InGoal 2017-18 Preview: Pacific Division
It’s another new NHL season – and for a number of teams across the league, there’s going to be a drastically new look in net.
With the expansion draft sending one well-known starter out west – and a number of other teams doing the goalie shuffle as a result of the addition of Vegas to the league – it’s a lot to keep up with.
InGoal has taken a deep dive into the in-net situations for all 31 (yes, there are now 31) teams around the league. From the starters to the minors, each and every franchise has been broken down into what you’ll see now, who’s coming up in the future, and what that means for the team.
All stats have been pulled from First Line Stats, unless something is otherwise noted. To make things a bit more even across the board, all stats will be at even strength only, to eliminate special teams biases and the subsequent noise they can bring to a player’s statistics.
To help out those new to advanced stats, we’ll be looking at even-strength save percentage (a goaltender’s raw save percentage during 5 vs 5 play), adjusted save percentage (his save percentage during 5 vs 5 play adjusted slightly to account for shot location), and high-danger save percentage (his save percentage for shots faced from the slot only).
Contract Status: $2.3M until 2019
Games Played (2016-17): 52
Save %: 93.50
Adjusted Save %: 93.3
High Danger Save %: 83.5
Gibson is entering into his second full season as starter for the Anaheim Ducks, and he’s still got plenty to prove. Injuries have plagued him since hitting the NHL full-time just a few seasons ago, and he has yet to shoulder a true starter’s workload (his most prolific season came last year, with just 52 games). He also struggled towards the end of Anaheim’s postseason, and his then-backup Jonathan Bernier was unable to compensate; for the Ducks, they’ll need better than that. Overall, though, his statistics have been solid, and he has one of the league’s most impressive defensive corps in front of him to help out. This year will be the test of whether or not he’s able to fine-tune the last few quirks in his game and become the ‘next big thing’ among young netminders – although Matt Murray taking over in Pittsburgh gives him some stiff competition.
Contract Status: $2M until 2019
Games Played (2016-17): 54
Save %: 92.60
Adjusted Save %: 92.7
High Danger Save %: 82.7
If something goes amiss for Gibson, the Ducks went ahead and brought on a highly-reliable insurance policy in Ryan Miller. He’s also struggled with injuries over the last few years, but his work with Rollie Melanson during his first few years in Vancouver helped his game evolve to fit his age and the current style of play around the league; as either a tandem starter or a backup, he’ll likely thrive. He’s likely in the twilight years of his career, but proved in Vancouver that he’s still quite good – and he should be a much better option in the postseason than Bernier, should it come to that. Add in the upgrade to his defense in Anaheim over what he had to work with in Vancouver, and this is a powerful tandem in Southern Cali.
Other options: Reto Berra made the surprising move to join the Ducks this summer after having already signed a deal overseas, suggesting that he very much wants to get another shot in North America before he calls it quits. He’s struggled with consistency over the last few years, but part of that can likely be attributed to playing for the despondent Colorado Avalanche for the majority of his poor seasons. If he gets in some quality work with goalie coach Sudarshan Maharaj, he could be a reliable call-up if the Ducks need him.
The team doesn’t have much to work with after that. Dustin Tokarski is coming off of a poor year with the San Diego Gulls, and not much is known at this point about Angus Redmond beyond his strong NCAA performance last year. Kevin Boyle has been promising, but likely still needs more time in the minors before he’ll be ready for a call-up.
Contract Status: $1M until 2018
Games Played (2016-17): 30
Save %: 93.30
Adjusted Save %: 93.4
High Danger Save %: 84.9
This is Antti Raanta’s year to shine. After promising backup stints with the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, he’s finally between the pipes with a true starting gig – and if all goes well, he could be one of the determining factors in an Arizona Coyotes Renaissance. It remains to be seen how consistent he’ll be behind a younger defense, but Corsica Hockey showed last season that the Rangers and Coyotes defensive corps had similarly porous pairings on the ice at times – so as long as he continues to maintain his strong game with Jon Elkin, it should be a solid year.
