Tag Archives: Matt Murray

Don’t Be So “Antti” Niemi…Yet

This offseason, the Penguins signed a Stanley Cup winning goaltender in Antti Niemi for $700,000 after being bought out by the Dallas Stars.  Although the Penguins are high on goaltending prospect Tristan Jarry, they wanted him to have another year of developing in Wilkes-Barre before calling him up to the NHL to backup Matt Murray.  Thus, Jim Rutherford needed to find a veteran backup for at least 1 year to backup Murray while waiting for Jarry to develop, and so he decided to take a risk on Niemi.

Well, so far, not so good.

In 2 games, Niemi is 0-2 with a 7.94 GAA and a .809 save percentage.  He was pulled in his first start after giving up 4 goals in the first period against the Blackhawks, which turned into that ugly 10-1 loss early in the season.  He played decent in his 2nd start, but still surrendered 5 goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road in a 5-4 loss.

Most Penguins fans were all over Antti Niemi after his poor performance in Chicago, and even more-so after his loss against the Lightning.  Well, criticize him all you want, but I am here to tell you to not be so “Antti” Niemi…at least not yet.

First of all, let me be clear: I do not believe that Niemi is some world class/God-send goaltender.  He is a backup at this point in his career.  That said, I think we all need to breathe and give this guy a chance.  Hear me out…

Niemi has started 2 games this year, and both of those games were the 2nd of a set of back to back games.  Although these games are not impossible to win, guys are more fatigued and more tired than they usually would be because of the game the night before.  Of course, NHL players are in great shape, but I’m sure that none of them like playing in the 2nd of a back to back scenario, especially when having to travel the night before.

Speaking of traveling, both of these games were on the road.  Rarely will a teams’ road record be as good as their home record, and playing in these road games in a back to back scenario makes it all the more difficult.

Oh, and I should probably mention that the opponents the Penguins played were both among the favorites to come out of the East and West this year in Tampa Bay and Chicago.  And, let’s be honest, the game in Chicago was…well…rough to say the least.  Even Murray, who has been spectacular since the Chicago blowout, surrendered 6 goals in that game.

So what, should we be calling for a Matt Murray trade, too?  Of course not.

Fortunately, over the past 2 years, the Penguins were blessed with having two #1 goaltenders in Marc-Andre Fleury and Murray.  If one of them went down, we knew that the other could be great.  Or, in the situation of back to back games, the Penguins always had a chance since both Murray and Fleury had a chance to steal a game even if the Penguins didn’t have their “A” game.

Admit it, we’ve been spoiled.

Niemi will never be Fleury in any way.  Period.  And even though you may know this in your mind, I know your unconscious mind wanted to see Niemi go 13-6-1 with a 2.50 GAA and .920 save percentage this season.  Well it’s time to enter reality: Niemi just is not that guy.

Niemi does have the pedigree and the potential, but keep your expectations at more of a Jeff Zatkoff level.  Niemi is a backup.  That’s it.  Of course he is going to win a couple of games here and there, and hopefully he can end the season with a winning record, but he won’t be anything spectacular.  Can he potentially steal a game here and there?  Sure.  He does have his name etched on the Stanley Cup after all.  The guy knows how to win. That said, he’s not a number 1 goaltender any more.

So say the Penguins were to theoretically dump Antti Niemi…who is even available for the Penguins to sign to replace him?  Your answer: nobody better than Niemi, especially given that Niemi is only making $700,000.

So yeah, Niemi hasn’t been spectacular thus far.  But it has only been 2 games, both on the road, both against very good opponents, and probably 2 of the poorest defensive games that the Penguins have played so far this year.  He is a veteran presence that, despite seeing his stats decline over the past couple of seasons, has the potential playing behind one of the best teams in the NHL.

Will Niemi be the Penguins’ backup by seasons end?  Maybe, maybe not, but I would give him at least a couple more games before drawing any conclusions, so don’t be so “Antti” Niemi…yet.

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Fleury Left Bigger Void Than Most Thought

Marc-Andre Fleury and his Golden Knights are the first expansion team in ANY of the 4 big sports leagues to start off their inaugural season 3-0 since the San Diego Padres did in 1969. A big part of the reason why they are 3-0 and not 0-3 is Fleury’s stellar play.

It was a big deal for the Penguins’ Organization and their fan-base when Fleury was inevitably taken by his current team in the expansion draft. Fleury no longer fit in Pittsburgh, but I don’t think many realized how big of a deal his departure really was until this week.

The thing that makes Fleury so good is how he can single-handedly win games for a team. He can bail his team out by holding off the opposing team long enough for them to get their act together and score, something that he did for the Penguins quite a lot last year.

