B/R NHL Goalie Rankings: January 2023
It feels like it's been a year since we last ranked the NHL's goalies. I guess technically it has been a year in the numerical sense, but much like the dates on a calendar, a lot of things change over time in respect to how things have gone in goal for the league's netminders.
While some teams got red-hot thanks to the play of their masked men of mayhem, others did not exactly do the same. And to be fair to both ends of that spectrum, some have been fantastic all along and others...haven't.
But since I'm a glutton for snark, both given and received, it's time to rank each team's goalie from 32 to one. We go backward here, remember? The basis for the rankings comes from their raw stats, such as save percentage, and advanced ones, such as goals saved above expected, while also keeping in mind how good or bad a team is on special teams. Also, vibes. Those are not quantifiable and easily adjusted to fit my own whims. Every ranking needs a gray area to make it more fun.
The baseline for deciding who the No. 1 goalie is on a team this time around is a bit simpler: a goalie with 20 or more starts (most teams have played between 35-40 games, with a couple of exceptions) will be considered the No. 1. Some teams will have tandems/trios listed as opposed to just one goalie because of injuries or from true 1A/1B situations.
Onward, to the ranks!
32-26: Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, Canucks, Kings, Binnington, Panthers, Jones
32. Columbus Blue Jackets
Unfortunately for Jackets fans, their goaltending holds down the last spot in the rankings yet again this month. The only thing preventing Columbus from having the best odds in the NHL Draft Lottery are the Chicago Blackhawks, but Jackets goalies have faced the second-most shots per game this season and their team doesn't score for them (third-fewest goals scored). It's a hard knock life being a goalie, and Elvis Merzlikins, Joonas Korpisalo and Daniil Tarasov are finding it out the hard way.
31. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks are the worst team in the NHL, and that's while they still have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. They've scored the fewest goals in the league, which is already bad news for their goalies, but they also allow on average 7.1 more shots on goal per game than they take. The shot volume allowed isn't quite as bad as a few other teams, but they have the worst shot attempts-for percentage in the league. In other words, the puck is in their end most of the game, and when it leaves it's more often than not after it's been fished out of the back of the net. Don't count on it getting any better any time soon for Alex Stalock and Petr Mrazek or even Arvid Söderblom.
30. Vancouver Canucks
One of the less dramatic positions in Vancouver this season has been in goal, but that's not saying much for a few reasons. Spencer Martin and Thatcher Demko have each had terrible seasons to this point with Demko still out injured. Collin Delia has played well in just a handful of games, but Martin hasn't been able to gain any consistency. Even with all of this, the Canucks seem "successful" compared to other teams at the bottom of the NHL standings. That said, they continue to have the NHL's worst penalty kill, which doesn't do much to help goaltending even if some of that falls on the goalies as well.
29. Los Angeles Kings
It's remarkable the Kings continue to sit second in the Pacific Division despite poor-to-inconsistent goaltending. Pheonix Copley rescued the Kings, going 9-1-0 in his first 10 games with a .908 save percentage, since swapping places with Cal Petersen (who is playing well in the AHL). Jonathan Quick has been as hot-and-cold as it gets, but the cold spells have been arctic-like, and his .884 save percentage illustrates that. He has minus-10.6 goals saved above expected in all situations, which isn't going to cut it (Copley has 0.8, for what it's worth). The Kings having success despite this kind of goaltending is a true enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in another larger enigma.
28. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues
Binnington climbed the rankings from last month's second-to-last placement and even had a shutout (25 saves against Nashville on Dec. 12) thrown into the mix. I'm not going to toss him flowers for it, however. He has the joint-fourth-lowest save percentage among goalies with 20 or more starts and minus-4.8 goals saved above expected in all situations. The Blues have been all over the map this season. They're in the mix for the wild card right now, but to stay there they'll need Binnington to turn into his 2019 self with Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko both on the shelf for an extended period.
27. Florida Panthers
A month ago, it seemed like Spencer Knight was poised to take the starting job from Sergei Bobrovsky and commence the Panthers' resurgence in the standings. So, about that...it hasn't happened, and while Bobrovsky has played better (.919 save percentage in December), the Panthers are still spinning their wheels trying to even get into the playoff picture. Instead, they're tussling with Buffalo, Detroit and Ottawa to see who can get closest for a whiff of the fumes behind the Atlantic Division top three of Boston, Toronto and Tampa Bay. Reminder: This team won the Presidents' Trophy last season and might be in the mix for a top pick in the dr-...what's that? Oh, right, their first-round pick this summer belongs to Montréal. They may want to figure things out and fast, and Bobrovsky and Knight will need to set the path for the rest of the team.
