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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Last season went about as poorly as one could imagine for Varlamov. Injuries limited him to 24 appearances, and he was terrible when he did suit up for the last-place Avalanche. The Russian’s 3.38 GAA would have ranked last among qualified options had he met the playing time benchmark, while his .898 save percentage beat out only Antti Niemi and Michal Neuvirth. Two hip surgeries later, Varlamov is ready for a bounce-back campaign, but he'll need the team in front of him to perform much better. Though Colorado brought in Jonathan Bernier after losing promising young backup Calvin Pickard in the expansion draft, the 29-year-old Varlamov’s career .916 save percentage makes him the slight favorite to win what is arguably the league’s least desirable starting job.
Varlamov was expected to have a bounce-back campaign, but it just didn’t come to fruition. The netminder posted a 27-25-3 record to go along with a .914 save percentage, 2.81 GAA and only two shutouts. Coming off a career year in 2013-14, the 28-year-old has declined in two straight seasons and now has Calvin Pickard nipping at his heels for a chance at a few more starts. While the Russian’s starting job is safe, especially after keeping a clean bill of health, Varlamov should have no excuses this year. Combine an explosive offense with solid defensemen like Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson and veteran Francois Beauchemin, and you have a playoff team if the goalie can tend the twine with consistency. The 2006 first-round pick has all the pieces before him to have a career campaign.
Varlamov appeared in 57 games for the Avalanche in 2014-15, posting a 28-20-8 record and a .921 save percentage while missing multiple stretches of action due to persistent groin problems. The 27-year-old was at least able to enjoy better health down the stretch, finishing the season with wins in nine of his last 13 games, with no more than three goals surrendered in a single game during that span. The Russian netminder returns as the clear No. 1 in Colorado, and injury issues last year notwithstanding, is one of the more reliable fantasy netminders around. Despite the missed action last season, Varlamov pitched a career-high five shutouts and didn't wilt under the burden of a mounting workload. While he took a step backwards after his massive 41-win campaign in 2013-14, the Avalanche as a whole were a mess last season, missing the playoffs and finishing last in the division. However, with the goalie still firmly in his prime, an excellent core of young forwards in place, and Nikita Zadorov and Francois Beauchemin joining a healthy Erik Johnson to add more stability to the defensive ranks, Varlamov should be a reasonable bet to surpass 30 wins and claim a top-10 NHL save percentage. He’s that good.
Playing in his sixth NHL season, Varlamov broke out in a big way in 2013-14, leading all NHL goalies in wins (41), saves (1867) and shots faced (2,013) while breaking Colorado's franchise record and finishing third in the league with a .927 save percentage. For these accomplishments, the Russian workhorse was named a finalist alongside Boston's Tuukka Rask and Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league's top goaltender. It's also important to note that Varly battled through off-ice adversity starting in November, as he was brought up on domestic violence charges and accused of assault and kidnapping his girlfriend before the charges were dropped in late December. He actually spent a night in jail, but coach Patrick Roy and the Avs stood beside him and he barely missed a beat, earning a win in Dallas just two days after his arrest. Come February, Varly had backstopped the young underdog Avs to the Central Division lead, posting a 27-9-5 record with a 2.47 GAA and .924 save percentage that earned him a new five-year, $29.5 million deal -- effectively locking him in as the top dog between the pipes in Denver for the next half decade. Varlamov is sure to be one of the top goalies taken in fantasy drafts this season, but one potential concern is the Avs’ lack of a proven backup. Reto Berra, who was acquired and immediately signed to a three-year deal in March, has only 31 NHL games under his belt. The threat of fatigue or an injury impacting Varly’s game is something potential owners should be mindful of, if the unproven Berra falters in providing rest for the top netminder. However, the reward is worth the risk with a stud like this behind a high-flying Avs squad ripe with star talent at forward and on an ever-improving blue line.
Varlamov had a rather forgettable season in 2012-13, finishing 11-21-3 with a 3.02 GAA. Now, he wasn't completely to blame -- he was behind one of the worst defenses in the league. The Avs have upgraded a bit on the blue line, so he should put up somewhat better numbers as the team's starter this season. But buyer beware -- the team is still young and that will result in a lot of rubber headed Varlamov's direction. He'll make a decent second goalie, but don't rely on him as your top dog.
The Avs entered the 2011-12 season with Varlamov as their new undisputed starting goalie after acquiring him in a trade with Washington that summer. Varlamov started the season strong enough, with five wins in his first eight games, but tailed off after that, eventually yielding the starting reins to backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere for a stretch. However, after winning the starting job back in mid-February, Varly went 12-8-2 down the stretch with a 2.01 goals-against average and .931 save percentage, cementing his role as the teams’ top puckstopper coming into this season. He is still largely unproven as a starter and will have a young and relatively inexperienced squad playing in front of him, but he still has significant fantasy upside.
The Avs, who finished last season with a goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Peter Budaj, addressed a glaring need by acquiring Varlamov from the Capitals in July. Varlamov split time with Michal Neuvirth last season, posting some very respectable numbers (11-9-5, 2.23 GAA, .924 SV%) and proving that he can be relied upon as a starting netminder in the NHL. Unfortunately, he's coming to a team that averaged 31.8 shots against per game last season - eighth most in the NHL - so he'll have his work cut out for him. We don't recommend you rely on Varlamov as your starting fantasy netminder this season, but his numbers ought to be good enough for you to draft him as a solid No. 2 guy.
In 15 games, Varlamov registered a goals-against average (2.60) and save percentage (.909) that trumped Jose Theodore’s output in the same two categories during the 2009-10 regular season. Despite the promising trend, Varlamov and company were stunned in the first round of the postseason. In 2010-11, he should be involved in a two-way timeshare – which also includes youngster Michal Neuvirth - with the former getting the bulk of the starts.
The Russian rookie impressed so much late last season after filling in to give Jose Theodore some rest, that he was inserted as the starter in the playoffs after Game One of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. He is a 6-1 space heater in front of net and is quick on his skates. In five regular season starts, Varlamov was 4-0-1 with a 2.37 goals against average and .918 save percentage. Then his postseason chance came and he shined in the 13 games he started. He finished 7-6 during the team’s run, with two shutouts, a 2.53 goals against average, and .918 save percentage. The Capitals’ first round pick in 2006 is ready to be number one this year and will get his chance to battle for the spot.
The Russian product has the skills to play in the NHL soon and would add to an already stacked squad of Russians. Varlamov has a unique style in goal – not a pure butterfly nor a pure stand up goalie but possesses a quick glove hand, controls rebounds well and has the size, skill and reflexes to become a very good netminder. It is undetermined where he will play this year, but if he can make the Caps’ AHL team and play in Hershey, keep an eye for him in the coming years.
Varlamov, one of the Caps' first-round picks in the 2006 draft, has a load of talent but has struggled in representing Russia on the international stage. He's still extremely young at 19, and will likely be in a running competition with fellow 2006 draftee Michal Neuvirth over the next couple of years to see who will succeed Olaf Kolzig when he retires.
Varlamov was rated the second-best European goalie avaible in the 2006 draft and the fifth best overall by the International Scouting Service. He has great post-to-post quickness and is very athletic, something not usually associated with Russian netminders. His glove is quick and his butterfly solid, but he needs to improve his stickhandling. He played in the Russian second league in 2005-06 and flashed the rare ability to steal games, and could be a real surprise in a few years.