When Matt Murray was out due to injury or simply taking a day off, Fluery could come in and be the best back up in the game. He could play as well or better than most teams starting goalie. That tandem was easily one of the best goalie pairs in the league and certainly played a huge part in the Penguin’s Back-to-Back Cups.

But now he’s gone. And in his place, the Penguins signed Antti Niemi, a goalie who won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in his sophomore year, but has been getting increasingly worse each year.

Last year, he had his worst season yet with an .892 save percentage, contributing to the Dallas Stars’ atrocious goalie situation. In the off-season, he joined the island of misfit toys on a cheap, $700,000 one-year deal, to prove he can bounce back and be a good NHL goaltender.

That hasn’t been going so well from him. You only get once chance at a first impression, and boy does Niemi wish that wasn’t true.

On October 5th, he started his first game as a Penguin in Chicago, 10 minutes and 4 goals later he was pulled in favor of Murray, who allowed another 6 goals over the course of the game.

The whole Penguin team didn’t play well, but Niemi certainly wasn’t there to bail them out.

Now, we obviously didn’t expect him to play up to Fleury’s standards, and Niemi could still step up and prove to be a solid backup goaltender throughout the season. But it really shows how much the Penguins really rely on their goaltenders to keep them in games, something they got in the habit of when they had 2 above average goaltenders, something they need to snap out of real quick. I don’t miss the Murray vs Fleury debate, but Niemi’s first game as a Penguins certainly does make me miss Fleury that much more.

COLUMN: This Season Feels Different

Somehow, we are less than a month away from the puck being dropped on the 2017-18′ season. I guess that’s what happens when you go to the Stanley Cup Finals and don’t spend two extra months watching other teams play like another Pennsylvania team does.

Every season has its headlines and it’s new waves of prospects being ready to embark upon their NHL rosters. Players depart from teams and head to greener pastures when their contracts expire. Some chase the shiny silver heavy trophy-like specimen that many call “The Stanley Cup”.

For the Penguins, the beginning of the 2015-16′ season felt like a new era. The Penguins had acquired Phil Kessel on July 1st in a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Penguins fans spent the better parts of July, August, and September painfully awaiting the chance to see number 81 fly around the ice in a Penguins sweater. They spent the early part of the season spiraling and it seemed by mid-December they were out of it. Mike Sullivan was hired and the rest is history. The WBS guys began filling roster spots. Fun, exciting, rejuvenating times for hockey in Pittsburgh.

Last season began with no doubts. The Penguins and fans felt invincible. With practically the same roster and one of the best coaches in the league currently, it seemed the Penguins were easily going to breeze through the league and repeat. Then Kris Letang had neck surgery and missed the rest of the season. There was goalie controversy. The Washington Capitals were the league’s best team. It seemed nothing could go the Penguins way…until it did. The Penguins repeated.

So bring on 2017-18′.

They’ve got Matt Murray as their new permanent starter. They’ve got Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese just a call away. They made some adjustments to a roster that couldn’t possibly maintain this playing style for a third straight potential run at a Stanley Cup. Letang is back and cleared to participate in hockey again. They don’t even have a third-line center. And, yet, this still feels like the first time…even though it doesn’t.

I sit here and think about how it’s even fathomable to think that Matt Hunwick, Ryan Reaves, and Antti Niemi are supposed to replace guys like Marc-Andre Fleury, Trevor Daley, Chris Kunitz and Nick Bonino. Then I counter that with the fact that Letang, one of the biggest reasons the Penguins won the Cup the first time around, is back and refreshed and ready to anchor the Penguins’ defense even after they won the Cup without him last season.

I sit and think how Fleury, a Pittsburgh idol for years, has transitioned into life on the West Coast with the Vegas Golden Knights. Then I counter that with how Murray might be just that much better, even without the shining-bright personality. He’ll let his play speak and not his smile.

I ponder how the Penguins are going to get by without a legitimate third line center to start the season. Then I remember that Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby played some of the best hockey we’ve ever seen from them simultaneously over the past two seasons and instantly forget the third line center “problem”.

Let’s face it. There aren’t many holes with this team. Yes, the third line center issue might worry you. But, when has Jim Rutherford ever given you reason to doubt that he will fill that void?

The Penguins can get by early in the year with a rotation of their bottom two centers, whomever they choose to fill such roles. The market is too high right now to buy. The Penguins will hold a playoff spot all year. They can buy when teams are really trying to unload players mid-season and at the trade deadline.

There is a reason this season feels a bit different. In recent years, you couldn’t say that you guaranteed the Penguins would make the Finals, let alone win them. I still don’t think that’s the case. The roster does look a bit weaker.

Just remember, Sullivan has yet to lose a playoff series. He’s a smart coach who knows how to use his players. If you don’t produce, you don’t play. He’ll find a role player that does exactly what he wants.