26. Martin Jones, Seattle Kraken
Jones had a terrible December (.863 save percentage) and that's contributed to the Kraken coming back to the pack a little bit in the standings with the Kings jumping over them for second in the Pacific Division. Jones' numbers overall are not super (.893 save percentage), but he just needs to keep Seattle in games to be able to strike from the murky deep. The Kraken continue to have an abysmal penalty, kill which is what's making everything look bad (he has a .916 save percentage at 5-on-5). Get that part of the game adjusted and suddenly things might look a bit cheerier in the overall statistics.
25-21: Allen, Reimer, Markström, Gibson, Sabres
25. Jake Allen, Montréal Canadiens
The Canadiens were feeling pretty good about things for a while to start the season, but things have taken a grim turn with results falling more in line with what was expected, and Jake Allen has dealt with the brunt of that. Allen ended 2022 by getting hung out for nine goals in a 9-2 loss to the Capitals. He and net-mate Sam Montembeault taking turns allowing tons of goals (Montembeault allowed seven to Florida and six to Nashville in his previous two starts) has fans in Québec thinking a lot about Connor Bedard these days, and not just for his World Junior Championship scoring bonanza for Canada. Valiance in the face of fire earns points for courage, so at least Allen and Montembeault have my nice words for them (approximate value: $0.02).
24. James Reimer, San Jose Sharks
It hasn't been the best of years for the Sharks, but if there's one aspect of their game, and Reimer's game, that's been outstanding this season it's their penalty kill. The Sharks are third in the league on the kill and Reimer is the biggest reason why with a .924 save percentage while shorthanded. As of this writing, he's allowed six power play goals in 79 chances and that's pretty incredible when you consider the state of the Sharks. Unfortunately, Reimer is .889 at even strength and his .894 overall isn't too bad given the league average is .905. He could be a sneaky good pickup for a team at the trade deadline.
23. Jacob Markström, Calgary Flames
Last season's Vezina finalist is starting to get some of that old mojo back. Since the last time we ranked, he's raised his save percentage from .889 to .895 and he went 4-4-2 with a .906 save percentage in December. Obviously, these numbers pale in comparison to what he posted last season, but the start of Markström's season this year was rough. What's difficult for the Flames is they're the definition of an average team. They don't score a lot, but they also don't give up a ton of goals either. The problem with being that way means you neither gain nor lose ground. Unfortunately for them, there are four or five other teams in that exact same spot also fighting for the playoffs with them. If Markström finds his Vezina stroke again, it changes everything.
22. John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
I know it's tough to keep tabs on the Ducks this season, but things haven't been great for them. They have the second-worst record in the league, and poor John Gibson has bore the brunt of it all. The Ducks allow the most shots on goal in the NHL and allow a league-worst 38.3 shots per game. They've allowed the most 5-on-5 high-danger chances in the league on top of all that. Someone get Gibson some hazard pay! To his credit he's holding it down as best he can. His save percentage is above .900, and he earned his first shutout of the season on Wednesday against Dallas. It could be much, much worse for the Ducks, which is hard to imagine, but then again, we already talked about Chicago and they're much, much worse.
21. Buffalo Sabres
For most of the season, Sabres goaltending has been a bit of an issue as far as the fans are concerned, but things have taken a turn for the better recently thanks to consistent play from Craig Anderson (as always) and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. The big rookie Finn, who is up in place of the injured Eric Comrie, held the door while teams like Colorado, Vegas, Boston and Washington all attempted to run away or storm back in games Buffalo won the past couple of weeks. Two of the best teams in the league right now, the defending Stanley Cup champs and Alex Ovechkin. Not too bad, really. What's interesting is what the Sabres will do when Comrie returns from his rehab assignment in the very near future. Three-man rotation time?
