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THE GREAT GOALIE RANKING: HOW THE NHL’S 31 NO. 1 NETMINDERS STACK UP HEADING INTO 2019-20

September 16th, 2019 by Sam McCaig - The Hockey News

It’s the most important position in sports – which, surely, makes this the most important ranking in sports. OK, maybe not, but here’s how the NHL’s 31 projected starting netminders stack up as teams head into training camp for the 2019-20 season:

  1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: The reigning Vezina Trophy winner is exceptionally acrobatic for his size, he’s just entering his prime and he’s set up for success in Tampa Bay. Does it help that he plays for the NHL’s best (regular season) team? Of course it does. But he’s also a big part of the Bolts’ winning ways.
  2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers: He was a savior in Columbus. He faces a similar challenge in Florida, where the Panthers are counting on the two-time Vezina recipient to lift the franchise into the realm of respectability – and the playoffs.
  3. Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars: Big goalie had the best stat line last season (1.98 goals-against average, .934 save percentage), but he was limited to 46 games due to injuries. Dallas is intent on competing for a Stanley Cup, and Bishop is a key component.
  4. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens: It wasn’t too long ago that Price had a firm grasp on the “best goalie in the world” mantle. A couple of down years – mostly due to injuries and an inconsistent team in front of him – have knocked him off that perch, but he came on strong in the second half last season and could be on his way back up to the top of the rankings.
  5. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: It’s like the old argument about Martin Brodeur and the Devils. Is Rask so good because of the team in front of him, or are the Bruins so good because they have Rask in net? A little from column A, a little from column B.
  6. John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks: Is he already the best goalie in the league? Maybe. Stay healthy, get more help than he had last year, and we might very well see Gibson headlining the Vezina story six months from now.
  7. Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs: He plays a ton and wins most of the games he plays. Yes, he receives plenty of offensive support in Toronto, but he’s also capable of the big save – or a series of them – when the Leafs need it. Andersen doesn’t have much left to prove in the regular season, but he’d like to win a playoff round or two. Or even three or four…
  8. Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins: You know the drill with Murray. He had two Stanley Cup rings as a starting goalie by the end of his NHL rookie season. Not many netminders can say that. Unfortunately, his slight frame – he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 178 pounds – has left him susceptible to injuries and concussions. He played 50 games last season, a career high.
  9. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues: Obviously, there wasn’t a better goalie in the league last season from January onwards, and Binnington was able to replicate his brilliant play in the regular season in the playoffs, leading St. Louis to its first-ever Stanley Cup. Now he’s just got to go out and prove he’s the real deal. There’s no reason to think he isn’t.
  10. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights: Vegas’ most important player turns 35 in November and has logged a lot of miles, but Fleury hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and he remains the Knights’ one and only option in net.
  11. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets: Vezina candidate or merely a mid-level NHL netminder? Hellebuyck took a step back last season and the Jets’ blueline lost three key defenders over the summer, so it’s worth watching how he fares in the early going.
  12. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators: Rinne turns 37 a month into the season, and there’s already been evidence of aging the past few years. But he’s also been an elite stopper for more than a decade, he plays for a Cup contender with a stacked defense and the Preds will manage his playing time with an eye on keeping him fresh for the playoffs.
  13. Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche: He eventually took the crease from Semyon Varlamov last season and was the Avs’ No. 1 in the playoffs. He’s coming into his own on a team that’s on the rise. That’s a good combination.
  14. Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild: You can put Mr. Consistency down for 60-plus starts and 30-plus wins, with a GAA and SP that rank in the top half of the league. If he’s better than that, maybe the Wild make the playoffs. If he isn’t, they definitely won’t.
  15. Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes: He has been very solid in Arizona – when healthy. But Raanta was limited to only 12 games last season, ceding the crease to career backup Darcy Kuemper, who stepped into the breach and delivered MVP-caliber work.
  16. Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers: Ask anyone in Philadelphia and they’ll tell that you the NHL’s next great goalie is poised to win the Calder and Vezina this season. Oh yeah, and probably the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup, too. No pressure, kid.
  17. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals: Remember when he lost the starting job midway through the 2017-18 campaign, then reclaimed the crease early in the playoffs and led the Caps to the Cup? He could use another rebound like that.
  18. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks: A tough one to slot. You can make a “best in show” case for him when healthy, but Crawford has been plagued by concussion symptoms for the past couple of years, to the point where his career was in doubt. He’s back in action, but the Hawks didn’t sign Vezina nominee Robin Lehner for $5 million to sit on the bench all year.
  19. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings: Veteran stopper provides stability, leadership on a Wings team that will endure more growing pains.
  20. Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes: Calling him “wildly inconsistent” would be inaccurate. But he does have a penchant for looking like the best goalie in the league on some nights, and the not-so-best goalie in the league on others. The Canes’ great team defense in front of him will help.
  21. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings: It all went wrong in L.A. last season, and Quick’s lengthy time on the sidelines didn’t help matters. You can expect him to bounce back, but the Kings didn’t do much to upgrade their roster so he’ll likely be under fire again.
  22. Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks: He’s in his prime and coming off his best season to date. The Canucks should be better in front of him, and he’s got both hands on the No. 1 job while goalie-of-the-future Thatcher Demko learns the NHL ropes as backup. Still, Markstrom needs to take another step up to be considered in the top-10 range.
  23. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: ‘The King’ isn’t dead. He is, however, 37 years old and coming off the worst statistical season his career – fewest wins, highest GAA, lowest save percentage, zero shutouts. The Rangers were in full rebuild mode last year, and the off-season arrivals of Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba and Kaapo Kakko signal that the franchise is ready to start trending up. But is Lundqvist?
  24. Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders: More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Isles let Lehner leave for a one-year deal with Chicago, and then New York turned around and signed Varlamov to a four-year, $20-million pact. Then again, Varlamov has a proven pedigree and the Islanders have Barry Trotz behind the bench and Mitch Korn as goalie coach. A bounce-back season wouldn’t shock.
  25. David Rittich, Calgary Flames: ‘Big Save Dave,’ at the very least, has one of the best nicknames among NHL netminders. The Flames are counting on him to play like the guy who stole Mike Smith’s job last season – and not like the guy who then lost the job to Smith just prior to the playoffs. The Flames are a legit Cup contender if they get the goaltending.
  26. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators: He could very well end up with the worst GAA in the league in 2019-20 and still be the Sens’ MVP.
  27. Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: His numbers were awful last season considering the team in front of him, but he always seems to ramp it up in the playoffs. That’s not a bad trait if you’re a goalie.
  28. Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils: Binnington and Hart hogged the rookie goalie spotlight last season, but Blackwood came up and showed he deserves mention, too. He remains rookie-eligible and appears to have the inside edge on oft-injured (and recently inconsistent) Cory Schneider for the starting gig.
  29. Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers: The real deal or just a guy who had a good first half? The Oilers desperately hope it’s the former.
  30. Carter Hutton, Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres turned their crease over to a 30-something journeyman who was neither the cause of, or solution to, all of the franchise’s problems.
  31. Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets: Hey, somebody’s gotta come in last on these things. With Bobrovsky off to Florida, incumbent backup Korpisalo gets the first crack at the No. 1 job in Columbus, with Latvian-born Elvis Merzlikins coming over from the Swiss League to challenge.

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