We looked at the top forwards in the Metropolitan Division. We looked at the top defenders. Now it is time to look at the top goalies.
While the Penguins had players rate fairly high in the other two categories, this one is a bit more concerning even though there are a lot of other question marks around the division.
- Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders. When he is healthy he is capable of being an upper-tier goalie in the NHL, and he has been mostly healthy since joining the Islanders. He has helped give them an elite duo along with Ilya Sorokin, who we will get to in a minute here. Goaltending is a driving force behind the Islanders’ success, and Varlamov has been great on Long Island.
- Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers. Small sample size of games, of course, but the Rangers have a great replacement for Henrik Lundqvist as their next franchise goalie. The Rangers are loaded with young talent and have potential all-stars at forward, defense, and in goal. He has only played 47 NHL games, but a .922 save percentage in that time behind a rebuilding team is an impressive start. Big things are ahead for him.
- Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders. Speaking of big things being ahead, the Islanders have their own future star in goal and it is simply going to be a matter of when, and not if, he takes over the bulk of the playing time. The Islanders have a legitimate No. 1 goalie to play every single game with him and Varlamov in their net. It makes them a fierce team to compete with.
- Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets. Like Shesterkin and Sorokin we are dealing with a small sample size here, but Merzlikins has been great so far in the NHL. The Blue Jackets rolled the dice recently with a long-term contract for him. If they are going to be even remotely competitive this season he is going to have to be magnificent. He has flashed some of that potential so far.
- Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils. His 2020-21 season was a disappointment, but he was not healthy for much of it. His first two years were very promising and he is clearly one of the Devils’ cornerstone players to build around. Another ranking based on potential here.
- Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers. Probably the biggest wild card in the division. His first two years? Really good. This past year? Unspeakably awful. Defense was a big problem, and the Flyers worked to fix that this offseason with the Ryan Ellis trade (and then undid it with the Rasmus Ristolainen trade) so we will see what difference that makes. I think Hart is closer to the goalie we saw the first two years than the goalie we saw this past season.
- Jonathan Bernier, New Jersey Devils. Solid veteran that put in some big minutes the past couple of years playing behind a dreadful Detroit Red Wings team. Difficult to do much better than this for a backup.
- Antti Raanta, Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are taking a big gamble this season by totally revamping their goaltending position bringing in two new faces. A couple of years ago Raanta would have been near the top of this list. But injuries have really slowed him down the past few years and that leaves some questions as to how good he can still be. Another wild card.
- Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes. Like Raanta, he would have been higher on this list a couple of years ago. But he has slowed down the past two seasons. He might not be totally washed up, but I am not sure he will get back to the level he was at his peak. There are a lot of miles on those tires right now.
- Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals. It seems like Samsonov could either quickly rocket up these rankings or slide down them this season. He has enormous potential but he has not really excelled yet at the NHL level. This seems like a big season for him.
- Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins. Speaking of young goalies facing big seasons. Here we go. Outside of that one stretch in the first half of the 2019-20 season Jarry’s career has been mostly, for lack of a better word, “meh.” He has potential, he showed flashes of being a capable NHL goalie, but he has also had stretches where he has looked out of place. He is highly regarded for his puck handling but the more I see him play the more I think it is a liability than anything else. A make or break season for him when it comes to being the Penguins’ goalie of the future, while his performance might make or break the Penguins’ season.
- Alexandar Georgiev, New York Rangers. I feel like this might be underselling him a bit. But Shesterkin is clearly the guy in New York and Georgiev will never be more than a backup as long as he plays there. A very good backup. But a backup.
- Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh Penguins. I think he is probably a run-of-the-mill backup that could start for an extended stretch if you needed him to fill in. Expecting anything more than that is probably expecting too much.
- Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals. He ended up playing more than the Capitals expected him to play a year ago (because they probably never expected him to play with Samsonov and Henrik Lundqvist under contract in the offseason) but he ended up getting the bulk of the playing time. He did okay given the expectations, but the Capitals need Samsonov to be the guy here.
- Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets. He has had a sub-.900 save percentage in three of the past four seasons.
- Martin Jones, Philadelphia Flyers. Jones has probably been the league’s least productive goalie over the past three seasons. Not exactly a great safety net or plan B when your starting goalie is a total wild card. The Flyers better hope Hart is legit this season.