20-16: Husso, Talbot, Skinner, Vanecek, Vejmelka
20. Ville Husso, Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are all kinds of mercurial in their results. Husso continued to play strong despite that...but the cracks are showing. Since last month's rankings came out Dec. 9, he's given up 26 goals with a save percentage of .874 and has gone 1-3-2 in seven starts. The one no-decision came when he was pulled after allowing four first-period goals against Pittsburgh on Dec. 28 in a game Detroit came back to win 5-4 in overtime. If the Red Wings are going to stay around in the playoff race, Husso's cold streak can't go on much longer.
19. Ottawa Senators
Despite all the issues the Senators have had this season, goaltending has not been one of them. Anton Forsberg has been strong all season, and Cam Talbot has gone 10-9-1 in 20 starts since returning from injury. Unfortunately for the goalies, the Senators don't score a lot and they're right in the middle among teams in goals allowed. That's a kind of no-man's land similar to what Calgary is dealing with. The Sens were supposed to be a lot better this season, but to this point it's only the goaltending that's (mostly) walking the walk.
18. Edmonton Oilers
For all intents and purposes, Stuart Skinner is the No. 1 in Edmonton. He's made six more starts than Jack Campbell as of this writing, and the results couldn't be more different. Skinner's .914 save percentage is excellent, whereas Campbell's .877 is decidedly uninspiring for the $25 million offseason signing. Despite Connor McDavid having another brilliant season, the Oilers are locked into a division battle with Calgary and Seattle and, by virtue of that, also in the wild-card mix with Colorado, St. Louis and Nashville. It's not what you want when your goal is to win a Stanley Cup with McDavid sooner than later.
17. Vitek Vanecek, New Jersey Devils
In what's definitely not a coincidence, the Devils have cooled off substantially over the past month, and so has Vitek Vanecek. Since last we ranked, his save percentage is .893 and he's gone 2-3-1 in eight games (seven starts). He's still rocking a .914 save percentage, and his goals saved above expected numbers are positive. This is a lot of complaining about the No. 1 goalie on a team that's joint-third for fewest goals allowed, but Vanecek's cold spell is reason to give some pause on their ascendancy this season.
16. Karel Vejmelka, Arizona Coyotes
Arizona is in less-than-esteemed company when it comes to helping your goalie, residing alongside Anaheim and Chicago when it comes to shots allowed. Vejmelka has faced the second-most shots this season, trailing just Connor Hellebuyck (who has started around 76 percent of Winnipeg's games), but he has John Gibson right on his heels in third. "Veggie" has been incredible when you consider all of this. He's got a .906 save percentage, but he's seventh in goals saved above expected in all situations (11.8), and most of those ahead of him are several spots higher in this ranking. He's been outstanding; it's just hard to notice when the Coyotes haven't been winning much.
15-11: Hart, Wild, Maple Leafs, Georgiev, Kuemper
15. Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers
After a bit of a lull that followed his electric start to the season, Hart is rebounding even in the face of the Flyers' inconsistency elsewhere. His .911 save percentage ties him with Cam Talbot for 14th in the NHL, and he stops pucks at a .924 clip at even strength. He's also sixth in goals saved above expected with 12.3. Hart has bounced back well this year, and a lot of that is because coach John Tortorella demands discipline in defending. The other part of it is that Hart has a ton of talent, but things are messy in Philly.
14. Marc-Andre Fleury, Minnesota Wild
It's so nice to not have to say truthful mean things about Marc-Andre Fleury at long last. Since the December rankings, Flower has gone 4-2-0 in seven games (six starts) and has a .934 save percentage. Seeing the Fleury of old return has been great, but he might give a lot of thanks to tandem partner Filip Gustavsson. While Fleury has gotten roughly 65 percent of the starts, Gustavsson has been outstanding in a supporting role with a .924 save percentage. Since his first three rough starts of the season, Gustavsson is 9-2-1 with a .935 save percentage. If this is the Wild flipping a switch, the West had better look out.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs
Remember when the biggest issues for the Maple Leafs were goaltending and defense, but specifically goaltending when the playoffs rolled around? There might be a different issue to laser-focus on this time around because Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray have been outstanding for the Leafs. Some of Toronto's more recent results might get all of you yelling about the praise, but both goalies have more than three goals saved above expected in all situations each, and that's also pretty good. Then again, the Leafs might be looking at Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs again this year. See, there can still be horrible dread.