The biggest reason this season feels different, though, is because of the business-like approach they’re going to have.

There are some players on this current team who have things to prove. That’s usually when the best comes out of them.

Carl Hagelin had one of the more disappointing seasons on the team last year. He scored the Cup clinching goal, but it was only one of two points he scored in the entire playoffs.

Conor Sheary, a 20-goal scorer last season, signed a three-year extension with the team at $3 million per year. Many people scrutinized this move as he’s been benched at some point in the playoffs the past two seasons.

Brian Dumoulin, also signed to a long-term extension this offseason, wants to prove that he isn’t just good when Letang is his defense partner and that he’s worth the money he’ll be getting paid.

Justin Schultz, the final long-term contract signee, wants to show he wasn’t a one-hit wonder and has truthfully resurrected what Edmonton almost ruined.

Derrick Pouliot, a former first round draft choice, has yet to put together a solid resume in the NHL. He plays fantastic in the AHL and looks like a dumpster fire when given NHL minutes.

Reaves, a perceived tough-guy, wants to disprove that notion and show that he was worth the first round pick and Oskar Sundqvist that was given to St. Louis in exchange for his services.

Murray wants to prove that he can handle a season’s worth of workload. Many have said that his success is only because he’s kept fresh for when it really counts.

Crosby and Malkin want to assure their legacy and prove they’re the best duo in the modern-day NHL.

The list could go on and on.

When there is competition or a chance to prove yourself to people, it usually brings out the best in that individual or team. I don’t think there is a scary team in the Eastern Conference than Pittsburgh. The Western Conference always has a few teams.

You may say there isn’t much left to prove when you’ve won two straight championships and the target is on your back. Ask these Penguins if there isn’t something to prove.

Incase you are unaware, the Flyers will no longer have a team on the Stanley Cup if they don’t win this upcoming season as a new ring will need to be placed on the Cup following the year. There would be no better way to knock the Flyers off of the Stanley Cup than to put the Pittsburgh Penguins’ name on there for a third straight time.

Damn, it’s been a long time since 1975.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roster Preview: Goalies

The last installment of this series is on the goalies that will play for WBS. With Antti Niemi being signed by the NHL team, Tristan Jarry will get to start the lion’s share of games down in WBS. He is not, however, the only good goalie down there.

Tristan Jarry, AHL Experience : 2 Years

Tristan Jarry

Rebounding from a disappointing year in 2015/2016, Jarry put up a sparkling .925% save percentage and a 2.15 GAA as part of the Harry Holmes Memorial Award winning goaltending partnership in WBS. This elevated Jarry into getting one start in the final NHL game of the year and leading some fans to question whether or not Jarry should be given the backup role in the NHL as soon as this coming season. However, the Penguins organization understood the importance in development of goaltenders needing as many games as possible and signed veteran backup Antti Niemi to allow Jarry to remain in WBS. A goalie who is best described as a mix between Matt Murray‘s solid positional play and calm demeanor and Marc-Andre Fleury‘s penchant for acrobatic nonsense, expect Jarry to put together another great season in WBS taking the majority of the starts. What may affect this would be if Niemi falters in the NHL. Jarry would likely be brought up to back up Murray. If he remains in the AHL, another sub 2.2 GAA and .925% save percentage season are the expectations for Jarry.
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Casey Desmith, AHL Experience : 2 Years

DeSmith.jpg

Casey DeSmith first made an impression for the WBS Penguins during the 2015/2016 season, where he signed on loan from Wheeling after Jarry was called into action in the NHL. DeSmith put together a strong regular season and started the majority of the playoffs for the Baby Penguins, earning an AHL contract for the next season. In the 2016/2017 season, DeSmith actually had slightly better stats than Jarry, managing 2.01 GAA and .926% save percentage, doing more than his fair share to earn the Harry Holmes Memorial Award. DeSmith recently signed a 2 year ELC with the Penguins and looks to split some of the starts with Jarry again having started all of the playoff games in WBS’ short playoff run this year with Jarry again serving as the backup in Pittsburgh.

If Jarry ends up in the NHL again, DeSmith has shown the ability to take on the starters workload in WBS and would assume that role. Failing that, expect a similar distribution to this year with DeSmith getting 30 or so games and putting up very similar statistics to Jarry.

Sean Maguire, AHL Experience: Rookie

Sean Maguire

Having spent all of 2016/2017 in Wheeling, Sean Maguire did manage the odd game as a backup in WBS, but never actually took the ice. The Penguins organization will be looking for Maguire to take a step forward after a bad year in Wheeling where he couldn’t even top a .900% save percentage. While playing goalie in the ECHL is no easy feat, those statistics will not gave the Penguins optimism he will be a successful professional goalie.

