The goalie position has become the hardest by far to predict with certainty. The leading fantasy scorers fluctuate dramatically from season to season. While the top 10 here seem to be your safest bets for starting goalies, you could easily make a case for about 5 other guys to finish as this year's top scorer. That complicates your draft strategy. Typically, goalies will start to fly off the board late in the first round, and once the run starts, everyone tends to jump on the train, in fear that they'll be stuck with a backup as their #1 guy. My advice here is to identify your top 3 options. If you can snag one of them in Round 2, go for it. Otherwise, focus on offense and defense for the first two or three rounds, and collect what's left once the run for #1's has ended. You'll maximize your guaranteed stars that way, and avoid the heartache of watching your top pick fail you.
As always, I've divided the goalies into tiers where I see a noteworthy drop off.
1. Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)
For the 6th straight season (every season of his career), Lundqvist has kept his GAA under 2.5. While the leaderboard changes every season, this guy remains a steady top 5 option. It's that consistency that makes him your safest option for a #1 goalie this year. He quietly posted his best shutout and save percentage numbers of his career in 2010-11. Look for another fine season from the King.
2. Ilya Bryzgalov (PHI)
Normally, I don't advocate for highly ranking a high-profile player after a relocation. However, this one seems to line up. Despite their post-season woes, the Flyers generally support very good regular season goalie stats. Bryzgalov has been a proven commodity for several years now. While his GAA rose slightly last season, so did his save percentage. He registered another 7 shutouts to give him 15 over the past two years. Few goalies can match that. He's a solid Top 5 goalie right now that you can believe in.
3. Ryan Miller (BUF)
2010 was a disappointing year for Miller, mainly because he set the bar so stinkin high the year before. He still finished top 10 in most categories and registered 5 shutouts for the third straight season. Buffalo added some defensive help this summer and you should feel confident in a return to power by Miller this year.
4. Tim Thomas (BOS)
No matter what this man does, the questions will never go away. How long can he realistically keep this up? I'd say, short of an injury, you run with him until he breaks. A repeat of his ridiculous 2010-11 season (and post-season) is unlikely. But a complete crash and burn is equally unlikely. However, bear in mind, Boston does have a quality up-and-coming in Rask who will demand more playing time, if only to rest Thomas after a long grueling season. Rank him high, but not at the top.
5. Roberto Luongo (VAN)
Luongo recovered nicely after a disappointing season in 09-10. He posted career bests in GAA and save percentage, yet faced major scrutiny early in the playoffs. Despite the presence, and constant threat, of Schneider behind him, this is Luongo's crease. He's a solid #1 goalie and should put up top 10 numbers again.
6. Corey Crawford (CHI)
It seems that Chicago finally has a #1 goalie that fantasy owners can believe in. With a different man assuming the top job seemingly every season for the past decade, Crawford will enter this year unchallenged as the Hawks top goalie after an outstanding rookie campaign. With a GAA of 2.30, he was among the best in the league, and should remain in the upper tier this year.
7. Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT)
Fleury endured perhaps the toughest season of his career last year, and came out on top. After a horrible start to the year, and calls for his demotion to Scranton, he rallied his game (and the team's) and went on a tear in early winter. Ultimately, he played so well that some gave him consideration for the Hart trophy. Expect him to build on his strong numbers from last year and perhaps even top them.
8. Tomas Vokoun (WAS)
For the first time in his career, Vokoun has a chance to put up some serious totals in that elusive column titled "Wins". He is consistently among the leaders in save percentage and shutouts, but due to geography, he often struggles to approach 30 Wins. Assuming he can stay healthy and fend off the youngsters, he may be set for his best season yet.
9. Pekka Rinne (NAS)
Rinne has steadily risen to the top tier of fantasy goalies over the past 3 seasons. Last year, he squeaked into the top 5 in total fantasy points. So can he get back there again this year? The makeup of the Predator lineup hasn't changed much, and the emphasis will remain on solid defense, which certainly helps his chances. Rinne has posted shutout numbers of 7, 7, and 6 over the past 3 years, meaning he can give your lineup a big boost on occasion. Consider him a low-end #1 or a great #2 option.
10. Jimmy Howard (DET)
63 Games, 37 wins. The stat line reads the same for the past two seasons. But when you get to GAA and Save percentage, it starts to break down. Howard tanked in those two categories last season, yet remains the number 1 (and only) option on a Detroit team sure to pile up the wins, as always. If he can get those numbers back to his rookie standard, Howard's a clear-cut #1 starter. Even with his struggles, he's still worthy of an early pick this fall.
To see the rest of my top 50 goalie rankings, visit: http://www.landsharkhockey.com/LS/tools/DraftRankings.aspx. You can also customize your own list there.