Contract Status: $1.05M until 2018
Games Played (2016-17): 31
Save %: 92.2
Adjusted Save %: 92.2
High Danger Save %: 85.5
Domingue, unlike Raanta, is looking for a turnaround year. He and Smith formed a sloppy at best – and overwhelmed at worst – tandem over the last two years, and he badly needs to prove that he’s better than his poorest stretches in the desert. The good news is that his late-season performance last year was rock solid, and his issues with start time seemed to be with Dave Tippett, who is now gone. The bad news is that he hasn’t had one ‘excellent’ year in the NHL yet, so he remains a largely unknown entity.
Other options: The Coyotes all but scrapped their goaltending depth chart a few years ago and started fresh, and it seems to be paying off. Brendan Burke is at the University of Alberta, and Mark Visentin is in Austria – but the team now has a pair of highly-promising prospects in Hunter Miska and Adin Hill. Hill has confidence and consistency issues, but remarkable raw talent and a willingness to fine-tune, while Miska brings a quiet confidence and just posted a shutout in his first preseason game with the AHL Roadrunners. Marek Langhamer is likely to man the posts in the ECHL, but all three are reliable options to call up when needed.
Contract Status: $4.25M until 2019 (some salary retained by ARI)
Games Played (2016-17): 55
Save %: 92.50
Adjusted Save %: 92.9
High Danger Save %: 83.4
At 35, it’s becoming harder and harder to consider the likelihood that Mike Smith is going to miraculously put up a second good season in the NHL similar to his 2011-12 run. For the Flames, though, hope springs eternal – and with just two years left on his current deal, they’re hoping to get at least a league-average starter from the mercurial veteran. Smith has been one of the league’s most polarizing starters over the last handful of years; he plays abnormally deep in his net, takes plenty of risks with playing the puck, and lacks much consistency in his overall stat line not just year-to-year, but game-to-game. If he can smooth things out behind a new defensive corps, though, he should be good enough to at least keep the Flames in the playoff hunt.
Contract Status: $1.375M until 2018 (some salary retained by CAR)
Games Played (2016-17): 20
Save %: 91.8
Adjusted Save %: 92.1
High Danger Save %: 81.7
Lack was excellent in Vancouver, taking over for stretches at a time without complaint before getting moved to the Carolina Hurricanes. His time there, though, couldn’t have been more different from his Canucks tenure; he put up poor numbers and missed most of last season with a head injury, although he seemed to thrive down the final stretch of the year. There’s an argument to be made that his struggles came with a suboptimal system for him in Carolina, but this year will be the true test of whether or not that’s really the case.
Other options: The Flames seem to have an almost-endless supply of ‘goalies of the future’ in their system, although Joni Ortio is the perfect cautionary tale of why teams shouldn’t get too attached to prospects. Still, there’s a lot to like about the fact that Tyler Parsons is going pro, and Jon Gillies is still incredibly exciting to consider. Add Mason McDonald to that list, and the Flames have at least three guys who could handle an NHL game or two, despite McDonald’s struggles in his first pro season – and Gillies could even shoulder a much larger load if needed, in theory.
Contract Status: $4.167M until 2019
Games Played (2016-17): 73
Save %: 92.8
Adjusted Save %: 92.9
High Danger Save %: 84.8
Talbot was far from the NHL’s statistically strongest goaltender last season, but to imply that sorely underestimates how valuable he was for the team in terms of workload. There’s a question of exactly how many seasons one goaltender can play as much as he did last year, but his style of play certainly suggests that he’s got a chance of making it happen again – and while Devan Dubnyk (another workload heavyweight) did fade in the playoffs last year, the hope is that Talbot has enough offense in front of him to make up for whatever fatigue he may suffer down the line.
Contract Status: $750k until 2018
Games Played (2016-17): 8
Save %: 93
Adjusted Save %: 93.2
High Danger Save %: 86.1
This is the year that Brossoit finally gets to show whether or not he’s ready for that backup role. The Oilers went ahead and left the number two spot open this summer, preventing him from dealing with yet another year of AHL starting duty and giving him the option to prove himself over the course of the year. The hope is that he’ll be good enough to take some of the pressure off of Talbot, but the starter has proven that he’s able to hold down the fort on his own if that isn’t the case; after all, the Oilers still made the playoffs last year, even with Jonas Gustavsson as their number two.
