Welcome to Justin’s first annual Top-30 goalies list. I hope you guys enjoy this little exercise, because it was an absolute blast to put together. In this first edition, I will run down the goalies ranking 30-21. Following this post, 20-11 and 10-1 will be revealed.
Before we get to it, I wanted to explain my methodology for compiling this list. “Top” in this case is something of a moving target. Basically, it’s the order in which I would want to see a team pursue a goaltending solution. There are keepers included here for potential, durability, present value and experience. For example, obviously Jose Theodore has accomplished more in the NHL than Jonathan Bernier at this point, and at present, I could entertain an argument that Theodore is a “better” goaltender. However, Bernier has a ton of upside and star potential and I’m not going to sell him short because he hasn’t gotten his shot yet. Ok, got all that?
Without further adieu, Goaltenders 30-21
30. Jonathan Bernier, Los Angeles Kings- While Bernier might not have starting experience in the NHL as of yet, he certainly has the talent to excel in the role. It seems the Kings are always on the verge of trading him so he can spread his wings in a place with more opportunity, but there is no such thing as too much quality goaltending.
29. Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets- I know I’m going to take some heat for putting Steve Mason anywhere near this list. I still believe in the talent of Steve Mason, even if the execution and the results are lacking. I’m sure a change of scenery would help the former Rookie of the Year winner recapture his game as well. Given the choice between a performance rebound and a complete slide into oblivion, I’ll take the former. Feel free to skewer me a year from now.
28. Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers- The former first round pick hasn’t quite put it all together since his call up in ’09-’10, but the 6’5”, Regina SK native has the talent to be an above average starter in the league. Whether he ultimately hits his ceiling is up for debate, but I have no problem betting on his upside.
27. Brian Elliot, St. Louis Blues- Brian Elliot is at number 27 on this list because that is where his talent level places him. The media jumped the gun big time this year proclaiming him to be a suddenly high end starter, but in reality Elliot is best served in a tandem with a strong defensive unit. His numbers would get ugly in a hurry playing for a team like Columbus or Calgary. He has shown improvement since his journeyman days of Ottawa and Colorado, but forgive me if I need more evidence before proclaiming him a bonafide #1 for a contender.
26. Nikolai Khabibulin, Edmonton Oilers- Yes, his best days are behind him, but the Bulin Wall showed last season that he still have plenty in the tank with the proper amount of rest. Dubnyk should be the perfect compliment to Khabi as he develops into a full time starter. Or at least until the Oilers find a number one goalie to draft first overall.
25. Antti Neimi, San Jose Sharks- Neimi is on this list solely based on raw, physical ability. We all saw what kind of goalie he can be in 2010, but his lack of discipline and control in his execution renders him maddeningly inconsistent. He has all the physical tools to be a top end netminder, but all of the hockey sense and dedication to his craft to end up in the KHL when his contract with San Jose expires.
24. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche- Varlamov is a very similar goaltender to Niemi in a lot of ways. His physical gifts actually eclipse the Shark’s keeper, but showed signs of putting it together in Colorado. (We all remember the gem he brought to MSG last season). It’s up to him to prove he was worth the 1st round pick the Av’s surrendered to secure his services.
23. Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild- Harding will have to wait until 2013-14 to show what he’s got as the starter in Minny, but I think he will do just fine when the time comes. He’s a southpaw, which is always fun, and he is a disciplined, athletic keeper with solid positioning and instincts. He won’t be elite by any stretch, but he should be a solid to above average starter in his prime when he takes over.
22. Anders Lindback, Tampa Bay Lightning- 2012-2013 will mark the former Predator’s coming out party as a Number 1 goaltender. He has a ton of upside and should mature into a well above-average starter. There are a lot of similarities to his old partner, Pekka Rinne, in Lindback’s game. If he uses his 6’6” frame as well as Rinne does, Steve Yzerman will have gotten a huge bargain on a top-end goaltender. Even if he takes a while to get the hang of the starting thing, he has a very capable backup in Mathieu Garon to help ease some of the pressure.
21. Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets- Pavelec almost bolted to the KHL this off-season before accepting a 5-year, $19.5 million contract with the Jets. Pavelec has adjusted fairly well to NHL play in his three full seasons thus far, and has upside well beyond what his current play would indicate. This year, however, is when the Jets are looking for the 24-year old to lose the training wheels and anchor the crease in Manitoba. He has the potential for the biggest move up or down in the rankings next year, but the potential is definitely there.
Honorable Top 30 mentions
- Jose Theodore
- James Reimer
- Michal Neuvirth
Up next will be numbers 20-11, and make sure to let me know your thoughts on the rankings in the comments section!
* Just for the sake of clarity, Tim Thomas was not included in this list due to his decision to sit out next season. If he were playing, he would have ranked some where in the 20-11 portion of the list.