Goaltenders are such a vital piece of the game of hockey that it shouldn’t be a surprise that they are arguably some of the most talented athletes in any sport.
Ranking professional goalies tends to present so many questions that it’s a few degrees off of a complete nightmare.
So to follow is my ranking of the 15 best current goaltenders, looking back just a couple years, and looking at those backstoppers who seem to have a solid future in the game for at least the next season or two.
In short, these are 15 goaltenders who will be around in the foreseeable future, but also have a couple solid seasons in their recent past to prove their strengths between the plumbing.
How can any goalie list be complete without a nod to one of the all-time greats who still suits up?
Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils currently has 625 wins in 1,132 games played to his name, ranking him first in all-time wins among goalies, both active and retired.
Brodeur does not make this list because of having some pretty inconsistent years in the most recent two or three seasons, keeping him toward the top of the all-time goaltender list, but not in the top 15 of current goaltenders.
Kari Lehtonen is stuck on this list as an honorable mention for exactly the opposite reason as Martin Brodeur.
Lehtonen has had a fantastic season so far, leading the NHL in wins with 11.
No one can argue that Lehtonen has been a bit of a surprise this year with how hot he has been—however, his past has been streaky.
After years of struggling to make it as a true starter, he has only two seasons with more than 50 games played, making him a candidate for this list in the future, but not a member this time around.
Tomas Vokoun is the starting block of our top 15 current NHL goaltenders.
Despite playing on a pretty low-end team in Florida, Vokoun still manages to record some strong numbers, including this season’s .922 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average.
Vokoun has struggled to make a name for himself as a Panther, especially with the past two seasons not even getting to the 50 percent mark between wins and losses, unfortunately hanging with more losses than wins.
Yet still, this season he has really proven his worth, starting strong right out of the gate.
Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins is undoubtedly a strong goaltender, however his inconsistency and streakiness are absolute downfalls.
Fleury has had a strong start to this season with 10 wins in 13 games played, putting him roughly on track to match his recent ending totals, however plenty of these wins are won by the defense, who have helped Fleury to a .929 save percentage and 1.96 goals against average so far this season.
So far this season, Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames has broken dead even with a 7-7-0 record in 14 games played.
Kiprusoff has a 2.37 goals against average and .921 save percentage, proving that even though he’s won just half of the games he’s played in, he still manages to stop lots of shots.
Kipper had some stellar seasons in his career, including three years with 40 or more wins,
However, the past two seasons haven’t been as strong, which makes many people wonder if he’s on the decline and on his way out of the top at age 35.
Antti Niemi broke onto the NHL stage by being a part of the Chicago Blackhawks the year they won the cup.
However, considering he did not get a nomination for either a Calder or Vezina trophy, it is pretty clear he was not the main reason they won it.
He was a strong goalie, but the team really carried itself to the championship.
Since that season, Niemi has been very hit-or-miss as a San Jose Shark with some brilliant nights, followed by some nights where he plays mediocre at best.
In short, his inconsistency is why he is this low on the list, and with just six wins in 10 games played this year, with a .903 save percentage, this season doesn’t seem to be a huge change from last year.
Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens had an absolutely unforgettable season last year.
However, for the seasons before that, he struggled to find a rhythm, having 52 or less games played in each of the three seasons before last year.
Price lost his starting job back in 2010 to Jaroslav Halak, putting him on the receiving end of many criticisms, but if the 24-year-old continues to grow from last year’s 38-win season, he will undoubtedly be one of the NHL’s elite in the foreseeable future.
Vancouver Canuck goaltender, Roberto Luongo, falls in the 10th spot on this list of strongest active goalies in the NHL.
After helping the Canucks to the title of Western Conference Champions, it shouldn’t be a shock that he makes this list.
Luongo is known for finishing out the seasons very strong, but he is also notorious for being a pretty slow starter.
He has won seven of 13 games this season so far and has posted a mediocre 2.97 goals against average and an even worse .896 save percentage.
Yet, considering his strength as a Vancouver goaltender, I think everyone is waiting for Luongo to find his usual hot streak.
