NHL goalie tiers heading into the off-season

There is a plethora of talent at the goaltender position in the National Hockey League currently. From solidified stars to top prospects, the position is in good hands for years to come. With that being said, there are plenty of teams who still have a void between the pipes. How does your favorite goalie stack up against the rest of the league? Let’s break it down.

The Best(s) In The World

  • Igor Shesterkin
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy

The 2 best goaltenders in the world are Igor Shesterkin and Andrei Vasilevskiy, and there’s really no debating otherwise. Vasilevskiy is the backbone of a Lightning team that’s made 3 straight Stanley Cup appearances. Meanwhile Igor Shesterkin just registered arguably the best goaltending season ever, in his first full NHL campaign.

The Elite

  • Juuse Saros
  • Ilya Sorokin
  • Connor Hellebuyck

Rounding out the elite, Juuse Saros leads the charge. After a superb season, Saros was nominated for the Vezina trophy, and deservedly so. The Finnish netminder carried Nashville on his back for most of the 2021-22 campaign. Ilya Sorokin was spectacular in his own right on an otherwise disappointing Islanders team. The 26-year-old Russian finished with a fantastic .925 save percentage (2nd in the NHL), with great underlying numbers. Finally, Connor Hellebuyck had a disappointing season on the surface. However, the more you dive into the underlying metrics, the better he was. The former Vezina trophy winner finished with a +16.7 goals saved above expected, in 66 games.

Reliable Veterans

  • Jacob Markström
  • Darcy Kuemper
  • Frederik Andersen
  • Sergei Bobrovsky
  • Jonathan Quick
  • Robin Lehner

Goalies in this tier may not carry you to the postseason, or win a playoff series by themselves, but they’ll be steady and serviceable. In the case of Markström, Kuemper, and Andersen, they all registered career years in 2021, performing significantly better than their career averages. Every netminder in this tier finished with a positive total in goals saved above expected, usually a good indicator of a capable starter.

Rising Stars

  • Jake Oettinger
  • Thatcher Demko
  • Jeremy Swayman

Jake Oettinger caught the hockey world’s attention, after he nearly won a playoff series by himself, vs the Calgary Flames. “Otter” registered +10.1 goals saved above expected, in just 7 postseason games, according to moneypuck.com. Stars fans should have a ton of faith in their young netminder going forward. Thatcher Demko may have more NHL time under his belt than his 2 counterparts in this tier, but 2021-22 was his 1st full season as a starter between the pipes in Vancouver. He was rock solid, as the 26-year-old workhorse finished with +10.5 goals saved above expected in 64 games. Finally, Jeremy Swayman earned an all-rookie team selection in his first full season manning the crease in Boston. The 23-year-old split time with Linus Ullmark, while registering a solid +4.2 goals saved above expected during his rookie campaign.

Surprising Stars

  • Anton Forsberg
  • Ville Husso
  • Tristian Jarry

This trio of goaltenders, came out of nowhere last season. Going from below-average netminders to top performers in just a year’s time. Anton Forsberg hopped around 4 teams in 7 seasons, before breaking out in Ottawa last season, while Ville Husso went from one of the worst backups in the league to the starter on one of the best teams in the west. Penguins fans wanted Tristian Jarry shipped out of town after his dreadful playoff performance vs the Islanders in 2021, He answered with the best season of his career.

Average Alley

  • Jack Campbell
  • Mike Smith
  • Elvis Merzlikins
  • James Reimer
  • Linus Ullmark
  • Antti Raanta
  • Semyon Varlamov

Netminders in this tier won’t necessarily hurt your team, but they won’t really help either. You can certainly make the postseason with one of these guys in the crease, but don’t expect to achieve the ultimate goal of hoisting the Stanley Cup. Just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Struggling Veterans

  • Carey Price
  • John Gibson
  • Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Cam Talbot
  • Jordan Binnington
  • Craig Anderson
  • Philipp Grubauer

Goaltenders in this tier were once held in high regard, but have seen a noticeable decline since. In the case of Carey Price, and John Gibson, both have strung together 3+ subpar seasons and have been riding off popularity since. Jordan Binnington has struggled to replicate his performance from the Blues Stanley Cup run. While Marc-Andre Fleury, Cam Talbot, and Craig Anderson are probably coming to the end of their careers. Philipp Grubauer? He’s his own level of bad, registering one of the worst goaltending seasons in recent memory in his inaugural season in Seattle.

Struggling Youngsters

  • Carter Hart
  • Alex Nedeljkovic
  • Vitek Vanecek
  • Mackenzie Blackwood
  • Ilya Samsonov
  • Karel Vejmelka
  • Kevin Lankinen

Carter Hart and Alex Nedeljkovic both showcased a fair share of promise early in their careers. Nedeljkovic took home the Calder trophy in the 56-game 2021 campaign, while Hart got off to a stellar start in his first 75 games. However, both have struggled mightily since their immediate success and will look to rebound big time next season. The rest of the netminders in this tier? It’s been a huge struggle to this point, with not many redeeming moments.

Names To Watch

  • Spencer Knight
  • Yaroslav Askarov
  • Dustin Wolf
  • Jesper Wallstedt
  • Justus Annunen
  • Daniil Tarasov
  • Dylan Garand
  • Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen
  • Stuart Skinner
  • Cayden Primeau

This tier belongs to the best goalie prospects in the sport. Names to monitor, as one can very well be manning the crease for your favorite team in the near future.

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