12. Alexandar Georgiev, Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche starter is doing some serious heavy lifting when it comes to keeping things afloat in Denver with a boatload of key players injured. Yes, the past few games have been less than impressive for the Avalanche, but since last month's ranking, Georgiev's save percentage is .911. Overall, he's sporting a healthy .915 mark with 6.2 goals saved above expected. Once players start getting back into the lineup, the Avalanche will be ready and somewhat rested to defend their title.
11. Darcy Kuemper, Washington Capitals
The Capitals have surged of late on the back of Kuemper's play. An injury in early December kept him out a couple of weeks, but he's picked up where he left off. From Thanksgiving until the end of 2022, he went 4-0-2 with a .945 save percentage, and the Capitals went from sort of lagging behind the wild card to leaping into a battle with the Islanders and Rangers for third. Kuemper being the quiet, steady, reliably good goalie he's always been helped make that happen.
10-6: Thompson, Saros, Hurricanes, Jarry, Shesterkin
10. Logan Thompson, Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights rookie No. 1 goalie has cooled after his wicked start, but Vegas came a little way back to earth after Jack Eichel went down with a lower-body injury. Thompson's been a cool but average .908 since last month's ranking, but the expectations have shifted for a team that jumped out so far and fast. But this is Thompson's first time as a starting goalie in the NHL, and it's a big adjustment. It'll be worth watching to see how he holds up as the number of games played increases along with the severe pressure to not just go deep in the playoffs but bring the Cup to Vegas for the first time.
9. Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators
Saros had a tough start to the season, but now we're being reminded why he was a Vezina finalist last season. Since last we ranked, Saros is 5-3-3 (average) with a .935 save percentage (extremely good). His season save percentage is up to .918, tied with Tristan Jarry for sixth in the league. What isn't helping Saros get wins, however, is that the Predators struggle mightily scoring goals to support him. Only John Gibson and Jake Allen get less goal support than Saros, and the difference between them is that Saros' team has a prayer of getting to the postseason. With that kind of support, Saros has to keep this run of play going the rest of the way for the Predators to have a prayer of reaching the playoffs.
8. Carolina Hurricanes
This was going to be all about Pyotr Kochetkov's rise to the No. 1 job in Raleigh, but then Antti Raanta went and won five straight games while Kochetkov was out with a minor injury. Fear not, however, because Kochetkov is back. From Nov. 29 through Dec. 20 before the injury, he was 8-0-1 with a .939 save percentage with two shutouts. If he can return to that form, the Hurricanes might be able to overtake the Bruins for the best record in the NHL. What's more amazing about all this is no one's really thinking about Frederik Andersen and what they'll do once he's healthy. Although I guess I just asked the question now so...yeah. That's a bridge to be crossed at another date.
7. Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jarry's rise to the No. 1 spot in Pittsburgh has been fascinating to watch and proof that sometimes goalies just take a little bit longer to be NHL-ready than others. In December, Jarry went 7-2-1 with a .921 save percentage while facing nearly 33 shots per game. A busy goalie but an effective and solid one, and the Penguins are in quite the battle royal with the Rangers, Islanders and Capitals for playoff jockeying. Jarry's lower-body injury suffered during the Winter Classic, however, is going to test Casey DeSmith and Dustin Tokarski.
6. Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers
You can't keep a good Vezina winner and MVP finalist down long. Since the start of December, Shesterkin is 8-2-2 with a .923 save percentage and helped the Rangers climb into third place in the Metropolitan Division. It's taken Shesterkin a little longer to warm up this season, but he's starting to heat up. The improvement of veteran backup Jaroslav Halak also means Shesterkin might not have to be a workhorse to an intense degree. His 11.3 goals saved above expected in all situations is ninth-best in the league and, really, would you expect any different? If he continues to look more like he did last season, the Rangers might not have to sweat the wild card and instead try to overtake the Devils for second in the division.
5. Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars
Jake Oettinger's return to the top five of the rankings is a welcome sight for Stars fans because it means they're fully back on track. During December, Oettinger went 9-3-0 and posted a .925 save percentage. On top of the excellent run there, it's juiced up his season save percentage to .920, fifth-best in the league among goalies to have played 20 or more games.
