This guest article is from Larry Sadler, the Director of Smartgoalie.com.


Washington Goalie Braden Holtby Splits

Author Larry Sadler argues that the number of Canadian goaltenders in the NHL, like recent playoff phenom Braden Holtby seen here, actually exceeds the expected number, based on the number of registered players in Canada. Scott Slingsby photo

The intent of Jeff Hall’s recent article here at InGoal comparing Canadian and American goaltenders was admirable: to take a look at the list of NHL goalies and to see which country had bragging rights when it comes to goaltending.

In Jeff’s article he uses the word depth to describe the US goaltender situation. Depth is an interesting word. He, in his article, implies that it relates to talent, or skill. In fact, it means more than that. In my opinion, it also relates to the quality of numbers. In fact, I feel it would be best to look at depth in terms of fulfilled potential when we examine the condition of goaltending development in the US and Canada.

I took a quick look at the stats for NHL goaltenders  in the 2011-2012 regular season and have come up with the following tables. When we look at the numbers of goaltenders and their country of origin we find one set of figures. By themselves these numbers reveal just a small fragment of the facts. To better appreciate the true definition of depth we have to consider potential – fulfilled potential, in fact. Take a look at the tables below. They don’t just show the numbers of NHL goalies and where they “hail from” – they also show the IIHF registration figures for each of these countries and what percentage of the IIHF total each country makes up. To me the sign of true depth is whether the country is living up to its percentage of IIHF membership. In other words, does the percentage of NHL members reflect that country’s level of overall participation?

When we look at the number of total NHL goaltenders this season and then look at their country of origin we see the following:

CountryGoalies% of NHLRegistered males% of total Reg IIHF# of males U20% of U20 IIHF
89 1,549,984 1,034,747
Can4247.19% 572,411 36.93% 468,096 45.24%
USA1719.10% 500,579 32.30% 302,104 29.20%
Fin88.99% 65,251 4.21% 35,167 3.40%
Swe910.11% 62,003 4.00% 41,053 3.97%
Rus66.74% 63,580 4.10% 61,000 5.90%
Slovak22.25% 8,280 0.53% 5,896 0.57%
Kaz11.12% 3,929 0.25% 3,369 0.33%
Swi11.12% 26,166 1.69% 13,775 1.33%
Czech33.37% 100,668 6.49% 22,828 2.21%

This shows us that Canada makes up 47.19% of goaltenders having played in the NHL this past season. When we look at its registration numbers we also see Canada has 36.93% of total IIHF membership and 45.24% of U20 registered players. So even though this number has declined in the past 10 years, Canada still makes up a higher percentage of NHL goalies than one would expect considering our percentage of membership in the IIHF.

Finland makes up 8.99% of NHL goalie totals and this is well above their IIHF & U20 numbers with their percentages almost double and triple the expected, respectively.

Sweden is even stronger with more than twice their registration numbers and more than three times their U20 numbers.

The US makes up just 19.10% of NHL goalies. This percentage has only improved slightly over the past 10 years, despite their high number of registered participants. Their NHL participation levels are below their percentage of IIHF membership numbers and U20 numbers. Their registration numbers are 87% of the Canadian registration numbers but their NHL numbers are just 40% of the Canadian numbers.

Let’s look at those goaltenders that have played 20 or more games:

CountryTt20 + GP l% of NHL TtlRegistered Ttl% Reg IIHFU20 Ttl% of U20 IIHF
49 1,549,984 1,034,747
Can2040.82% 572,411 36.93% 468,096 45.24%
USA816.33% 500,579 32.30% 302,104 29.20%
Fin612.24% 65,251 4.21% 35,167 3.40%
Swe48.16% 62,003 4.00% 41,053 3.97%
Rus510.20% 63,580 4.10% 61,000 5.90%
Slovak12.04% 8,280 0.53% 5,896 0.57%
Kaz12.04% 3,929 0.25% 3,369 0.33%
Swi12.04% 26,166 1.69% 13,775 1.33%
Czech36.12% 100,668 6.49% 22,828 2.21%

This chart shows us that Canada makes up 47.19% of NHL goaltenders having played 20 or more games.

