Top 15 NHL goalies

Here is my view of the top 15 goalies in the NHL today.  Although I haven’t presented a hard statistical argument for each goalie I did consult a variety of statistics when compiling the list including some advanced stats and my own player rating system.

1.  Tim Thomas – Even if you account for the fact that Thomas plays behind a great team with maybe the best shutdown defenseman in the league (Chara) his numbers are still incredibly impressive.  Easily the best goalie in the NHL right now.

2.  Pekka Rinne – I am not sure everyone knows how good this guy is.  He has a good defense in front of him, but he keeps his team in every game and that is important for a team with no real game breakers on offense.

3.  Roberto Luongo – Luongo has his critics and he is prone to have a slump from time to time, but overall he is one of the best in the game.

4.  Henrik Lundqvist – The NY Rangers have made a lot of mistakes with their forwards and defensemen but Lundqvist has been a stabilizing factor in goal and is probably the main reason the Rangers have competed for playoff spots the past few seasons.

5.  Jonathan Quick – His numbers may not appear to be quite as good as some of the goalies on the list below him but he doesn’t play behind a particularly defensive minded team and he plays in arguably the toughest division in hockey.

6.  Ryan Miller – The Sabres have lost a lot of players because they haven’t been able to afford their big salaries but they paid Miller and Miller is giving them a good return on their money.  Now that the Sabres have a billionaire owner who wants to win and will spend money to do so, it is time for Miller to really shine and take the Sabres deep into the playoffs.

7.  Jonas Hiller – I struggled where to put him because he has only had 177 games in the NHL and has never played 60 games in a season (might have last season if not for his injuries) but his performance in the games he has played has been consistently great.  Could move up a spot or two if he can put up equally impressive numbers over a 65+ game season.

8.  Ilya Bryzgalov – I struggled as to where to put Bryzgalov on this list.  He benefitted from a defensive minded style of play in Phoenix (especially since Tippett took over as coach) but he got the job behind a relatively weak Coyotes roster.  I’ll be interested to see how he performs over the next couple seasons behind a more talented offensive, but less defensive minded, Flyers team.

9.  Tomas Vokoun – I have been critical of Vokoun believing he isn’t an elite goalie and actually benefitted from playing in a weak division while others have argued he is one of the best in the NHL who hasn’t had success in terms of won-loss record purely because of the weak team in front of him.  Now he has one of the best teams in front of him (though still in a weak division) so we’ll see how things pan out for him.  He is a very good goalie, but not among the leagues best.

10.  Marc-Andre Fleury – He has won world junior championships, he has won a Stanley Cup and he has been on an Olympic gold medal team but he hasn’t quite been able to show the consistency needed to seriously be considered one of the true elite goalies in the NHL.

11.  Cam Ward – Ward has a history much the same as Fleury and he is a very good goalie, but like Fleury and Vokoun I am not ready to call him an elite goalie.

12. Martin Brodeur – Brodeur may deserve to be higher on the list but he had a poor season last year and has shown some decline in his game.  If he can have a bounce back year at age 39 he probably deserves to be higher on the list but if last season is the new norm for Brodeur he might actually deserve to be lower on the list.

13.  Nicklas Backstrom – There were some who have questioned Backstrom’s talent arguing he has benefitted from the Wild’s defense-first structure but the past couple of seasons saw the Wild convert to a more offensive game and last year he had a very good season once again.  He is a very good, reliable starting goalie in the NHL.

14.  Carey Price – Honestly, I don’t know where to put Price on this list.  His first few seasons in the NHL were mixed with inconsistent results but last season he had a great year.  I don’t believe that one season is enough to fairly evaluate players so I haven’t completely bought into last seasons success and this is why he is in the 14th spot.  If he can have a repeat performance in 2011-12 he should be ranked somewhere in the 5-8 slots.

15.  Antti Niemi – He has only played 102 NHL regular season games but has a Stanley Cup win and 40 playoff games under his belt.  He has had a bit of a roller coaster ride early in his career but his numbers are generally quite good.  If he can continue his development he should continue to move up this list.

Honorable Mention: Dwayne Roloson (now sure where to rank the soon to be 42 year old – he’ll start showing his age soon), Miikka Kiprusoff (still plays a ton of games, but results not up to snuff anymore) and Jaroslav Halak (needs more consistency and needs to play a 60+ game season).

What do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Did I miss anyone?



This article has 5 Comments

  1. the top few guys imply you are ranking them essentially on last year’s regular season. What has Pekka Rinne done before last year to make you think that last season is not an unrepeatable career best?

    1. His best season was definitely last season but he was pretty good before that too. Over the past 3 seasons he has the 5th best 5v5 save percentage (of goalies with 5000+ 5v5 minutes) behind Thomas, Luongo, Hiller and Vokoun. He is tied with Brodeur with the most shut outs (20) over the past 3 seasons and he trails only Tim Thomas in goals against average over the past 3 seasons.

      Luongo’s save percentages last 3 seasons: .920, .913, .928 (.920 combined)
      Rinne’s save percentages last 3 seasons: .917, .911, .930 (.920 combined)
      Lundqvist’s save percentages last 3 seasons: .916, .921, .923 (.920 combined)

      Add in the fact that he has to play a lot against Chicago and Detroit (two of the best offensive teams over that span) and you can only conclude that he is every bit the equal of, if not better than Luongo and Lundqvist. I have no qualms about having those three ranked 2-3-4 though I can accept you could argue a different order.

  2. If saves percentage over the last three years is the stat you take as meaningful (it is a bit of a random choice but defensible), then Tomas Vokoun at .924 is well ahead of where you rank him. Of course you cannot do that because you are too proud to admit that your statements about Vokoun that you have made in the past have been proven to be rather meaningless and as a result you must be consistently wrong by continuing to underrate Vokoun.

    1. I used save percentage in response to you because it is simple and straight forward and I know you believe in it and my goal was to show Rinne is more than a one year wonder as you were pointing out.

      In actuality I considered a number of things from save percentage, quality of competition, career trends (i.e. young getting better or older and declining) and in a fairly significant way I used HARD+ (see ).

      As for Vokoun, lets see how he works out in Washington. Let’s see if he can produce better than Washington’s goalies of last season (.920 save %).

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