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NHL Quarter-Way Rankings: The Top 10 Rising Goalies

Bobby BrooksAnalyst IIINovember 18, 2010

NHL Quarter-Way Rankings: The Top 10 Rising Goalies

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    All throughout the NHL season I will be following the stars of tomorrow. My criteria for these players is two years in the NHL or less than 160 games combined (with minor exceptions).

    Many players take that next big step in year three and really come into their own—some sooner, some later. Regardless, the development of a star is fascinating to watch.
     
    Today I update my rankings with the top 10 rising goalies in the game today. There are four newcomers to the list that were not there to start the season. The six remaining goalies have moved up or down based on their play so far this season.

    Let's take a look at who's living up to expectations and who is not.

10. Cory Schneider

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Cory Schneider has only played in five games this season, but he has a sparkling .949 save percentage and three wins under his belt.

    He was so hot at one point that fans were actually debating whether he should start ahead of the struggling Roberto Luongo.

    He might not have made that big of a jump, but his early play has earned him the 10th spot on my top 10 rising goalies.

    Schneider has had a long road to the NHL and he finally has the confidence and experience to stay in the league for good. It will be interesting to see how he does the rest of the season.

9. Jonathan Bernier

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Jonathan Bernier made my list to start the season and I've seen no reason to take him off at this point.

    With Jonathan Quick getting most of the starts, some around the league have questioned whether he'd be better off getting more playing time in the minors, but that idea is not going to fly with him (or his agent).

    His play dictates that he should be in the big leagues. He's only played five games this year, posting a 2-3 record, but he's flashed the signs of brilliance that people have been waiting to see.

8. Pekka Rinne

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Pekka Rinne is a goalie that I am extremely high on. He was No. 2 on my list to start the season, but given his latest slump, I have no choice but to drop him down to the eight spot.

    Rinne has had question marks surrounding his consistency in the past, so this might be a bigger issue than it appears on the surface.

    He dominated down the stretch last year and played well enough to nearly upset the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs. We'll see if his recent woes are a minor blip on the radar or something to be worried about.

7. Jaroslav Halak

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    One week ago Jaroslav Halak could have been No. 1 on this list. His play in the first month of the season was nothing short of miraculous. St. Louis was the top team in the league and Halak was the backbone of the streak.

    Unfortunately for this rising star, he has stumbled upon the same slump that Pekka Rinne has.

    He's seen his save percentage go from .930-plus all the way down to .906. Last night in Detroit might have been rock bottom for Halak, as he fell apart in the third period, batted a puck in to his own net and let in a total of seven goals.

    Despite this, his future is bright and I have little doubt that he will bounce back strong.

6. Tuukka Rask

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Another goalie that has fallen from grace is Tuukka Rask. He was the bona fide No. 1 goalie on my list coming into the 2010-2011 season. But he now finds himself in the six spot.

    I wrote an article in September listing the top 10 goalies that could take over the starting job. One of them was Tim Thomas.

    It might have seem far-fetched at the time, but that is exactly what has happened in Beantown.

    Rask got off to a slow start and we all know how Thomas has played. Thankfully for Rask fans, he has recaptured the magic from his rookie season in recent weeks.

    He might not have a win to his name yet, but with a .923 save percentage, it's clear it's not due to his play. Don't be surprised if he retakes the starting job before the season is out. He's that good.

5. Ondrej Pavelec

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    I must confess that, when I made my rankings in the offseason, I overlooked Ondrej Pavelec. At the very least he should have replaced Thomas Greiss at the No. 10 spot.

    I think I've made up for that by putting him fifth on the list at the quarter-way mark.

    He's a guy that I thought would overtake Chris Mason for the No. 1 job. Over the past week that appears to be in the works. Mason hasn't given the Thrashers the kind of goaltending they need to be taken seriously as a playoff threat.

    Pavelec, on the other hand, has kept his team in every game that he's played this year. He has an impressive .928 save percentage despite his win-loss record.

    Watch this situation closely because he could be developing into a star right before our eyes.

4. Michal Neuvirth

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Michal Neuvirth is a goalie I was extremely high on coming into the season, and he's taken full advantage of Semyon Varlamov's injuries this season. He started off extremely hot, but he has cooled off a bit over the past couple weeks.

    It's a good thing for him that the team in front of him has no problem providing the kind of offense needed to pile up the wins. Neuvirth is 11-3 on the year with a .910 save percentage. That is pretty good goaltending for a rookie.

    It will be very interesting to see how much time he loses once Varlamov is healthy, but I suspect it would take a significant slump before he loses the starting job.

3. Jimmy Howard

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    Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

    Jimmy Howard is a guy that is exceeding all the expectations people had of him prior to last season.

    He was sort of a revelation last year and many wondered how he'd hold up in the playoffs. Howard had little trouble answering his critics by playing very well in a tough seven-game series against the Coyotes.

    Those same critics then wanted to know how he would do this season.

    How does a 9-1-1 record and .921 save percentage sound? Not too shabby if you ask me.

    These questions will continue to linger because consistency was his biggest problem in the AHL. For now his play is easily good enough to land him No. 3 on the list of top rising goalies. If I was a Red Wings fan, goaltending would be the last thing I'd worry about.

2. Sergei Bobrovsky

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Making a monumental debut on the list is rookie phenom Sergei Bobrovsky. I still have problems spelling his name, let alone pronouncing it.

    What I don't have trouble with is interpreting his statistics. He has an unbelievable 11-3-1 record and an amazing .932 save percentage.

    As you can tell, I put a high priority on save percentage because it is such a reliable stat for goalies. Anything over .915 is good and once you start talking about .920-plus, that's indisputable evidence of top-tier goaltending.

    The Flyers might have finally found their goalie of the future after years-upon-years of problems at the position. If he plays close to the way he's playing now, then Philadelphia might need to start making parade-route preparations.

1. Jonathan Quick

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Landing at the top spot is LA Kings netminder Jonathan Quick.

    I must say that I am a little bit shocked to have him here because I fully expected Bernier to overtake him for the No. 1 job at some point this season. I wasn't entirely sure if Quick was the guy the Kings wanted between the pipes come playoff time, but so far he's proving that he's up to the task.

    I could go on and on about his play and how well the Kings are doing this year, but I'll let his stats speak for themselves: 10 wins, two losses, .936 save percentage. If that's not red-hot, then I don't know what is.

    Bobrovsky might be getting more national attention because he plays on the East Coast, but Quick has been the brightest young star in net after 20 games this season.

    The only remaining question is: will he be there at the halfway point?

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