In our previous installments of this series from a few weeks back, I talked about the importance of each position that we went over, but perhaps no position is more important than the person who stands between the pipes night in and night out for your franchise. With that being said, let’s take a look at the NHL Top 10 goalies currently in the league.
If you take a look back at the last 6 Stanley Cup winners, each team has been backed by a studly NHL goaltender. Twice it was the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy. Then, there was the rookie heroics of Jordan Binnington for the St. Louis Blues. Then, you had to run into Vezina Trophy-winning goalie, Braden Holtby, and the Washington Capitals. Then, finally, you have back-to-back years of the Penguins with the studly combination of Matt Murray and another Vezina Trophy winner in Marc-Andre Fleury.
Goalies are the backbone of every NHL team and are often one of the biggest cogs in a team’s success.
NHL Top 10 Goalies
#10: Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks
This American-born star is just reaching the cusp of his potential as an NHL starting netminder.
In 2020, he blossomed into the starting role for the Canucks during the NHL bubble, and he would consume that role for the entirety of the 2020-21 season. While he had his struggles, he also had hot stretches, including an end to the year that saw him save 132 of the last 140 shots that he faced.
At the age of 25, there is still plenty of room to grow for the Canucks franchise goaltender hopeful.
#9: Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers
New York was long the home of legendary goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but after his departure in 2019, Igor Shesterkin has made it his home, and he has been stellar.
Last season, while the Rangers were trying to figure out which goaltender would suit the future as their new long term starter, Shesterkin or Alexander Georgiev, Shesterkin won the battle, posting a .916 save percentage and a 2.6 GAA. While they are not numbers to write home about, he also made stellar saves and kept the Rangers in a ton of games.
Like Demko, at 25 years of age, he can still grow plenty, and with “The King”, Henrik Lundqvist back in New York as an analyst, i’m sure he is getting some helpful guidance.
#8: Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights
Robin Lehner is a hard goaltender to read. He helped the Knights in winning the William M. Jennings trophy last season with Marc-Andre Fleury for the team’s lowest goals against, an award that he also won with Thomas Greiss with the Islanders.
However, he struggled mightily in the playoffs last season and hasn’t had the greatest start to this year either, notching a save percentage of .919 and a GAA of 2.72.
With his size and athleticism, it is hard to see him faltering for much longer, and now that he is getting back into his own skin after a rough offseason, I think he will return back to form.
#7: Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators
Like the Rangers, the Predators had a long-time stallworth backing them up in net in Pekka Rinne. Now, it is time for Juuse Saros to shine.
Last season, Saros evolved into the starting role. He finished tied for fourth in save percentage (.927) He also tallied career highs in wins (21) and GAA (2.28) and with the retirement of Pekka Rinne, he will likely only build on those numbers.
To start this season, he has recorded a save percentage of .925, and a GAA of 2.31, nearly matching his numbers from last season. He has also recorded 5 wins.
#6: Frederick Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes offseason was a big fat question mark, but one move they made has proved to not be a mistake so far, and that’s the signing of Frederick Anderson.
Last year, Andersen struggled in Toronto, and whether it was due to his knee issues or mental issues, it was worrisome for the Maple Leafs and their #1 goaltender, resulting in his departure to Carolina.
Now this season, he has had a resurgence so far, tallying a record of 9-1-0 for the Hurricanes, 1.73 goals-against average (GAA) and a .939 save percentage. He is firmly at the top of the race for the Vezina a month into the season, and with the defense in front of him, he will likely stay there all year.
#5: Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
With his standing as the 2020-21 Vezina winning goalie, it was a shock to see Marc-Andre Fleury’s departure from Vegas, however, with money and cap restrictions, it was all but inevitable that one goaltender was out the door.
On his way to the Vezina, Fleury was absolutely phenomenal. He notched a 26-10-0 record, a .928 save percentage, and a GAA below 2.00 at 1.98.
While he is getting up there in age and will turn 37 in just a few weeks, he has shown to improve nearly every season.
This Blackhawks defense has not made it easy for him though. To start this season, Fleury has fallen off tremendously, posting a 3.82 GAA and a save percentage of .892. Much of the blame isn’t on Fleury, but his play also needs to improve in Chicago.
#4: Philipp Grubauer, Seattle Kraken
Grubauer arguably deserved the Vezina Trophy last season over Marc-Andre Fleury, and I don’t think anyone would argue with that.
Even though he did play in front of a stacked defense in Colorado, he still put up ridiculous numbers, tallying a record of 30-9-1, a 1.95 GAA, and a save percentage of .922.
His numbers were ridiculous, which is why everyone thought that he would re-up with Colorado during the free agency period. However, as soon as it opened up, he decided to take his talents to the new expansion franchise, the Seattle Kraken.
To start the season with his new team, like Fleury, Grubauer has struggled recording a .886 save percentage and a GAA nearing three.
The former Colorado and Washington goaltender is finally seeing what it is like to be behind an unequipped defense.
#3: Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders
Nothing is more important in Long Island than their defense, and Barry Trotz will emphasize it till the day he dies. With a solid goalie in Semyon Varlamov, and a defensive system, the Islanders have been one of the best defensive teams of the past four years.
Varlamov led the league in both save percentage and shutouts last season, and while a portion of that can be credited to the defense, his success in New York is not a surprise. He has been a solid goalie in the NHL for over a decade now, and after great stints in Washington and Colorado, similar to Grubauer, Varlamov has made his home in New York.
#2: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck is a guy who you can stick in the net, night in and night out, and you will consistently get production. There is no such thing as fatigue to this guy.
He has faced the most shots of any goaltender over the last three seasons and has the third-best save percentage in the league over that span.
In 2020, he was rewarded with a Vezina Trophy for his efforts, and he continued the great play into last season, finishing fourth in the Vezina race.
Winnipeg will lean on him a lot to continue into this season, but he can handle it. Much like the other goalies on this list, he has struggled to start the year, but his save percentage is creeping back up at .904., and with time, his GAA over three will surely drop.
#1: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
There was no doubt in my mind that I would be putting Andrei Vasilevskiy as the No. 1 goalie on this list, and it is well deserved.
After winning the Vezina in 2018-19, Vasilevskiy has consistently been in the running ever since, finishing second in the race last year with a 31-10-1 record, and a .925 save percentage.
To start this season, he has once again found a groove, especially with Tampa’s recent winning streak, recording a 2.35 GAA and a save percentage of .920.
At 27 years of age, he is at the peak of his prime, and I don’t think he is slowing down any time soon.