Which Country Has the Deepest Pool of Goaltenders for 2014 Winter Olympics?

Rob Vollman@robvollmanNHLContributor IDecember 11, 2013

Which Country Has the Deepest Pool of Goaltenders for 2014 Winter Olympics?

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    Most countries have at least a single elite goalie, but which one has the deepest pool of goaltenders from which to select their Olympic roster? The top three are so close that it could essentially be considered a tie, and that doesn't even include the team with arguably the world's best goalie.

    To arrive at these rankings, the top six goalies for each team were identified. The order isn't always perfect, but anyone that was left out is unlikely to be significantly better than anyone who was included and should therefore not affect the final order.

    Ranking each country was relatively straightforward right up until the top three teams. Sometimes, a team had a great starter but lacked the secondary options, so it was placed behind countries that will be more resilient to injuries or slumps. This affected teams like Slovakia and Sweden.

    Narrowing down the top three teams was incredibly tedious. Adding up the save percentages of the top six goalies resulted in a difference of just a single point between first and third and actually required going to four decimal places to separate second and third.

    Which country has the deepest pool of top goalies? Begin the slideshow to find out.

    Save percentages are from NHL.com, with data for other leagues coming from their respective official websites.

     

9. Team Germany

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    Germany is led by a strong NHL backup in Thomas Greiss but is supported by only a few potential fringe NHLers.

    1. Thomas Greiss, Phoenix Coyotes, 27

    Greiss has a .912 save percentage in 51 NHL games for San Jose and Phoenix, including a strong .928 even-strength save percentage over the past three seasons. Has the potential to be an NHL starter.

    2. Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals, 22

    Washington goalie coach Olaf Kolzig, the German netminding legend, is helping develop young Philipp Grubauer, who has played quite well in his four NHL games. He also posted a .918 save percentage in 37 AHL games for the Hershey Bears over the past two seasons.

    3. Dennis Endras, Mannheim (German league), 28

    Endras was named MVP of the World Championships in 2010 and signed a contract with the Minnesota Wild. Finished fourth with a .927 save percentage in the Finnish league in 2011-12 and second in the German league with .926 last year. Currently 15th with a .911 save percentage.

    4. Rob Zepp, Berlin (German league), 32

    A highly decorated OHL goalie, Zepp was drafted by the Thrashers in 1999 and the Hurricanes in 2001. Zepp has played the last seven seasons in the German league and has been in the top five in save percentage for three straight seasons.

      

    5. Timo Pielmeier, Ingolstadt (German league), 24

    Drafted by San Jose in 2007, Pielmeier played one game in 2010-11 after being traded to the Ducks. He also competed in the 2010 ECHL All-Star Game. He is currently ninth in the German league with a .918 save percentage this year.

    6. Dimitri Patzold, Schwenningen (German league), 30

    A member of Team Germany in the 2010 Olympic Games, Patzold was drafted by San Jose in 2001, playing in only three games that year. He is currently 14th with a .911 save percentage in the German league this year but finished fourth with .924 in 2012-13. 

8. Team Switzerland

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    Team Switzerland has one solid starting NHL goalie in Jonas Hiller, followed by a handful of roughly replacement-level NHL goalies, most of whom are playing in the Swiss National League.

    1. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks, 31

    Has a .911 overall save percentage (.921 in even-strength situations) over the past three seasons in 119 games as Anaheim's starter. A roughly league-average NHL starter, Hiller is unquestionably their No. 1 goalie.

    2. Martin Gerber, Kloten (Swiss National League A), 39

    Has a .924 save percentage as one of the workhorses of the Swiss league and previously posted a .922 save percentage over two seasons in the Swedish Elite League. Previously played 229 NHL games with Anaheim, Carolina, Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton.

    3. Reto Berra, Calgary Flames, 26

    An .894 save percentage overall (.893 in even-strength situations) in 12 Flames games this year. Previously in the Swiss league, he posted a .906 save percentage in 2012-13, which was seventh among those who faced at least 1,000 shots.

    4. Benjamin Conz, Fribourg-Gotteron (Swiss National League A), 22

    Has a .918 save percentage this year and led the league with .929 in 2012-13. Named best goalie at the 2010 IIHF Junior Tournament.

    5. Tobias Stephan, Geneve-Servette (Swiss National League A), 29

    Has a .916 save percentage this year (and .922 last season), which was second to Conz. Previously played 12 games for the Dallas Stars.