For a lot of teams with an absolute No. 1 goalie like Oettinger, a cold month like he had in November would cause a fair bit of agita with fans seeing the struggle. Fortunately, his backup Scott Wedgewood has been outstanding since he landed in Dallas last season. When the top guy struggles, having a veteran slide in and not miss a beat is a luxury, and Wedgewood's 6-5-3 record and .911 save percentage would be better than quite a few teams' top guy.
The Stars sit atop the Central Division and are nipping at the Golden Knights' heels for the best record in the Western Conference, and you could make the case they have the advantage there simply based on having Oettinger against Logan Thompson. There's plenty of hockey left, though, and there's another goalie coming up who might have a lot to say about where Dallas winds up.
4. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Vasilevskiy has been on fire, and a five-alarm inferno at that.
The two-time Stanley Cup winner went 8-2-0 in December with a .946 save percentage. He allowed one goal in five of those games and gave up no more than three, and even that only happened twice.
He raised his season save percentage to .921, fourth-best in the NHL, from .909 when we did these rankings a month ago. It's become almost customary for the Lightning to pick up a head of steam in December and use it to roll through the rest of the season, but Vasilevskiy taking over like this is still impressive.
What's more is he's fifth in goals saved above expected in all situations, which means he's not only doing his normal job but he's also robbing opponents, too. I understand that it's easy to get sick of teams that win "all the time," but elite players taking over games and leading their team is a sight to behold. It's just a sight the rest of the league hopes doesn't go deep into the postseason.
3. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Raise your hand if you had the Winnipeg Jets being one of the top teams in the Western Conference this season. Go ahead, I'll wait. Oh right, no one did, but the reason they are in that spot is because Connor Hellebuyck got his groove back, and boy is it back in a big way.
Hellebuyck is the Jets. His .928 save percentage is second-best in the NHL in 29 starts, and he has the joint-most shutouts with three alongside three others.
Where does this Jets team sit without Hellebuyck? The answer is probably not in a great place because he's started over 75 percent of their games and has been a top three goalie in the league.
It may be a little early to start kicking around MVP ideas for players not named Connor McDavid, but if the Jets continue to duke it out with Dallas atop the Central and, perhaps, win the division, don't you have to put Hellebuyck on your MVP ballot? There are a lot of games to go yet, and he's going to play a lot of them, but if this pace continues all season, the arguments over Vezina and MVP are going to be rambunctious.
2. Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders
If there's an unfortunate truth in New York City, it's that the team that's been around the longest will always get the most attention. The Rangers' hot run of play gets the discussion going about how well Igor Shesterkin is playing. Meanwhile, it's Ilya Sorokin who continues to be outstanding in all facets.
He's third in the NHL in save percentage (.924), tied with three others for the league lead in shutouts with three, and he trails only Linus Ullmark in goals saved above expected in all situations (19.1). He was performing like this last season as well, only the Islanders dug themselves a hole they couldn't get out of even with Sorokin playing so well.
This season, there's no reason to ignore what he's doing. The Islanders are deep in the mix for the postseason in the Metropolitan Division. He's had a remarkable run of consistency recently, but if there was ever an example of how good a guy can be and still wind up on the wrong side of things, he is a prime one. Sorokin stopped all 46 shots he saw against Colorado on Dec. 19 and earned a shutout...but lost because his teammates were also shut out and then got beat in a dastardly shootout.
Fair's got nothing to do with it, but Sorokin's play is demanding of more attention. The question is whether he will eventually break through and get it.
1. Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins
We've reached No. 1, and once again it is Linus Ullmark. Think of all the glowing words I had for the previous four goalies in the top five, now multiply the effusive compliments by 20-fold. That puts things in the ballpark for what Ullmark has done so far this season.
He's No. 1 in save percentage (.939), he's allowed 45 goals in 25 games (1.86 per game), he has two shutouts, and he's saved the most goals above expected in all situations with 21.5. He's rocking a 21-1-1 record and was named to the Atlantic Division roster for the NHL All-Star Game in Sunrise, Florida, in February.
Talk about a glow-up, Ullmark's is more like a galaxy exploding.
He's been consistently great all season and is a key reason why the Bruins are the best team in the NHL. And that's even when you consider how great David Pastrnak has been as well.
Ullmark is the favorite (as of right now anyway) to win the Vezina, and he'll be heavily in the mix for the Hart Trophy as well. There's a whole half a season left to go, and sky is the limit at this point. Surely there will be some bumps eventually, but he's absolutely locked in.