Ranking every starting goalie in the NHL for the 2021-22 season

No position or player can change a team more than a great goaltender (or a bad goaltender if that happens to be the case). So we are going to take a look at all 32 starting goalies in the NHL and rank them from Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa Bay to Carter Hutton in Arizona and everybody in between.


Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

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It is almost unfair that a team this good also has the best goalie in the world. It makes them almost impossible to compete with and makes them a legitimate Stanley Cup contender every season. Since becoming the Lightning starter at the start of the 2016-17 season he has never had a single save percentage lower than .917, has been a Vezina Finalist four times and won it one time. He has also played every minute of the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons for a back-to-back Stanley Cup winner, never needing a day off and never getting benched at any point during those playoff appearances. 


Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

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Hellebuyck has been masking a lot of defensive flaws in Winnipeg for years now and keeping them competitive. He has consistently been the league’s leader in games played, minutes played, shots against, and saves for four years now and has not only been one of the league’s most durable goalies, but he has also been one of the best performing netminders as well. During that time he has won a Vezina Trophy, been a finalist one other time, and finished in the top-four of the voting in another season. Give him a little bit of defensive help and the Jets would have major potential. 


Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

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Saros has only been a full-time starter for two seasons, but he single-handedly carried Nashville to a playoff spot in his most recent season and probably should have received more Vezina Trophy consideration than he did. He has been consistently strong when given an opportunity throughout his career, and the Predators are going to need him to be dominant again this season if they are going to have any chance at making the playoffs in a tough Central Division. 


Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders

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The key for Varlamov is simply staying healthy. When he is, he can be a top-tier goalie in the NHL. He has been healthy since joining the New York Islanders two years ago and has been a key cog in their consecutive runs to the Eastern Conference Final/semifinal round. What is fascinating about the Islanders’ situation, though, is that they have a top-tier goalie and it is only a matter of time until he takes a back seat to Ilya Sorokin, another potential top-tier goalie.


Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers


There is a lot of projection here, and some of it is based on potential, but Shesterkin looks like the real deal in the Rangers’ net and a worthy heir apparent to Henrik Lundqvist. He has just 47 games of NHL experience under his belt, but he has a .922 save percentage in those games while not always playing behind a great defensive team. He is going to be a major part of the Rangers’ rebuild and if they do get to where they want to be he is going to play a significant role in that. 


John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

His numbers have dropped a bit the past two seasons, but I am going to chalk that up to the qualify of the Ducks team around him. It is not good. At all. And he has had to face a significant workload on top of that. There is only so much he can do behind that team right now. 


Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks

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This is a tough one. If we go by what we saw most recently when he took home the Vezina Trophy a year ago? Probably the top-three. But that performance was a huge step from what we saw from the past couple of years when he actually lost his starting job to Robin Lehner and Vegas appeared to be ready to move on from him after the 2019-20 season. He is still a freakish athlete and has a slam dunk Hall of Fame recipe. It is just a matter of how much high-level play he still has left. The Chicago Blackhawks are hoping it is at least one more season. Given the state of their defense and overall roster, they are going to need it. 


Darcy Kuemper, Colorado Avalanche

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Kuemper had some great seasons behind some lousy Arizona teams the past couple of years and now he is going to get a chance to play behind one of the best defenses in the NHL in Colorado. The Avalanche are hoping he can be the missing piece to their Stanley Cup-winning puzzle. His ability combined with Colorado’s overall roster strength could lead to a career year for Kuemper. 


Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

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This is a tough one because when Price is at his best, as he was in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his past couple of playoff appearances, he can still carry his team in a way that few other goalies can. We just do not see that level from him on a consistent basis anymore. He is starting the season taking a leave of absence to enter into the player’s assistance program and it is not yet known when he will be back in the Canadiens’ lineup, but it is expected he will return this season. 


Philipp Grubauer, Seattle Kraken

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle made a significant investment in its goaltending position during its initial roster construction, snagging Grubauer and Chris Driedger. Grubauer has been a very good starter in Colorado for the past three years and has consistently posted strong numbers when given an opportunity to play, entering the season with a .920 career save percentage in his 215 career appearances. Going from Colorado to an expansion team is a pretty significant drop in talent, but the Kraken did spend a lot of money on its defense during the expansion draft process. This will be what gives them a chance this season. 


Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets

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Merzlikins should be one of the few bright spots in Columbus this season. He has only played two years in the NHL but has already shown the Blue Jackets enough that they were willing to commit to him with a long-term contract. He has a .920 career save percentage entering the season and has been a perfect replacement for Sergei Bobrovsky the past two years. That was one free agency loss that actually worked out well in Columbus’ favor. If the Blue Jackets are going to stay competitive this season it is going to be because of Merzlikins. 


Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

From the moment Lehner arrived in Vegas it has seemed that coach Peter DeBoer and the Golden Knights front office have wanted him to be the team’s starting goalie. Following the offseason trade of Marc-Andre Fleury to Chicago, that is exactly what they are going to get this season. Lehner has been one of the league’s most productive goalies for a few years now but has not ever really been a team’s clear-cut No. 1 starter. He has mostly played in a platoon or split role. Now all eyes are on Lehner for a Golden Knights team that has Stanley Cup expectations. 


Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks

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Demko is far from a finished product, and he does not have a ton of NHL experience just yet, but he does have an impressive start to his career despite playing behind what is oftentimes a shaky defensive team. The 2020-21 season was his first year as an NHL regular and he played admirably considering the circumstances (bad defensive team in front of him, their season being disrupted by COVID, first time as a full-time starting goalie). The Canucks do have a really impressive core of young talent, and Demko could be a significant part of that simply based on the importance of his position. 


Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers

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By the end of this season, Hart could be as high as the top-10 or as low as the bottom-10. We just do not know at this point. He is supposed to be the goalie that ends Philadelphia’s long-time frustration at the position. During his first two years in the NHL, he seemed like he was on track to accomplish that. Then he struggled through an absolutely abysmal 2020-21 season that completely sabotaged the Flyers’ chances. There might not be a player in the NHL that will have a bigger impact on their team’s overall performance this season than Hart with the Flyers. 


Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

During his time in Vancouver Markstrom was one of the steadiest goalies in the NHL. Durable, consistent, maybe not a goalie that would steal you a lot of games but certainly not one that would lose you a lot of games. Definitely, somebody that a contending team can win with. He was rewarded in free agency with a major contract from the Calgary Flames, but his debut season in Alberta was probably considered a significant disappointment. The Flames need him to bounce back, and at 31 he should still be able to do that and have some decent seasons ahead of him. 


Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues

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Binnington has a wide range of possibilities on any given night. At times he looks like the goalie that arrived in the middle of the 2018-19 season, solidified the Blues’ goaltending position, then backstopped them to a championship. At other times he has looked positively ordinary. At other times, like his past two postseasons, he has been prone to some major meltdowns. The most accurate assessment is that he is probably never as good as he looks at his peak and never as bad as he looks at his worst. That makes him a pretty average goalie. A good team like the Blues can win with an average goalie. 


Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils

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Similar to Hart in Philadelphia in that he was outstanding during his first two years in the league and then struggled badly in his third season. That definitely makes this a pivotal year for him in his development, especially for a Devils team that is going to need him to be great to stay competitive in a ridiculously strong Metropolitan Division. He is one of the four NHL players this season that is unvaccinated so that will definitely impact his availability in certain road games. 


Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild

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After a couple of down years in Edmonton (an easy thing to happen) Talbot has really bounced back the past two years in Calgary and Minnesota, and now forms a really solid duo for the Wild alongside Kaapo Kahkonen. Talbot’s not a goalie that is going to steal a lot of games for you, but he is a solid veteran that will stop the shots he is supposed to stop. If he gives you a few bonus saves on shots he should not stop, that is a bonus. 


Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars

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Assuming Ben Bishop is healthy the Stars have four NHL-caliber goalies in their organization with Bishop, Khudobin, Braden Holtby, and Jake Oettinger to pick from. Khudobin has been the primary player the past couple of years so we will put him in the starter spot. He had a down year in 2020-21 but has been outstanding for the most part since joining the Stars. He has a great defense in front of him that will help insulate things. The Stars need to just find a little more offense to help out the defense and goaltending. 


Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs

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Campbell was an unexpected surprise for the Maple Leafs in the second half of the 2020-21 season and played better than he will get credit for in the playoffs. He just happened to get outdueled by Carey Price. The question is going to be if he can duplicate that success over a full season for a team facing more pressure than any other team in the NHL to win. 


Cal Petersen, Los Angeles Kings

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We are going to assume the Kings do the smart thing and go with Petersen as the primary goalie over Jonathan Quick. With all due respect to what Quick has accomplished in his career, he is not the best goalie on this roster. Petersen has only appeared in 54 NHL games in his career but has consistently played well, owning a .916 save percentage entering the season. The Kings have a ton of young talent in their organization, but the defense is still very much a work in progress. That will test Petersen and Quick quite a bit this season. 


Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wings

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Nedeljkovic was a huge success for the Carolina Hurricanes a year ago, having a Calder Trophy-worthy season (he finished in the top-three of the voting). So it was a little stunning to see them trade him to Detroit in the offseason. That is until you realize that Nedeljkovic had never really played at that level at any point in his career at any level and there is a chance that it was a fluke. The rebuilding Red Wings are willing to take that gamble. If it works out, they have the goalie position locked down for years. 


Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals

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The Capitals have had high hopes for Samsonov for quite some time, and the 2020-21 season was supposed to be his time to shine as their starter. It did not go as planned. He was in and out of the lineup all year due to COVID protocols and struggled when he did play. He still has a ton of talent and potential, but he needs to take a big step forward this season. He is another goalie that could end the season in the top-10 or the bottom-10 depending on how he performs. 


Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins

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If we go by what we saw most recently from Jarry he is probably in the bottom-five of the league, or perhaps even lower. That is how much he struggled toward the end of the 2020-21 season and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs where goaltending completely determined the outcome of their First Round series against the New York Islanders. But he has to be better than that. He is better than that. The question is how much better. He has been an All-Star in his career and still has potential. The Penguins just need to see him realize it. 


Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins

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Tuukka Rask remains unsigned, so the Bruins are prepared to enter the season with Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman as their goaltending duo. Ullmark signed a pretty significant long-term contract in free agency this offseason and figures to enter the season as the starter. He played well behind some absolutely dreadful Buffalo teams the past couple of years and should get way more support than he is used to with the Bruins, who are still a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. That could result in a career year for him. 


Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes

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The Hurricanes goalie duo of Nedeljkovic and Petr Mrazek was actually one of the most productive duos in the league during the 2020-21 season. They completely replaced it with Andersen and Antti Raanta. This would have been the league’s best duo four years ago, but now both goalies have serious question marks given their age, recent performance, and recent injury history. Andersen really struggled the past two years in Toronto. They still have the ability to be productive goalies, and maybe a platoon role is what suits them both best right now so they do not have to take on the workload of a full-time starter. 


Matt Murray, Ottawa Senators

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Such a strange career. He won back-to-back Stanley Cups during his first two years in the league (both when he was considered a rookie still) and the Penguins chose to keep him over Marc-Andre Fleury (the correct move at the time). But his career has been mired by injury and inconsistency ever since and has had two consecutive years with a sub-.900 save percentage. The Senators are paying him a lot of money for another three seasons. 


Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers

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The Panthers gave Bobrovsky a seven-year, $70 million contract with the hopes he would give them Vezina-worthy play in goal. He has won the award twice in his career as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has not played anywhere close to that level for the Panthers. He has not only not played anywhere closer to that level, it is only a matter of time until Spencer Knight, arguably the top goalie prospect in hockey, takes over this job. If the Panthers are going to realize their potential as a Stanley Cup contender they will probably need that to happen sooner rather than later. 


Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Smith had a really strong season for the Oilers a year ago, but there are some doubts as to whether or not he can repeat that success. For starters, he is one of the oldest players — and oldest goalie — in the league. His 2020-21 performance was also quite the outlier from his recent seasons. Playing behind a weak defense and a bad defensive team is certainly not going to help. 


Adin Hill, San Jose Sharks

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Maybe this is a little low for Hill, but he is a completely unknown. He has played 49 games in his career and has been solid for most of them. He is going to be playing behind a San Jose defense that has a lot of big names and big contracts but is rapidly declining. Goaltending has been a huge issue for the Sharks for years now, and their long-term starter might not be on the roster just yet. 


Aaron Dell, Buffalo Sabres


Just a rough situation in Buffalo right now. The roster is terrible, and Aaron Dell and Craig Anderson are going to have to be miracle workers to make this season be anything other than a complete mess. They are not miracle workers. 


Carter Hutton, Arizona Coyotes

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Goaltending was probably the Arizona Coyotes’ biggest strength the past couple of seasons with Darcy Kuemper, Antti Raanta, and Adin Hill occupying the position. When healthy, they were able to keep them in games and keep them competitive with a less than stellar roster. But the rebuild and free agency has greatly reduced that goalie depth. Hutton is expected to be the Coyotes’ starter this season but he has struggled the past three years since having that great year with the Blues a few years back when he led the league in save percentage. 

https://www.yardbarker.com/nhl/articles/ranking_every_starting_goalie_in_the_nhl_for_the_2021_22_season/s1__36147374 Ranking every starting goalie in the NHL for the 2021-22 season

Subhankar Mondal

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