    6. David Aebischer, Rapperswil-Jona (Swiss National League A), 35

    Aebischer played 214 NHL games for Colorado, Montreal and Phoenix. Hasn't posted a save percentage of .900 or better in either the Swiss league or the AHL since 2009-10.

7. Team Slovakia

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    Team Slovakia has a top NHL starter in Jaroslav Halak, who will be backed up by Montreal's Peter Budaj. Beyond that, they have both a young and a veteran option who could play roughly at an NHL replacement level and were both among the KHL's top goalies last year.

    1. Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues, 28

    A highly effective NHL starter, Halak has a .931 even-strength save percentage over the past three seasons—that's fourth among those who have faced 1,000 shots or more. His overall save percentage over that span is a more average .918, in 85 games.

    2. Peter Budaj, Montreal Canadiens, 31

    Has an overall .916 save percentage in 37 games over the past three seasons, or .922 in even-strength situations. Is one of the league's hotter backup goalies right now.

    3. Jaroslav Janus, Bratislava (KHL), 24

    Played juniors in the OHL, was drafted by Tampa Bay and played 57 AHL games. Janus has played the last two seasons in the KHL with only a .890 save percentage this year, but he had a top-10 .928 save percentage in 2012-13.

    4. Rastislav Stana, CSKA Moscow (KHL), 33

    Played six NHL games for the Washington Capitals in 2003-04. Has played the last six seasons in the KHL. Stana has not been strong this year but was third in the KHL with a .934 save percentage in 2012-13 and seventh with .926 in 2011-12.

    5. Julius Hudacek, Pardubice (Czech Extraliga), 25

    Not having a great 2013-14 season, but he posted a fantastic .929 save percentage in the Swedish Elite League in 2012-13, which was good for sixth overall.

    6. Jan Lasak, Inactive, 34

    Played six games for the Nashville Predators. Spent the last two seasons in the KHL where he posted a .911 save percentage in 52 games.

6. Team Czech Republic

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    With Tomas Vokoun having announced his retirement from international play, the Czech Republic is left with only three NHL goalies, all of whom are average at best. Their pool may not be better than Slovakia's, but it is deeper.

    1. Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets, 26

    Pavelec is having his best season so far, which is surprisingly just a .914 save percentage. Pavelec has been the franchise's starter for five straight seasons. His .917 even-strength save percentage over the past three seasons is mere points away from the worst among those who have faced 2,000 shots (Martin Brodeur's .913).

    2. Michal Neuvirth, Washington Capitals, 25

    Has a .910 save percentage in 128 games with the Washington Capitals. His .913 even-strength save percentage over the past three seasons is sixth worst among those who have faced at least 1,000 shots.

    3. Jakub Stepanek, Cherepovets (KHL), 27

    Stepanek joined Vokoun and Pavelec at the 2010 Olympics. He has been playing in the KHL for the past four seasons, where he is currently posting a .927 save percentage. That's actually only 20th.

    4. Marek Mazanec, Nashville Predators, 22

    Has a .915 save percentage in 14 games this year while filling in for the injured Pekka Rinne. It's .912 at even-strength. Had a solid November but has since cooled off.

    5. Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings, 21

    Drafted in the fifth round by Detroit in 2010 after three seasons in the OHL, Mrazek has played three NHL games so far. In 55 AHL games, his save percentage is .918. Mrazek was named the best goalie at the 2012 World Junior Tournament and was a 2013 AHL All-Star.

    6. Jakub Kovar, Yekaterinburg (KHL), 25

    Drafted by Philadelphia in 2006, Kovar played three seasons in the Czech league before signing in the KHL this season. He has a .923 save percentage so far in Russia.

5. Team Russia

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    In addition to six established NHL goalies, including the defending Vezina winner, Team Russia also boasts at least three more goalies in the KHL who are arguably of equivalent quality.

    Stanislav Galimov and Konstantin Barulin, for example, each have KHL save percentages over .940 over the past two seasons, and Vasily Koshechkin has a save percentage of .924 over the past seven seasons.

    1. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche, 25

    Varlamov has cooled off a bit recently, but he's still having a strong season. His .923 save percentage is just barely shy of his career high. Over the past three seasons, his save percentage is a more average .912 (.921 in even-strength situations).

