Frozen Pool Forensics: Job-Stealing Goalies

by Cam Robinson on September 16, 2016

This week's Frozen Pool Forensics looks at goalies who could steal a starting gig. 

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Fitness testing, prospect tournaments, rookie camps, and exhibition games are right around the corner. This is the time of year for veterans to show their experience and for the bright-eyed, exuberant youth to push for jobs. There’s nothing like a naïve kid who doesn’t yet know the stress and angst that an NHL job comes with to make a seasoned pro sweat a little.

 

With that in mind, Frozen Pool Forensics will be looking at some candidates to steal some jobs this season, whether that be right out of camp or early on in the season.

 

First up, we’ll look at the most volatile of all positions: goaltender.

 

 

Connor Hellebuyck

 

We might as well pluck the lowest hanging fruit first. Let’s be frank, it’s clear to anyone with a decent set of peepers that Hellebuyck is the most talented goaltender in the Jets’ system. He’s dominated the NCAA, the AHL, and stepped into the Jets lineup at the end of last November when Ondrej Pavelec went down with an injury. Hellebuyck immediately showed poise, and produced strong numbers.

 

Here’s a look at his numbers through his first 14 games from November 20th until January 7th using Dobber’s Goalie Calculator:

 

Goalie Calculator

GP 14
Wins 9
GAA 1.85
SV%0.937

 

Small sample size yes, but man oh man, did he look like a future all-star. Not overly surprisingly, he ran out of gas a bit towards the end of his brief run as the Winnipeg starter, putting up a 2.99 goals against average and .893 save percentage through his last 12 starts, coming home with just four wins. Despite that minor Jekyll and Hyde act, Hellebuyck still posted the third-best even-strength save percentage (.939) among goaltenders who played at least 1000 minutes.

 

With Michael Hutchinson receiving a two-year extension and Pavelec somehow making 4.75 million this season, the writing is on the wall for Hellebuyck to once again begin his season in the AHL. Don’t fret though, as it won’t be long before an injury or poor results vault him back up to the big squad and once there, talent always trumps.

Hellebuyck is the goaltender of the future on an up and coming Jets squad, and that future is coming very quickly.

 

 

Eddie Lack

 

It’s hard not to like Eddie Lack. The Swedish puck-stopper is outgoing, fun, and clearly loves being at the rink. His fondness of tacos is also pretty sweet. The transition from Vancouver to Carolina didn’t go as smoothly as planned, and the surprising re-signing of Cam Ward this off season only further clouds the water for the 28-year-old.

 

NHL Stats – Last 3 Years

SEASON

GP

 Win

  L   

OTL 

SO

 GA

SHA

GAA

SV%

2015-2016

34

12

14  

6

2

90

910

2.81

0.901

2014-2015

41

18

13

4

2

95

1200

 2.45 

0.921

2013-2014

41

16

17

5

4

93

1052

 2.41

0.912

Average

39

15

15

5

3

93

1054

2.54

0.912

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After posting a .921 save percentage in 41 games for the Canucks in 2014-15, Lack struggled behind a poor Hurricanes squad that shockingly gave up just the fifth fewest shots against last season. His .901 save percentage is nothing to write home about, but he did have the ninth best save percentage on the penalty kill.

 

With an improving club in front of him, and a clear target on Ward’s back, all Lack needs to do his put up average numbers to steal the job, something he has proven capable of in the past.

 

 

Jacob Markstrom

 

There once was a solid run of time where Markstrom was considered the premier goaltending prospect in the world. He had size, the skill, the swagger, and looked like the Panthers’ guy to take their young core on some deep runs. As the perfect example of how difficult it is to project the men who man the crease, Markstrom struggled mightily during his first few forays in the NHL, eventually getting traded to Vancouver as part of the Roberto Luongo deal.

 

Since that time, he has cleaned up a ton of imperfections in his mechanics, making far less movements and using that 6’6 frame to cover large portions of the net. Quiet and efficient is his motto now. The 26-year-old proved capable of dominating the AHL in 2014-15 and looked very strong in a backup role with the Canucks last season, posting a .915 save percentage on a very weak team.