Other options: The Oilers are the latest team to attempt a renaissance year for former Jets prospect Eddie Pasquale, but there isn’t much confidence that he’s the answer if either Brossoit or Talbot need reinforcements. That leaves little in the way of recognizable names for the Oilers; Dylan Wells isn’t ready for the pros yet, and Shane Starrett is still unproven – although his elite performance for the Air Force Academy suggests that he could be a seriously promising option for the Oilers down the line to go with Wells. Nick Ellis was good in Bakersfield last year, but the situation remains; the Oilers could have much better goaltending depth, and they’d better pray that doesn’t come out to bite them.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Contract Status: $5.8M until 2023
Games Played (2016-17): 17
Save %: 92.7
Adjusted Save %: 93
High Danger Save %: 81.2
Although Quick has never put up much more than league-average numbers, the Kings truly showed how badly they’d neglected their goaltending depth when they lost him just one game into the season. His biggest strength is inarguably his ability to play in close to 90 percent of the team’s games when needed – and when they lost him for the entire year, they were ill-equipped to replace him in net. They’ve now missed the playoffs twice in three years since winning their second Stanley Cup, though, and Quick will need to put up one of his best seasons to date if they expect to turn things around. It will become a highly interesting storyline to see just how long Quick’s dynamic, agility-based style of play will work in his favor as he ages (although he’s certainly not a lock to be past his prime).
Contract Status: $650k until 2018
Games Played (2016-17): 18
Save %: 91
Adjusted Save %: 90.9
High Danger Save %: 82.4
He wasn’t ever the most reliable backup for the Minnesota Wild, but Kuemper is likely viewed as an upgrade over the poor performance Jeff Zatkoff (who will start the year with the AHL’s Ontario Reign) put up during Quick’s injury last year. As long as he’s able to put up the 10-20 games the Kings need from him next year (and Quick stays healthy), this could be a decent fit until the Kings get their depth under control.
Other options: Whatever qualms you have with his style of play, there’s no way to argue that Jack Campbell hasn’t turned his career around under Dusty Imoo on the Ontario Reign. Two seasons ago, the thought of him as the Kings number three would have been nerve-wracking; now, it actually seems like he could come in and take the backup gig from Kuemper if things play out right. After him, Zatkoff has more NHL experience – but if Cal Petersen has a strong start to the year, he could be a consideration for a call-up if the team really needs it. One thing is certain, though; after last year, the Kings made more than sure that they had enough depth to make it through a year, no matter what kind of injuries they have.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
Contract Status: $3M until 2018, $5.75M until 2024 (extension begins July 1, 2018)
Games Played (2016-17): 65
Save %: 91.7
Adjusted Save %: 91.8
High Danger Save %: 83.8
Jones has been exactly what the Sharks hoped for when they forked over a first round pick to the Boston Bruins for the former Kings backup back in 2015. He’s been reliable, efficient, and able to shoulder a heavy workload for a team that desperately needed to revamp their goaltending depth. Although his numbers aren’t the best across the league – they actually fall on the lower end of ‘good starters’ when it comes to even-strength statistics – his 60% Quality Start rate is one of the most reliable around. The question, obviously, remains how able he is to shoulder those heavy loads as the seasons progress, but his ability to hold the team in the chase over the last few years deserves accolades. Unless something goes very wrong, Jones should be one of the most reliable netminders in the West this season – although his quiet style means he may not get the credit for it that he deserves.
Contract Status: $625k until 2018
Games Played (2016-17): 20
Save %: 94.9
Adjusted Save %: 94.3
High Danger Save %: 86.3
The “World’s Okayest Goalie” has been an excellent success story, working his way from the lowest rungs of hockey up to the NHL with an excellent debut season as Jones’ backup. If he’s able to remain consistent, his performance from last year more than earned him the shot at getting a heavier workload this year, relieving some of the pressure on Jones and hopefully spreading things out a bit for San Jose – important if they hope to make it deep into the postseason this year.