    2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets, 25

    In what might have just been a single great year, Bobrovsky won the 2013 Vezina award. Over the past three years, his numbers are nevertheless solid. He has a .916 overall save percentage over this span and .928 in even-strength situations.

    3. Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders, 38

    Nabokov is certainly not having a strong year, but then again, very few Islanders are. The long-time NHL veteran has played in two All-Star games, and over the past three seasons, he has a .909 overall save percentage in 97 games and .915 in even-strength situations.

    4. Anton Khudobin, Carolina Hurricanes, 28

    Khudobin has put up great numbers but in limited action. His .927 save percentage over the past three seasons (in 18 games) is seventh among those with at least 10 games. In total, he has played 24 games with Minnesota, Boston and Carolina, earning a .932 career save percentage. His even-strength save percentage is .924 over the past three seasons combined.

    5. Ilya Bryzgalov, Edmonton Oilers, 33

    Bryzgalov won the Stanley Cup in 2006-07 and was a second team All-Star in 2010, but he was bought out this summer after two below-average seasons in Philadelphia. His save percentage over the past three seasons in .907 in 103 games and .916 in even-strength situations. So far this year, he has a .939 save percentage in four games.

    6. Nikolai Khabibulin, Chicago Blackhawks, 40

    Despite his rough start so far, his .923 save percentage last year in Edmonton demonstrates that Khabibulin can still be an effective backup NHL goalie. He has a .909 save percentage in 56 games over the past three seasons and .915 in even-strength situations. He won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04 and played in four NHL All-Star games.

4. Team Sweden

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    Team Sweden is all about Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the world's best goalie. While there are no legitimate NHL starters after the King, several are some of the league's better backups. Sweden has a lot of capable goalies, more than any country except Canada, but only one truly great one. 

    1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers, 31

    Winner of the Vezina in 2012, Lundqvist played for Team Sweden in both the 2006 and 2010 Olympics. His .926 save percentage over the past three seasons is five points higher than anyone else with at least 100 starts. His .934 save percentage at even strength over that time span is behind only Robin Lehner, Tuukka Rask and Brian Elliot. Lundqvist is riding a streak of four straight seasons with a save percentage of .920 or higher.

    2. Robin Lehner, Ottawa Senators, 22

    Young Lehner may have stolen Ottawa's starting job from Craig Anderson by posting a .933 save percentage in 33 games over the past three seasons, or .939 at even strength, both tops in the NHL. Lehner has topped a .930 save percentage in each of his three NHL seasons, albeit in limited action, and posted a .938 save percentage in the AHL last year.

    3. Jhonas Enroth, Buffalo Sabres, 25

    Buffalo's highly capable backup has a .915 save percentage in 48 games over the past three seasons combined, including a very solid .927 at even strength.

    4. Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks, 31

    Fasth hasn't been great this year, but he posted a fantastic .921 save percentage in 25 games for Anaheim last year. Overall, Fasth has a .915 save percentage in 30 games over his two NHL seasons, including .923 at even strength.

    5. Jacob Markstrom, Florida Panthers, 23

    Markstrom has a lot of potential, but it hasn't been realized at the NHL level, where he has posted only a .900 save percentage in 41 games over the past three seasons, including .906 at even strength. In the AHL, he has earned save percentages of .920 and .927 in the past two seasons, respectively.

    6. Anders Lindback, Tampa Bay Lightning, 25

    Though the 6'6" goalie isn't having a strong season, he has previously been a usable backup. Lindback has a .902 save percentage in 49 games over the past three seasons, including .905 at even strength.

3. Team Canada

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    Brian Elliott has a .927 save percentage over the past three seasons (third in the NHL), including .935 in even-strength situations, which is second to Tuukka Rask. And yet he is not on the list of top six Canadian goalies.

    Neither is Jonathan Bernier, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ben Scrivens, Marc-Andre Fleury, James Reimer, Cam Ward, Devan Dubnyk, Ray Emery or Steve Mason. But they easily could have been. After all, four of the nine goalies with an even-strength save percentage of at least .930 over the past three seasons are Canadian.

    1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens, 26

    A great bounce-back season with a .938 save percentage has vaulted Price to the top of the list. Amazingly, he has only a .917 over the past three seasons combined, including .924 at even strength. Price has played in three All-Star games over his six NHL seasons.

