Ranking the nhl’s 31 starting goalies — midseason update

Yes, his talent is evident, and yes, he already has two Stanley Cups to his name at the tender age of 24, but last season was bad enough to warrant a lower placement on this list, and this season hasn’t been strong enough to move him up. The fact that his regression last season coincided with losing the world’s greatest goaltending safety net, Marc-Andre Fleury, in the Vegas expansion draft is still troubling as well. Murray has a very bright career ahead, and will doubtlessly rank higher on this list in the future. But for now, his numbers just don’t justify it. 20) Semyon Varlamov: Colorado Avalanche

Varlamov has fairly middling stats, as his .908 SV%, 2.81 GAA, and 0.32 GSAA all rank in the low twenties. But his .567 QS% puts him in the top half, which moves him up this list. He has been an excellent and arguably overlooked goaltender throughout his career, and boasts a very impressive .916 career SV%. He should be the highest paid free agent goalie behind Bobrosvky come the offseason. 19) Carter Hutton: Buffalo Sabres

We knowingly put Carter Hutton high on this list before the season in order to acknowledge just how impressive his 2017-18 season was. Then, he led led all goalies that played in 25 games or more in both GAA and SV% (2.09 and .931 respectively). His peripheral numbers further established his dominance, with a 15.06 GSAA and an amazing .731 QS% (which was fourth in the league amongst all goalies).

Given a chance to be a starter for the first time in his career, Hutton has been just fine for the Buffalo Sabres. His SV%, GAA, and GSAA all rank 17th in the league, and his QS% is even higher, at 13. Most of the goalies on the list above him have a longer track record or have had hotter starts to their careers, but 19 remains a very respectable ranking for Hutton, particularly given the very affordable contract he signed over the summer. 18) Jimmy Howard: Detroit Red Wings

Howard’s .915 SV% puts him 10th in the league, while his 2.78 GAA lags behind at 18th, though that likely has more to do with his defense. Even more impressive, Howard is seventh in GSAA at 7.02, and he is an amazing third in QS% at .625. Based on this season’s numbers alone, Howard deserves to be even higher. But he’ll be 35 before the season is over, he’s a pending UFA, and he has toiled in relative obscurity with the Red Wings for years. All of those factors keep him lower on the list, but do not ignore his impressive season. 17) Carter Hart: Philadelphia Flyers

There may well be a day in the future where Hart tops these rankings. For now he’s earned this spot, despite his dearth of experience. Hart is eighth in the league in SV% (.918), 12th in GAA (2.66), 17th in GSAA (3.63), and 21st in QS% (.500). It’s a mixture of great and above average results, but for a 20-year-old thrust unexpectedly into the spotlight, it’s an impressive start to what promises to be an amazing career. 16) Connor Hellebuyck: Winnipeg Jets

But Hellebuyck has taken a significant step back this season. His .910 SV%, while passable, ranks 20th in the league, as does his his 2.22 GSAA. Most troublingly, his .432 QS% ranks 31st amongst starters, and is on its own a very troubling number. He’s in fact been outplayed by his backup, Laurent Brossoit, who in 12 games is 10-1-1 with a .943 SV% and a 2.01 GAA.

The Jets are in a tricky position now with Brossoit approaching RFA status this summer. Will they maintain their commitment to Hellebuyck? Or perhaps opt instead to trade him and move forward with Brossoit? The former is more likely, but Hellebuyck will want to improve his numbers in the second half to ensure that he has a future in Winnipeg. 15) Darcy Kuemper: Arizona Coyotes

In 25 games played, Lehner leads all qualified net minders in both GAA (2.02) and SV% (.931). His 14.05 GSAA and .609 QS% are both also very impressive. But for his career numbers and his relatively limited starts (Lehner is still splitting time with Thomas Greiss), he would be even higher in these rankings. He is having a genuinely amazing season, and hats off to him for persevering and turning his career around. 11) Braden Holtby: Washington Capitals

Holtby still has impressive career numbers and accolades. He has a Vezina Trophy to his name (2015-16) and led the league in wins in back-to-back seasons (2015-16 and 2016-17). Now, he’s added a Stanley Cup championship to his resumé. There’s no doubt he is a great goaltender. But his numbers the past two seasons have not kept his name among the truly elite. 10) Carey Price: Montreal Canadiens

Carey Price is still capable of being the best goalie in the league when he is healthy and in peak form. At the moment, he’s both, though health is never a guarantee with any goaltender, much less Price. Still, he’s gone 20-13-4 this season with 3 shutouts, and he has a 7.2 point share (a statistic aimed at measuring a player’s contribution to his team’s place in the standings). He’s putting together a strong campaign, and is a big factor in the Montreal Canadiens’ unexpected place in the standings. There’s no question that at his best, Price is one of the league’s elite goalies. 9) David Rittich: Calgary Flames