 

He recently signed an extension that runs until 2019-20 that all but solidifies him as the next Canuck starter and he shouldn’t have too hard a time taking that spot from the noticeably declining Ryan Miller, who is entering into the last year of his contract.

 

Contract Information

Year

Salary

Cap Hit

2015-2016

$1,600,000

$1,550,000

2016-2017

$1,600,000

$1,550,000

2017-2018

$3,400,000

$3,666,666

2018-2019

$3,600,000

$3,666,666

2019-2020

$4,000,000

$3,666,666

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Canucks are a team in transition, and not a very good one from most perspectives. Their attempt to rebuild while staying competitive is a likely recipe for sustained mediocrity. However, they seem committed to infusing youth into their lineup and the crease will be no different. Markstrom has the ability, and will now have the opportunity to receive half the starts right out of the gate. If he performs, the job could be his by Christmas.

 

Just remember though, one of the best goaltending prospects out there in Thatcher Demko is lurking in Utica this fall and is likely two years away from making a real push at the starting gig in Vancouver himself.

 

 

Calvin Pickard

 

Patrick Roy is gone and thus goes Semyon Varlamov’s biggest supporter. Roy loved to wheel Varlamov out there with pig-headed consistency, even if the Russian keeper was slowed by minor injuries, often leading to further ailments. When those Band-Aids finally forced him to the bench or press box, Pickard was given an opportunity to strut his stuff.

 

The former 2010 second round pick posted a very smooth .922 save percentage in 20 appearances a year ago and owns a career .927 mark. Granted he only has 36 games to his credit at the top level, but you still need to give credit where credit is due.

 

Oh, and he produced those numbers behind one of the worst possession teams in the league, so it wasn’t as if he was chugging along behind a Ken Hitchcock system or something.

 

NHL Stats – Last 2 Years

SEASON

GP 

Win 

OTL

 SO

 GA

 SHA 

GAA

 SV%

2015-2016

20

7

6  

1

1

42

539

2.56

0.922

2014-2015

16

6

7   

3

1

35

511

2.35

0.932

Average

18

7

7

2

1

39

525

2.46

0.927

 

 

 

 

 

 

Varlamov isn’t exactly trending in the right direction, as his last three seasons have produced sliding results – .927/.921/.914 and with a new coach at the helm, Pickard could force his way into a timeshare situation or even further. Colorado has aspirations of returning to the playoffs this spring, and there should be no allegiances to a goaltender who isn’t producing results, despite the difference in paycheques.

 

 

Thomas Greiss

 

Here’s something that you may not have known until last season: Thomas Greiss is a pretty darn good goaltender. He finally shirked the notion that he was simply a capable yet limited back-up goalie by starting 41 contests in 2015-16 and posting 23 wins and a .925 save percentage. His .933 even-strength save percentage was sixth best in the league for goaltenders playing 1500+ minutes, and his High Danger save percentage of .852 was good for fourth best. All that adds up to a quality goaltender producing important saves.

 

NHL Stats – Last 5 Years

SEASON  

GP

 Win 

L

 OTL 

SO

 GA

SHA

 GAA

 SV%

2015-2016

 41

 23

11

  4

1

90

1197

 2.36

0.925

2014-2015  

20   

9

6

  3

0

50

546

2.59

0.908

2013-2014

25

10

8

  5

2

50

626

2.29

0.920

2012-2013   

6

1

4

  0

1

13

153

2.53

0.915

2011-2012

19

9

7

  1

0

40

472

2.30

0.915

Average

22

10

7

  3

1

49

599

2.39

0.919

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure he doesn’t make 4.5 million bucks like Jaroslav Halak – Greiss’s 1.5-million-dollar cap hit is oh-so-sweet for Isles – but he started all 11 games during the Islanders playoff run last spring, and posted a very solid .923 save percentage as New York (or Brooklyn…?) got past the first round for the first time in 21 years. He still has a bit of a hill to climb, however, as Halak was named Team Europe's WCOH starter after Greiss was shelled for four goals on eight shots in pre-tourney action.

 

 

Stats Courtesy of:

Dobber’s Frozen Pool

Corsica Hockey

 

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Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I often give unsolicited fantasy advice that I’m sure at least someone is listening to.