    2. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks, 34

    Luongo, who has also played in three All-Star games, competed for Team Canada in both the 2006 and 2010 Olympics. His save percentage is also .917 over the past three seasons and .925 at even strength.

    3. Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes, 31

    One of this year's workhorses, Smith leads the NHL in shots and saves. The highlight of his career was a monster .930 save percentage in 2011-12. With that, his combined save percentage is .921 over the past three seasons and .930 at even strength.

    4. Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild, 29

    A great .938 save percentage this year as one of the league's top starters, leading the NHL in both shutouts and goals-against average, Harding has made a real case for himself. His save percentage is .922 over the past three seasons, including .930 at even strength. He has a .918 save percentage over his career and .924 in the AHL.

    5. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals, 24

    A rising star, Holtby has a .921 save percentage over the past three seasons and .930 at even strength. His career save percentage is .923 in 81 games.

    6. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks, 28

    Last year's Stanley Cup-winning goalie, Crawford posted a solid .926 save percentage in 2012-13. However, he only has a .910 save percentage over the past three seasons combined and .922 at even strength.

2. Team USA

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    For the first time, Team USA has seven solid NHL starters from which to choose, including these six and Craig Anderson. Canada may have more depth, but Team USA is just as good, and maybe a little better, when considering only the top half-dozen.

    1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres, 33

    The 2010 Olympics were held at just the right time for Miller. He was the starter for Team USA, won the Vezina and was a first-team All-Star. Over the past three seasons, Miller has had a .916 save percentage, including .923 at even strength.

    2. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, 27

    Quick's great season was 2012, when he won the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe and was a second-team All-Star thanks to a .925 save percentage and league-leading 10 shutouts. But Quick has had just a .903 save percentage since then, or .918 over the past three seasons combined, and injuries have thrown his status into question.

    3. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils, 27

    Schneider is second only to Tuukka Rask with a .930 save percentage over the past three seasons combined, both overall and at even strength. He has finished top four in save percentage in both of the previous two seasons.

    4. Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings, 29

    Howard has posted a save percentage of at least .920 in three of the past five seasons and was at the 2012 All-Star Game. Over the past three seasons combined, Howard has a .919 save percentage and an excellent .929 at even strength.

    5. Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers, 39

    Many fans have forgotten just how good Thomas really is. He led the NHL in save percentage in 2008-09 and 2010-11, winning the Vezina Trophy and being named first team All-Star both years and winning the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe the latter year. Since then Thomas has a .917 save percentage overall and .927 at even strength.

    6. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning, 27

    Playing his way on to the list is 6'7" goalie Ben Bishop, who has a .924 save percentage in 54 games over the past three years, or .927 at even strength. He has played 22 games this season, matching last year's career high, and improved his save percentage from .920 to an amazing .934.

1. Team Finland

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    Boasting two of the league's best goalies, and several more of the league's top starters, Finland has replaced Quebec as the world's leading elite goalie factory. No country can compete with Finland's top four goalies, but it does thin out a bit after that.

    1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, 26

    The NHL's leader in virtually any statistical category. Over the past three seasons, he has a .930 save percentage overall and .939 at even strength. Led the NHL with a .931 save percentage in 2009-10, and only one of his five seasons fell below .929.

    2. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators, 31

    Rinne was a 2011 second-team All-Star and posted a .926 save percentage in 137 starts in 2010-11 and 2011-12 combined. Over the past three seasons, he has posted a .918 save percentage, including .928 at even strength. His hip condition will determine whether or not he competes at the Olympics.

    3. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks, 30

    Niemi won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, his first full season in the NHL. Over the past three seasons combined, Niemi's save percentage is .917, including .927 at even strength.

    4. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars, 30

    One of the league's most consistent goalies, Lehtonen is enjoying a career-high save percentage of .926 so far this season. He has a .921 save percentage over the past three years combined, including .926 at even strength.

    5. Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild, 35

    Backstrom led the league with a .929 save percentage in 2006-07, the first of three consecutive seasons over .920. More recently, Backstrom has a .913 save percentage over the past three seasons combined, including .922 at even strength.

    6. Karri Ramo, Calgary Flames, 27

    Ramo was great in the KHL, but he has a save percentage of just .896 in 12 games for the Flames this year. That's actually the same as it was in the 48 games he previously played with Tampa Bay.

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.

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