The US now makes up just 16.33% of NHL goalies. Again, this is below their percentage of IIHF membership numbers and U20 numbers.

Finland and Sweden continue to be strong.

Finally, we should look at those who have played 40 or more NHL games:

Country40 + GP Ttl% of NHL TtlRegistered Ttl% Reg IIHFU20 Ttl% of U20 IIHF
32 1,549,984 1,034,747
Can1224.49% 572,411 36.93% 468,096 45.24%
USA510.20% 500,579 32.30% 302,104 29.20%
Fin510.20% 65,251 4.21% 35,167 3.40%
Swe24.08% 62,003 4.00% 41,053 3.97%
Rus36.12% 63,580 4.10% 61,000 5.90%
Slovak12.04% 8,280 0.53% 5,896 0.57%
Kaz12.04% 3,929 0.25% 3,369 0.33%
Swi12.04% 26,166 1.69% 13,775 1.33%
Czech24.08% 100,668 6.49% 22,828 2.21%

Canada makes up 24.49% of NHL goaltenders having played 40 or more games. The US makes up just 10.20% of NHL goalies, tied with Finland who has 13% of the US registration numbers.

In conclusion, we see that the US actually lacks depth, or at least is not developing as many top NHL goaltenders as one would expect based on their level of participation in the game. We see a large number of registered players in the US but their NHL numbers do not measure up. The US goaltending figures show they have unfulfilled potential.

The question that should be asked here is why there aren’t more US goaltenders playing when you consider their registration numbers.


Smart Goalie LogoLarry Sadler is the Director of Smartgoalie.com.

For further information on goaltending instruction please contact Larry at lsadler@smartgoalie.com.

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14 Responses to The USA and Canadian Goalies in the NHL – a closer look at the numbers

  1. Dan says:

    the other article was arguing that the US top 5 is superior to other countries

    • larry sadler says:

      Well Dan I could only surmise form what Jeff wrote actually Jeff was implying that the US has depth now because at one time, as he wrote:
      We (the US) had no depth.

  2. Paul Ipolito says:

    I’m not convinced on the science behind the statistics presented in this article.There has to be some consideration of the difference in the size of the sample population. I don’t think Mr.Sadler’s analysis would survive a rigorous statistical analysis. I’d be interested to hear from the many statistician/goalies I know are out there :)

    • Well Paul, I’m no expert but does a minor in grad school count? At the end of the day you have to accept that different things will be measured depending on what data you choose to look at…you’re right, it would be interesting to look at the size of the population, rather than the number of registered players…but then we’d be also asking the question – how effective is the national system at recruiting people to participate in the sport – rather than converting those who do play, into NHL goaltenders, which Mr. Sadler is trying to examine. It’s impossible to get it down perfectly – do the IIHF numbers even tell us how many people play the game in a given country? – maybe one country registers more players for some reason (I was involved in another sport notorious for not reporting athletes to the provincial organization to avoid registration fees…). Then a country whose top players are goaltenders (Finland?) might be seeing more of their top athletes wanting to play goal because kids want to follow their heroes…and finally, some countries athletes will not have as easy a route to the NHL….consider the number of teams apparently shying away from drafting Russians for fear they will be recruited by the KHL.

      So no argument will be perfect, but Mr. Sadler’s article is very interesting nonetheless….I think deciding that your development is successful or not based on the top two or three athletes can be a dangerous thing….and this article makes that point quite persuasively.

      • larry sadler says:

        Paul
        my intend was not to do an intense statistical assessment I was comparing the large number of registered players in the US. The IIHF keeps track of these as each member country is required to submit their reg numbers. As I said the US reg number is 87% of the Canadian reg numbers and yet the percentage of US born goalies in the NHL is far less than it should be

  3. Jason D. Power says:

    Considering in the US the sport exploaded in terms of growth within the last 10-15 years, one could argue it would be incredibly difficult for states like South Carolina and Florida to contribute in terms NHL potential from a development standpoint.

