Habs’ depth charts, he is undoubtedly the best. He enjoyed a very respectable rookie season in Laval (AHL) with a 17-11-3 record while posting a 2.45 GAA and a .908 SV %. It also did not take him long to get his first taste in the NHL, as he was called up for a short two-game stint, taking home a 1-1-0 record.

If Price should stay put, consider him second on the depth chart. However, the minute the veteran gets dealt and or falls to injury, Primeau will be the first to get a call. If you are in a keeper league, he carries a very high upside. For yearly formats it may be best to leave him be on the wire until his shot becomes available.

Top Rising Goaltenders

Chris Driedger – Florida Panthers – November Rank – 111, March Rank – 24

Jonas Johansson – Buffalo Sabres –  November Rank – 63, March Rank – 17

Adin Hill – Arizona Coyotes – November Rank – 18, March Rank – 7

Jeremy Swayman – Boston Bruins – November Rank – 59, March Rank – 12

Dan Vladar – Boston Bruins – November Rank – 49, March Rank – 16

Top 65 Fantasy Prospect Goalies – Spring 2020


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