No player in hockey has more of an impact on the game than the goaltender. A great goalie can steal a win or carry a team on a long postseason run -- but finding one is easier said than done.
On the other hand, teams can play extremely well, only to have poor goaltending snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
With so much volatility and unpredictability at the position, there is no better feeling than having a goaltender you can count on for 50-plus starts per season. The 10 netminders on this list provide that and much more to their respective teams.
All goals saved above average and high-danger save percentage numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
The No. 10 spot ultimately came down to two goaltenders for me: Jarry and Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury won the Vezina Trophy in 2021, but he struggled behind an awful team for most of last season. Jarry flourished with the Penguins, totaling 21.10 goals saved above average in 2021-22, which ranked seventh in the NHL. After a somewhat shaky first year as the full-time starter in Pittsburgh, Jarry was able to bounce back and prove that he was more than worthy of that role. If Jarry had been healthy for the Penguins' entire playoff series against the New York Rangers, they might have played on into the second round.
Andersen's final two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2019 to 2021 were abysmal, and it was fair to wonder whether he had anything left in the tank. That's why it was surprising when the Hurricanes chose to target him last offseason. Ultimately, it proved to be another shrewd move by that organization. Andersen had a resurgent season with the Hurricanes. His goals against average of 2.17 ranked second in the NHL, and he was sixth in goals saved above average with 22.07. If Andersen continues to play at this level, Carolina will be a legitimate Stanley Cup threat again in 2022-23.
Following Demko's breakout performance in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks felt comfortable letting Jacob Markstrom walk in free agency. So far, that has looked like a good decision. Over the last two seasons, Demko has been excellent, and his 23.09 goals saved above average ranks seventh in that time. The rest of the roster in Vancouver doesn't exactly give Demko much help, so the traditional numbers may not blow anyone away, but he consistently gives the team a chance to be competitive.
Hard as it may be to believe, Kuemper has really only spent a full season as a starting goaltender twice throughout his career. Last season was one of them, and he was excellent for the Avalanche playing behind the best roster in the NHL. His 25.19 goals saved above average ranked fourth in the league, and his 0.852 high-danger save percentage was also one of the best. In the playoffs, the Avs hoisted the Cup despite an underwhelming showing from Kuemper, but there is more than enough evidence to suggest that he is a massive upgrade for the Capitals this season.
6. Jacob Markstrom | Calgary Flames
Since becoming a starter for the Vancouver Canucks in 2017, Markstrom has been one of the most steady goaltenders in the league. The one exception would be the 2020-21 campaign, his first with the Calgary Flames. Still, Markstrom bounced back nicely last year with 26.10 goals saved above average and a high-danger save percentage of 0.849 to prove he is still one of the top players at his position. Behind a loaded Calgary Flames roster, and in Darryl Sutter's excellent system, Markstrom should continue to thrive.
Hellebuyck was in consideration to be a little higher on this list, but a down 2021-22 season, at least by his standards, knocked him. Still, Hellebuyck is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. For much of his career, Hellebuyck has been on the receiving end of a shooting gallery with the Jets blue line. In each of the last four seasons, Hellebuyck has led the league in shots faced and saves. In three of those four seasons, he has led the NHL in goals allowed. Despite the sieve in front of him, Hellebuyck has saved 40.78 goals above average in the last three seasons, which ranks fourth in that time.
In 2020-21, Sorokin played in just 22 games behind Semyon Varlamov, but he performed well enough to take over the crease last season. He flourished in his more prominent role and was a clear bright spot in what was otherwise a disastrous 2021-22 campaign for the Islanders. Sorokin was second in the NHL with 29.78 goals saved above average and a save percentage of 0.925. If the Isles can find a way to give Sorokin some run support under new head coach Lane Lambert, they should be in for a bounce-back year in 2022-23.
When Saros first reached the NHL, the knock on him was that he was too small to be a modern NHL goaltender. But what Saros lacks in size, he makes up for in quickness and technique. Over the last three seasons, Saros ranks third in the NHL with 50.32 goals saved above average, and he also boasts an impressive high-danger save percentage of 0.830. Saros' value to the Predators was on display when he missed the team's playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche last season. Nashville got shelled by the eventual Stanley Cup champs, allowing 21 goals in a four-game sweep.
2. Igor Shesterkin | New York Rangers
The 2022 Vezina Trophy winner was in a league of his own last season, and he was the biggest reason why the Rangers got to the postseason and went on a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, where he went toe-to-toe with Andrei Vasilevskiy. In 53 games played, Shesterkin saved an incredible 44.83 goals above average. The next closest goaltender was the New York Islanders' Ilya Sorokin with a GSAA of 29.78. Shesterkin's brilliance continued in the postseason, where he led the league in GSAA again at 11.91. Shesterkin has established himself as an elite goaltender, and he may very well be in the top spot at this time next year.
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy | Tampa Bay Lightning
Shesterkin is coming off an insane season, but Vasilevskiy's longevity puts him at the top of this list. Vasilevskiy has been playing at an all-world level since he took over the starting role in Tampa in the 2016-17 season. In that time, he has saved 97.15 goals above average. Then, there are his stellar playoff numbers. Over the Lightning's run of three straight Stanley Cup Final appearances, Vasilevskiy has posted a combined goals against average of 2.11, save percentage of 0.928 and 26.85 goals saved above average while winning the 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy. No matter how you slice it, Vasilevskiy reigns supreme in the crease right now.