    Id wager my mortgage if you broke the numbers down further and took the big five states; Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Michigan, And Mass which combine for roughly 225,000 players out of the 500,000 registered with USA Hockey alone…that NHL number comes back into perspective.

    The game is still “Young” in states outside of those for the most part as a whole. And the fact that many top tier players end up moving to play in those states with established high end programs helps the argument as well.

    The better article that needs to be written in terms of developing NHLers is compare this year to ten and twenty years ago…show me the numbers then. US and Finland would have skyrocketing results.

    Another point to argue on behalf of the US is I would bet again 90% of our top end goalies go the NCAA route as opposed to the Major Junior route like Canada or Pro Leagues in Europe. When kids play JRs here in the States wether it be USHL or NAHL…the focus is college placement. Three years in school can change a young man’s focus.
    Also With an increase over the last five years for drafting out of those two leagues and HS programs, the number from a US standpoint is only going to increase in the next few years.

    Of course, it would also help if Brodeur would just retire! College guys like McKenna, Clemmonson, Frazee, Kinkaid, Caruso, and Parise could all have helped boosted the US Goalies in the NhL stat over the past five years!

  4. Paul Ipolito says:

    Great discussion points. I certainly respect the time and effort Mr.Sadler applies to these pages.I was confused mostly by the introduction of the IIHF numbers.We are registered with USA Hockey and I’m not sure if there is any sharing of registration numbers.

    I would like to point out to Mr. Power that this past season saw the first time two NCAA Division I goalies from California faced each other. Air Force vs. Rochester Institute of Technology.Fun fact!

    As always, I appreciate the wide range of interesting articles provided here.

    • larry sadler says:

      Paul
      US hockey like Hockey Canada are members of the IIHF and are required to submit their reg numbers.
      as for the California appearance at the NCAA championships congratulations improvements are happening
      in womens hockey NCAA it is interesting to see the large number of European goalies now being recruited

      • Paul Ipolito says:

        Larry- Thank you for the information. As you reveal, the numbers are interesting and the most important thing is that goalies all over the world continue to develop, thrive, and change the game. It’s all good.

  5. Jason Power says:

    Hey, California is quickly becomming a hockey hotbed!!!

    I have a feeling in the next few years all those Gretzky babies (89-95 birth years) are going to come out in full force!

  6. Dsm says:

    When you talk about “the US,” you’re talking about maybe five or six states. Plus, we know that certain countries like Finland put enormous emphasis on training young goaltenders for success. I wonder rhetorically if the US does more than accidentally produce a few.

  7. Danny Miller says:

    I understand that this article clearly points out that there’s a LOT of canadian goaltenders in the NHL. There always will be. I think that’s obvious. But the original article and subsequent arguments and articles were based on which country had the greatest talent in the NHL currently. If anything this article re-interates how good the US and Finnish goalies are right now. There are 17 American goalies in the league and 5-6 of them are very good or dominant thats roughly a 1/3 of the total. How many of the 42 canadian goalies are as skilled? 5-6 as well. Quality or quantity?

  8. BeninLondon says:

    This was another great and interesting article filled with lots of information. Another issue that has yet to be brought up or talked about in either article or comments (i might have missed it in comments) is to take a look at where goalies are being ‘developed’. By this I mean the number of goalies who were born in one country but moved to another to play major junior or college hockey. There are a number of foreign born goalies that came up through the CHL ranks as well as goalies who went to play in the US college system, or in a European Elite league as an underager.
    The can of worms that this opens is looking at where the goalie ‘developed’, did they develop in their native country or was the coaching they received in the formative pre-draft years what made them elite and pushed them to the next level. There is no easy answer or way to look at this since every stage a goalie goes through forms them but I am open to ideas of how to interpret this.

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