Carey Rie looking down ice close up

Joseph Woll didn’t hesitate when asked if he could pinpoint a reason there are so many American goalies near the top of the NHL with a month left in this season.

Among goalies with 18 starts, six of the top nine in save percentage are from the United States, a list that includes (in order) Anthony Stolarz, Connor Hellebuyck, Jeremy Swayman, Thatcher Demko, Joey Daccord and Jonathan Quick. Look further down the list, and American goalies occupy eight of the top 18 spots.

“USA hockey has put a lot of resources into goalie development these past 10-20 years,” said Joseph Woll, who is 18th in the NHL with a .911 save percentage but has a +2.0 adjusted save percentage that ranks fifth, according to Clear Sight Analytics. “The US [National Team Development Program] is one big reason, and I think college hockey has also provided a good pathway for goalies to develop.”

Alex Nedeljkovic, who has dropped from 19th to 35th as the Pittsburgh Penguins struggle after trading away top players at the NHL Trade Deadline, agrees.

“I think a big part as why you’re seeing more and more upcoming American goalies and even players in general is the work that the US NTDP does,” said Nedeljkovic, who was born in Parma, Ohio and played with the NTDP team in 2013-14. “It’s a great program that develops kids and moves them to the next level, whether it’s NCAA or juniors, ready to compete at high levels.”

For those not already familiar with the program, the USA Hockey NTDP operates an under-17 team that plays junior hockey in the United States Hockey League (USHL) as well as in three international events annually, and an under-18 team that competes against NCAA teams as well as USHL teams and three international tournaments each year. But the work being done by USA Hockey to develop more — and better — goalies isn’t limited to that program and those two teams.

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