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Past Fantasy Outlooks
The 23-year-old Vasilevskiy enters training camp as the undisputed top dog in Tampa's blue paint. He took over for an injured Ben Bishop right before Christmas last season and held his own, although his overall numbers were average (2.61 GAA and .918 save percentage). But we only need to dig a little deeper to see his true potential -- and the reasons Vasilevskiy could be the breakout candidate of 2017-18. He delivered a .922 save percentage at even strength in 2016-17, which is an indication of strong underlying skills and something that forecasts success. And then there's his overall play post-Big Ben. Vasilevskiy's save percentage once he became the top dog was .926, a number that, if extrapolated over a full season, would have put him second in the league behind only Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Vasilevskiy is the future of the franchise and is about to become a top-10 fantasy netminder at the age of 23. Take that to the bank.
Vasilevskiy's time has come. He proved in the 2015-16 postseason that he could command the blue paint for the Bolts and in any other place, he'd be the top dog. But Ben Bishop still wears a bolt on his jersey, at least for now, and that means Vasilevskiy will see limited ice until Bishop is moved. Expect that to come either by the start of the season or before the end of 2016. Vasilevskiy is big and talented, and ready for prime time. And at $925,000, he's a whole lot cheaper than Big Ben ($5.95 million). Draft day will be a challenge for you, though, especially if the team enters the season with both men. Bishop delivers elite numbers and will be the top dog if he's still in town. Dynasty leagues building for 2017-18 and beyond should invest heavily. But those of you in single-year leagues need to weigh your options very, very carefully.
Vasilevskiy is biding his time. He’s incredibly talented and the Bolts’ goalie of the future, but that big guy Ben Bishop is blocking his path. Vasilevskiy will be on call should Bishop get hurt (again). And because the Stanley Cup runners up figure to be very good again, that would immediately make Vasilevskiy an above-average option in the net. But for this year and next, Vasilevskiy won’t start more than 30 or 35 games if Bishop is healthy. He’s valuable as a handcuff and in both deep dynasty and daily leagues. But outside that, he’s Robin to Bishop’s Batman. His time won’t truly come until 2017-18.
Vasilevskiy may be a top-10 prospect, but he's nowhere near NHL-ready. He turned 20 this past summer and hasn't played more than a handful of games on NHL-size ice. Still, the sky really is the limit for this big, athletic twine-tender, who carried an average KHL squad to the league finals in 2013-14 and shined as a backup for Russia's gold-medal winning team at the most recent World Championships. He'll spend 2014-15 in the AHL, splitting time with Kristers Gudlevskis. A starting gig in the NHL is still several seasons away, and that means his fantasy value is, too.
Vasilevskiy is a big, raw, athletic twinetender with tremendous, long-term fantasy upside. But there's a big BUT in his file and it's the "Russian" card. He has NHL starter upside, but he still needs time to develop. And that means his eight-game cup of coffee in the KHL last season could turn into a full carafe. He says all the right things about wanting to be in the NHL, but the money the KHL can dish out might be much too enticing. He's certainly stashable in keeper formats, but don't draft him too early there. This is truly a watch-and-wait situation.
Right now, Vasilevski is best known for being the Team Russia goalie who was yanked with six minutes left in his team's 6-5 win over Canada and the 2012 World Under-20 Championship. But that will soon change. Vasilevski is a big, calm netminder who could be the best his country has produced (at that age). The obvious caveats apply - he's likely bound to play in the KHL for a few years and that makes him a risk. Fantasy owners should wait for hints he'll come to North America before rostering him.