Other options: The Sharks are currently sitting in their seemingly-never-ending cup window (if you can consider it a long window without ever winning it all), and their goaltending depth unfortunately shows that their focus has been elsewhere. Troy Grosenick is back as the team’s third goaltender – and likely AHL starter – but beyond him, there isn’t much in the way of high-excitement names in the system. Dell has made his way to the NHL full-time, leaving just the fallen Antoine Bibeau, who lost his spot as a promising prospect with the Toronto Maple Leafs this summer. Bibeau and Grosenick are both acceptable options, but neither inspires the kind of confidence that a team gets from seeing a true blue-chip prospect between the posts in the AHL. If San Jose needs one of them to play long-term, it could potentially be a problem.
Contract Status: $3.67M until 2020
Games Played (2016-17): 26
Save %: 91.9
Adjusted Save %: 92.2
High Danger Save %: 80.9
After struggling to break through the depth chart following his trade from Florida, Vancouver made damn sure that the asset they got for Roberto Luongo would get his shot in the NHL – and, luckily for them, it seems to have panned out. There’s no telling whether or not Markstrom truly has NHL starter calibre (he’s never played more than 32 NHL games in a single season), but he’s had an excellent mentor in Ryan Miller for the last two years. Hopefully, he’s learned enough from the veteran – who is off to Anaheim now – to shoulder the load as needed.
Contract Status: $2.5M until 2019
Games Played (2016-17): 26
Save %: 93.3
Adjusted Save %: 93.8
High Danger Save %: 88.6
Nilsson was a fallen prospect when he returned to the NHL in 2015, and his first year back certainly wasn’t anything to write home about. He had a resurgent sophomore comeback year in 2016-17, though, serving as a quality option for the Buffalo Sabres – and now, the Canucks hope that he can keep that level of play up while splitting the net with Markstrom. It’s a bit concerning that they lack both a starter and veteran presence in net, but it’s no more risky than what Arizona’s doing – and it could pay off more than the gamble Calgary is taking just 600 miles to the east.
Other options: It’s only a matter of time before Thatcher Demko makes his way to the NHL. He’s been considered Vancouver’s goaltender of the future since he was drafted, and it would be foolish to think that anyone would get a call-up before he does. Richard Bachman is an easy consideration, though, if the Canucks need someone quickly or Demko is injured. At this point, we know exactly what he is, and he’s unlikely to disappoint unless he ends up severely regressing over the course of the season.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Contract Status: $5.75M until 2019
Games Played (2016-17): 38
Save %: 91.7
Adjusted Save %: 91.4
High Danger Save %: 81.7
There’s little to say about Fleury that’s anything but good. After winning three cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team’s iconic starter was an incredible sport about getting moved to the league’s newest expansion club, where he’ll likely finish out his career behind a mash-up roster still finding its feet. He may have a worse year statistically than he has in the past, but his community involvement in Vegas and his relentless optimism will provide more than enough for the newly-formed franchise.
Contract Status: $1M until 2018
Games Played (2016-17): 50
Save %: 91.3
Adjusted Save %: 91.2
High Danger Save %: 77.5
Pickard was truly dealt the short end of the stick last season, forced to shoulder an immense load behind the league’s worst team (by a mile) with no support. His defense was a disaster, the Avalanche lost games he should have won, and their true starter, Semyon Varlamov, missed over half the season with hip injuries to leave the young Pickard all alone in net. Given how things went last year, it’s hard to imagine he has anywhere to go but up.
Other options: the Golden Knights have the league’s worst goaltending depth by a mile, boasting only Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk at the AHL level. Dylan Ferguson should be an excellent prospect down the road, but he’s got a while before he’ll hit the pros – so if Fleury or Pickard go down, things could get hairy. The good news, though, is that this team isn’t expected to win much, so this isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world.