2023-2024 NHL Zero Goalie vs. Goalie First Strategy

by Mark Pitts
2023-2024 Zero Goalie vs Goalie First Strategy
Strap on the pads, pick out the coolest-looking goalie helmet design you can find, and start shaving the ice in front of the crease. It is time for the 2023-2024 NHL Zero Goalie vs. Goalie First Strategy piece!
While we get into our last-minute preparations, we should take some time to discuss strategy. Navigating the draft can go a number of ways, and disruption to the plan is almost imminent.
If you want to get the most out of your draft, you should head in with a game plan. It doesn't take a whole lot of thought when picking between the 30 or so point-per-game skaters. The real dilemma can be how to approach the goalie position.
Some players will opt to take a goalie in the first two rounds, while others will bide their time. It may take a few mock drafts to determine which strategy best suits your style. Still, at the very least we should consider both methods.
Let's take a look at both options and what might be the better way to go.

2023-2024 NHL Zero Goalie vs. Goalie First Strategy

All 2023-2024 rankings are based on Michael Proctor's top 300. 2022-2023 results are based on data across multiple sites. The numbers may skew depending on which site you play on.

Zero Goalie Strategy

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Goalies are overrated, plain and simple. This doesn't mean we can overlook the position entirely, but we should weigh our decisions. The top five goalies are clearly a cut above the rest, but you don't need one to win.
There will always be outliers when it comes to goalies. Just look at Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark. Last year he was ranked as G29 heading into the season and finished in the top 5. Even Vitek Vanecek was ranked G28 and finished End of Season (EOS) ranked tenth.
In a 12-team league, we are almost guaranteed a top-12 goalie, unless someone double spends. The 12th-ranked goalie is Edmonton's Stuart Skinner, who I am more than happy to wait for. The Oilers are one of the best teams in the league and are expected to win a lot of games.
Their defense has been problematic for years, but the addition of Mattias Ekholm last year started to show some hope. Skinner finished inside the top 10 for goalies last season, already giving us an advantage if we grab him as G12.

Other goalies worth considering

PlayerTeamSavesSV%GAA
Jordan BinningtonSt. Louis Blues18268.943.31
Tristan JarryPittsburgh Penguins1414.9092.90
Thatcher DemkoVancouver Canucks1005.9013.16
Almost any goalie, given the opportunity, can go on a run and climb the ranks.
Pheonix Copley only played 37 games last season and went on an impressive 24 and 6 run. If LA gives him the brunt of the workload, he's a prime example of late value down at G31. Copley is so low in the rankings he likely won't be drafted and makes an easy waiver claim if your goalies start cold.
The same cannot be said about forwards, for the most part. The most talented and highest-ranked skaters are going to finish as the highest-scoring skaters. Will there be some outliers? Sure, some skaters will definitely outperform their ADP. It is just very unlikely one of these players will sneak into the top 10 or even top 20.

So how do we capitalize?

If we intentionally pass up on a top netminder, we have to consider every category for our skaters. It's not enough to draft the highest-ranked player available. Prioritizing a skater who can collect both hits and PP points like Chris Kreider will pay dividends. While our opponents burn draft picks on early goalies, we can load up on the best skaters in the game.
It is very easy to fall victim to tunnel vision while drafting. Here are a few forwards we should consider when passing up an early goalie:
PlayerTeamPositionGoalsAssistsHits
Timo MeierNew Jersey DevilsRW4026154
J.T. MillerVancouver CanucksC3250200
Andrei SvechnikovCarolina HurricanesRW2332140

Goalie First Strategy

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On the other side of the coin is the goalie-first strategy. I personally prefer the zero-goalie strategy but I deploy both across my leagues.
The beauty of the goalie-first strategy is we can get the position out of the way early and not stress about it. It is undoubtedly the safer strategy as the top-ranked goalies likely finish the season relatively close to their ADP.
The top five ranked goalies are far and away better than the rest of the goalies in the league. I fully expect them to finish the season in the top five, or the top 10 to account for variance. An exception can be made for Juuse Saros, currently ranked as G7. Last season he finished as G3 and despite Nashville not being a good team, he clearly has the talent.
PlayerTeamSavesSV%GAA
Ilya SorokinNew York Islanders1838.9242.34
Connor HellebuyckWinnipeg Jets1964.9202.49
Igor ShesterkinNew York Rangers1719.9162.48
Jake OettingerDallas Stars1776.9192.37
Andrei VasilevskiyTampa Bay Lightning1875.9152.65
Drafting a goalie early means we are passing on an elite skater. This may spiritually hurt a little depending on which skaters are available, but the league is so deep it should not hurt too much.
There are plenty of value skaters later in the draft who can round out our team. Rickard Rakell is currently ranked LW29 while coming off a 60-point season. Jared McCann is ranked at C30 coming off a 40-goal, 70-point season. These are just two of my favorite options, but the point is we are not sacrificing anything by taking a goalie in the early rounds.

Don't Panic

One thing we should always keep in mind is we have to take what the draft gives us. Heading into the draft with a strategy is important, but we should never force anything. If one of the top goalies is available much lower than expected, there is nothing wrong with pivoting. If all the top goalies are taken ahead of us, we don't need to panic. Just prepare as much as possible and have fun while drafting.

Remember to check here for our weekly articles throughout the season. Happy Drafting!

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