Welcome to Part II of Justin’s Preseason Top 30 Goaltenders list. In case you missed rankings 30-21, here they are. Before we begin, let’s take a quick look at a couple more tendys that didn’t make the cut this year after gracing the list in 2012…
Ilya Bryzgalov, Free Agent: I caught a lot of flack for ranking Mr. Universe at #20 last season. Bryz is a very strange case. He is still a pretty decent goalie, but he is a massive headcase and the circus following him out of Philadelphia contributed to his omission from the list. It will be interesting to see if he is able to catch on with an NHL club at some point this season.
Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues: Halak actually ranked #12 last season, but recurring injuries and generally poor play pushed the Slovakian out. If he comes back healthy and has a strong, full campaign this year, don’t be surprised to see him back on the list next season. He is still only 28, but his lower-body injuries are starting to pile up, which is very concerning.
With that out of the way, rankings 20-11.
20. Ondrej Pavelec- Winnipeg Jets. Last year’s ranking: 21.
- Pavelec had something of a lateral year in Winnipeg. He still hasn’t really taken the reigns for the Jets and they don’t really have anyone to push him (ha, Al Montoya). He still possesses one of the highest ceilings on this list, but the word on Pavelec is that his work ethic is atrocious. For better or worse he will be one to watch over the next year or two, but if he fails to up his game, it will be a massive waste of talent.
19. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils. Last year’s ranking: 18
- Oh, Marty. Every Ranger fan’s favorite whipping boy. In what will likely be his final season, Marty will likely have a reduced workload due to the presence of the newly-acquired Cory Schneider. However, the 41 year-old Montreal native still has plenty of game left. As much as we love to hate Marty, he is one of the few old-school holdovers from a style standpoint and one of the all-time greats. I will certainly enjoy watching his (likely) swan song.
18. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks. Last year’s ranking: N/R
- I was never a big fan of Corey Crawford because he didn’t move well and was somewhat jittery in the net. Apparently, this off-season, he overhauled his game and cited Henrik Lundqvist as one of his main influences. The result this year was a Stanley Cup victory with the (ridiculously talented) Chicago Blackhawks. Crawford was noticeably quieter in his movements and adopted more of a true blocking style. He sat deeper in his net, which allowed for him to be more effective with limited mobility. While he will probably never be a star, he showed he can be a rock solid tender for a quality squad.
17. Antti Neimi, San Jose Sharks. Last year’s ranking: 25.
- After a scotching hot 2010 playoff that ended in a Stanley Cup Championship, Antti Neimi finally figured out how to play during the grind of the regular season during this past year. He always had the physical ability, but was wildly undisciplined and inconsistent. All that changed this year when he finished 3rd in the Vezina Trophy race and propelled the Sharks a lot farther than they probably should have gotten. I got aggressive with him in this ranking despite the shortened season, but let’s see how he fares over 82 games, and if those bad habits re-emerge…
16. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins. Last year’s ranking: 8
- After two mediocre regular seasons and two disastrous playoffs, Fleury finds himself at a career crossroads. There was talk of trading the former #1 overall pick this offseason after he found himself riding the bench in the postseason. This is probably his last chance in Pittsburgh to re-establish himself as a true number one keeper, and more importantly, he needs to show improvement to ensure his spot on next year’s list.
15. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets. Last year’s ranking: N/R
- After escaping the goalie graveyard of Philadelphia, Bobrovsky flourished in the relative obscurity of Columbus. Now with a Vezina Trophy under his belt and an upstart team in front of him, Bob needs to step up and continue his quality play for a full season. As with Neimi, his physical tools are incredibly impressive, but he needs to remain disciplined and maintain his positioning while keeping his movements under control. Bob could easily be next year’s big mover, up or down.
14. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars. Last year’s ranking: 14
- While the Stars are changing uniforms, GM’s and team identity, it’s up to the soon-to-be 30 year-old to provide some stability in the Lone Star State. He has quietly put up three solid seasons in Dallas, while generally limiting the injuries that threatened to derail his career in Atlanta. The talent has always been there, but he is starting to get that high level of consistency, while being able to stay out of the trainer’s room. If Dallas makes any noise this year, you can bet Lehtonen is a big reason why.
13. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks. Last year’s ranking: 13
- So, Bobby Lu is still in Vancouver. Who saw that one coming? After determining that Cory Schneider would net a better return, Luongo is back in the net for the ‘Nucks for the long haul. The book on Luongo is the same as it always has been: very solid goaltender who is prone to backbreaking, soft goals and a penchant for melting down in big games. His ability is undeniable, but I still have a hard time trusting him when you need a big performance.
12. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals. Last year’s ranking: 16
- It was a tough start to the year for the 23 year-old Saskatchewan native. He struggled acclimating to the starting job, but soon settled down and had a fantastic year. It took back-to-back Henrik Lundqvist shutouts to dispose of Holtby in the opening round of the playoffs, and having him in the division this year won’t be fun. He possesses elite level athletic ability and technical prowess, in addition to a stoic demeanor and a knack for big games. My money is on a Holtby appearance in the Top 10 next year.
11. Jonas Hiller- Anaheim Ducks. Last year’s ranking: 9.
- With the emergence of Viktor Fasth this season, Hiller’s workload was significantly reduced. He still had a terrific season and won’t turn 32 until around the Olympic break. He likely won’t be long for Anaheim, as he is entering the final season of his 4-year contract, with top prospect John Gibson waiting in the wings. When he is healthy and on his game, Hiller is a big-time difference maker, and could end up being a steal for a contender this off-season due to his sketchy injury history and bizarre playing style. Depending on how the Ducks fare this season, he could be an interesting story at the deadline.
This middle section is always the most difficult to rank. Many of these guys could be slotted in a few above or a few below where I have them ranked. Really a matter of personal preference. Nice to see a few new faces in this group, and there are a couple guys here who could set their aim on the Top 10 next season. Let me know your thoughts on the rankings in the comments below, and stay tuned for rankings 10-1, coming up soon.