Most impressively, Rittich is 19-4-4 on the season, and his QS% is over .700. Those are phenomenal numbers, and they are a major factor in the Flames’ position atop the Pacific Division. Smith’s contract mercifully comes to an end this summer, which gives the Flames plenty of room to commit to Big Save Dave long term, if that’s their desire. And after this season, why wouldn’t it be? 8) Devan Dubnyk: Minnesota Wild

The key with Dubnyk is consistency. He seems to have found the formula to avoid the peaks and valleys that are so common to others in his trade. Since arriving in Minnesota, his SV% has never dropped below .913 (his current rating) nor has his GAA climbed above his current 2.57 mark. Yes, both current marks are highs for his tenure in Minnesota, but Dubnyk is now approaching 33, and it’s possible age is beginning to take its toll. Even if that’s the case, he is still a tremendous goalie, and likely has a few great years left in the tank. 7) Tuukka Rask: Boston Bruins

Rask’s .919 SV% and 2.43 GAA both put near the top of the league amongst starters. His 8.17 GSAA ranks sixth, and while his .520 QS% is much lower (18th), that speaks more to his rough start than his present success. A one-time Vezina winner, Rask has always been a bit up-and-down across his career, but right now he’s riding a wave of momentum that proves why he’s one of the very best in the game. 6) Pekka Rinne: Nashville Predators

Pekka Rinne ranked at the top of this list before the season, as the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and the 2017-18 leader in shutouts and GSAA. His demotion to sixth has more to do with how well the five goalies above him have performed, and less with anything lacking in his game. He’s a strong goaltender behind one of the league’s best defenses, and that’s a potent pairing for any opponent to overcome.

The one mark against Rinne that lingers is his playoff performance, but that needs to be interrogated more closely. His career .915 SV%, 2.45 GAA, and .600 QS% in the playoffs are all very good. The question will always linger unless Rinne captures that elusive Stanley Cup, but it’s an unfair one. He was and is one of the best goaltenders in the league. 5) Ben Bishop: Dallas Stars

The talent has always been there with Bishop (he was twice a Vezina finalist with the Tampa Bay Lightning), but he’s struggled with injury throughout his career, and has moved around the league more than any goaltender of his caliber should. He seems to have found his groove again with the Stars, and he’s the stronger half of perhaps the best goaltending tandem in the entire league. 4) Marc-André Fleury: Vegas Golden Knights

What can be said about Marc-Andre Fleury that hasn’t already been said? The Penguins bet big on their future with Murray when they allowed Fleury to leave to the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 Expansion Draft. That may still have been the right call in the long run, but Murray has struggled since his mentor departed, while the latter hasn’t looked back for a second.

There are no shortage of critics of Toronto’s defense (though they did just add a huge piece in Jake Muzzin), but Andersen has been their biggest supporter. Without his incredible play, they might be even deeper in the hole. He is fourth in SV% (.923), second in GSAA (15.47), and first in QS% (.688). He should be a lock as a Vezina finalist after the season. It’s hard to believe that Andersen and John Gibson were once a tandem with the Anaheim Ducks. 2) Andrei Vasilevskiy: Tampa Bay Lightning

He’s second in the league in SV% (.925), third in GSAA (15.28), and sixth in QS% (.607). He’s the promising prospect that allowed the Lightning to part with Bishop, and that move has worked out for both parties. The NHL is in the hands of an impressive class of young, elite goaltenders, but Vasilevskiy is one of the very best. 1) John Gibson: Anaheim Ducks

When we ranked goalies before the season, we had Gibson in the number four spot. It was something of a stretch back then, but we were confident that he would prove us right in the 2018-19 season. He’s done that and then some, proving himself as not just one of the best, but the very best goaltender in the league. If his Ducks make the playoffs, make no mistake that Gibson will be the only reason why.

There are many great goaltenders in the NHL, but in our eyes, there’s no debate about who stands atop the mountain right now. When the season is over, Gibson will run away with the Vezina Trophy, but if the Ducks make the playoffs, he should be a strong contender to become the eighth ever goaltender to win the Hart Trophy in its almost century-long history. The Bottom Line

Few positions in any sport are as fickle and as unpredictable as is goaltending in the NHL. Like a quarterback in the NFL, no team can succeed without consistency at the position, but goaltending is more subject to the winds of chance than are quarterbacks. One year a goaltender can be on top of the world (as was Rinne most of last season), the next, he can be at the bottom of the heap (see: Jonathan Quick).

The reality is that it’s difficult to pin down the greatest goaltender in the league, which is why this list is so fluid. When we revisit it in the months and years to come, changes will probably be made. But the goalies at the top of this list have earned their day in the sun, and while there might be arguments about the rankings one thing is sure: there are a lot of great goaltenders in the NHL right now, which is something to be thankful for as hockey fans.