Detroit Red Wing goalie Jimmy Howard started his NHL career four seasons back, but he burst onto the scene two years ago when he stepped in and stole the starting goaltender job with 63 games played and 37 wins in each of the past two seasons.
Howard started this season rather hot with eight wins in 13 games played, posting an impressive 1.69 goals against average, .935 save percentage and three shutouts so far.
In short, 27-year-old Jimmy Howard is still growing into a stellar goaltender and will only get better in the near future, making him a strong candidate for this list.
Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild is next up on our list, mainly for his consistent play backstopping a team that hasn’t been in the postseason in any of the past few seasons.
Backstrom has a 2.13 goals against average and .930 save percentage so far this season and has posted some strong and reliable numbers for most of his career, even earning him a nomination for the Vezina Trophy in 2009.
This 33-year-old goaltender has been an amazing force between the pipes, proving his skills and that he will be among the NHL’s elite for many years to come.
New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been a complete workhorse for many years, regularly putting up strong numbers and often giving his team a chance in games that they seem to be severely outplayed in.
Lundqvist has won seven of the 13 games he has played in this season and has posted a .933 save percentage and 2.13 goals against average.
The statistics for this season seem to be on par with the steady numbers of his career.
Over the six seasons in the league, he has never won fewer than 30 games and never had a save percentage dip below .912, proving his strength as a goalie.
One of the more underrated goaltenders in the league is Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, who on multiple occasions has essentially carried the team to wins and into the postseason.
Especially lately, Ward has posted some pretty amazing statistics, such as a .923 save percentage last season.
Ward has had a bit of a rocky start to this season with just six wins in 16 games played, but a lot of that is because the rest of the team haven’t been pulling their weight.
The team as a whole started alright, but they have not lived up to expectations since.
Ilya Bryzgalov managed to make a pretty big name for himself backstopping the Phoenix Coyotes to two straight playoff appearances, even earning himself a Vezina nomination, and now has started to build his name as a Philadelphia Flyer goaltender.
Bryz has won seven of 13 games played and has posted some uncharacteristically lower numbers, including a .899 save percentage, which puts him in the fifth spot instead of higher.
If this 31-year-old has a couple seasons like he is capable of, he could really be in the top two or three of this list in the near future.
The Nashville Predators have really started to prove they are an all-around force of a team, and a lot of that strength comes from how impressive and solid Pekka Rinne is between the pipes.
Rinne, at just 29 years old, is my pick for a future Vezina Trophy winner because of his talent.
Nashville’s 6’5" goalie uses his size to his advantage and often seems like a solid brick wall to opposing teams.
Rinne has started strong with nine wins in 16 games, posting a .933 save percentage and three shutouts thus far.
Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres is essentially one of the team’s franchise players whom they plan to build an entire team in front of.
Miller is a consistently good performer and widely regarded as one of the best goaltenders in the league.
After his stellar performance almost propelled the US to an Olympic gold, only losing in overtime to Canada, many more people took notice of Ryan Miller with the Buffalo Sabres.
Miller has already recorded one shutout this season and has tallied five wins of the 11 games played.
Even with the slow start, Miller and the Sabres are leading the North East division and ranked second in the Eastern Conference.
Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is another highly underrated goalie in the league, and he is one that flies under the radar a lot of times.
In reality, he has a pretty realistic shot at winning a Vezina Trophy sometime in the near future.
At 25 years old, Jonathan Quick has successfully backstopped the Kings to wins in eight of the 15 games he played in.
Quick currently has a 1.89 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.
As long as he lives up to expectations, he could easily take home the trophy.
No one should be surprised by the fact that Tim Thomas is my pick for the best active goaltender in the NHL, especially after he broke the record for best regular season save percentage last year with a .938.
Even though he only has seven wins in 12 games played, he still has an impressive 2.09 goals against average and .927 save percentage.
Thomas won both the Vezina Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy after backstopping the Boston Bruins to winning the Stanley Cup.
Thomas is clearly the best American-born goaltender and already has a Hall-of-Fame worthy career under his belt—and he’s not done.