Asleep in Goal

Picking sleepers for fantasy hockey is usually a fun job because if you are wrong about them, it’s not really a big deal. If you can pick 30% of the young or forgotten players who put up a big season, you are a fantasy genius. Sleeper goalies however; picking those is a pretty difficult task. Last year there really were only two true sleeper goalies who developed into a fantasy stars: Lundqvist and Huet. This season I am looking to find similar diamonds in the rough and hope at least one or two of these guys will have a huge year and give your fantasy team(s) a shot in the arm.David LeNeveu – Phoenix Coyotes

This former 2nd round draft pick is certainly Phoenix’s goalie of the future. The real question is whether he will supplant CuJo this coming year. His stats from last season aren’t anything special (3.24 GAA and .886 SV%) but he certainly has the potential to be a top 10 fantasy goalie down the road. The Coyotes will have a competitive team this year and if LeNeveu has a strong training camp he might just be the opening day starter. In deeper leagues, take him at the end of the draft. In shallower leagues, I highly doubt he will be drafted at all, but watch the waiver wire and be ready to add him at the first sign he may supplant Joseph this year.

Johan Holmqvist – Tampa Bay Lightning

Holmqvist – Lundqvist, see the similarity? Marc Denis was acquired by the Lightning in the offseason and is certainly their number one goalie going into camp. Holmqvist is a rookie unknown to most North American hockey fans, but I am certain he will soon become a popular name among fantasy managers. Unless he plays spectacularly in camp or Denis gets hurt, there is no doubt Holmqvist wont start too many games early next season. However, Lundqvist wasn’t expected to get much playing time either and look what he accomplished. In keeper leagues, Holmqvist should be snatched up as soon as possible. Managers in traditional fantasy leagues should keep a watchful eye on his performance early this fall.

Ray Emery – Ottawa Senators

I can already hear you all asking: how can a goalie who won 23 games last season be considered a sleeper? The answer is pretty simple, after the Senators signed Martin Gerber to a huge contract, Emery became the number two goalie once again. Was Emery spectacular last year? No, but neither was Gerber. In fact, their GAA and SV% numbers were almost identical in 2005/06. Emery is still young and gaining experience and confidence and I honestly believe he will be starting the majority of Ottawa’s games by the second half of the season. Any starting goalie in Ottawa is valuable in fantasy hockey, so put Emery on your bench (especially if you already have Gerber) and hope for the best.

Peter Budaj – Colorado Avalanche

He’s young (24), put up decent numbers last campaign (2.86 GAA, .900 SV%) and has Mrs. Paris Hilton starting in front of him (Jose Theodore). Half of me expect Jose to have a huge season, which would make Budaj a fantasy afterthought. Of course, the other half of me expects Theodore to play just as poorly as he did in 2005/06 (3.41 GAA, .882 SV%) and in that case, the Slovak goaltender suddenly becomes quite valuable. This is certainly another situation to watch early in the season, as eventhough I don’t expect the Avalanche to be a playoff team, their number one goalie should put up pretty decent numbers…and come Decemeber that number one guy might just be Budaj.

Pascal Leclaire – Columbus Blue Jackets

He’s ranked so incredibly low in Yahoo Fantasy hockey (363 overall), Pascal is almost guaranteed to be a late round steal. He platooned with Marc Denis over the second half of last season, but now Denis is playing in Tampa and Leclaire has the nets in Columbus all to himself. The Blue Jackets are certainly a team on the rise and Leclaire’s numbers from last year (.911 SV%) show that if he gets some decent defense in front of him, the wins and lower GAA will certainly follow. He’s probably the cheapest guaranteed starter in fantasy hockey right now and worthy of a late round pick in just about every type and size of league.

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