All is not lost for Maguire, however, as if Jarry does end up becoming a part of the NHL Penguins through injury, Maguire becomes the backup to DeSmith as the Penguins 5th and final goaltender under contract. Maguire will hope that a deep D corps in WBS will push more talent down to Wheeling and that he will be able to play better. If Maguire does make it up to the AHL, expect very limited time and stats from him.

Penguins Fantasy Hockey Predictions

Around this time of year, most people are focused on their upcoming fantasy football drafts and not too much so with hockey. I am here to help.

Instead of previewing the entire league, I will be noting some Penguins who I believe should be on your roster regardless of your league size. I will also be noting a few players who could deserve a look in bigger and more deep leagues.

The Inevitable…

Sidney Crosby, C

Whether he is the top pick or the second pick, behind Connor McDavid of course, Crosby will be owned in every single (competitive) fantasy league because he just is the best.

After winning the Rocket Richard last year as the league’s leading scorer, it’s reasonable to believe he can do it again as he is playing at the level we have always known Crosby to be. Maybe even better. It’s reasonable to think that he doesn’t put up 44 goals again but with Crosby, anything is possible.

Couple about 40 goals with 60+ assists and Crosby will help pitch in to win your fantasy league.

Projected Stats: 38 G, 65 A, 103 PTS, +21 +/-, 25 PIMs

Evgeni Malkin, C

In a league where Malkin is very underrated, it’s likely he will be on your draft board, too. A top 5 talent in the league, Malkin could be a second round pick depending on the size of your league.

Malkin was a huge reason the Penguins won the Cup last season and nothing drives him more than winning championships. Malkin, along with a few other teammates, have a chance to three-peat. If that isn’t enough to keep him motivated, I don’t know what is.

The only problem will be his durability.

He has missed some games over the past few seasons for some nagging injuries. This shouldn’t hinder your choice to take him. If he is available, even as high as pick number three, and you have an inclination to take him, don’t hesitate. Malkin is going to have a big year. I’ll say even enough to compete for the scoring title.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 68 A, 99 PTS, +14 +/-, 49 PIMs

Kris Letang, D

Yet another underrated player in the league, Letang will be returning from a major neck operation. And, yet again, if you need a cornerstone defenseman in the first four or five rounds, Letang should be available.

Letang’s neck injury could scare some away. I’d even say he may struggle to really find his game in the first month after being off the ice for over half a year. But, fantasy league’s aren’t won in month number one. They are won with long term investments.

In Mike Johnston‘s final tenure as the head coach of the team, Letang wasn’t being used properly and ultimately was almost useless in any fantasy format. Even with the worst of start of his career, it didn’t stop Letang from almost winning the scoring race amongst defensemen. He also scored the game winning game in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals that season.

Letang’s injury last season may slow him early. But he’ll be very much worth the long term investment come fantasy playoff time.

Projected Stats: 10 G, 55 A, 60 PTS, +20 +/-, 68 PIMs

Matt Murray, G

This is the one that may surprise some fans but this is the NEW face of the “Core Four”.

With Marc-Andre Fleury gone to Vegas, the Penguins have their undoubted goalie of the future and the now.

Murray has won two Stanley Cups in his first two seasons. He will hunt a third. The only problem with Murray? His durability.

Murray has had a few freak and unlucky injuries over the past couple seasons. If a fantasy player values a franchise goaltender in the first few rounds then don’t overthink it and select Murray. He will win close to 40 games if he doesn’t miss time due to injury. He is the defined starter now and if those first two seasons are any indication of what’s to come, you’ll want Murray on your team.

Just make sure to draft a solid back option incase of another freak injury.

Projected Stats: 38 W, 2.41 GAA, .927 SV%, 6 SO

Mid-Round Picks…

Patric Hornqvist, RW

Hornqvist is one of those guys that won’t be anywhere near a point per game player. He can reasonably put up 40-50 points.

Where Hornqvist gets his true value is in the categories leagues.

Hornqvist will likely be towards the top of your team in the hitting category. He takes a fair amount of shots and he likely will begin the season on Malkin’s wing.

Even if you aren’t in a categories league, Hornqvist is worth the look if you’re looking for mid-to-late round depth.

Projected Stats: 17 G, 31 A, 48 PTS, +7 +/-, 60 PIMs

Jake Guentzel, RW

Here is your golden ticket.

A lot of people watched Guentzel light up the NHL world in the playoffs. How many people will take this into consideration during the draft?

Guentzel is 98th according to ESPN’s rankings. In a 10 man league, this would make him a ninth or tenth rounder. That is a serious steal if he goes and does what he did last season. He’ll at least begin the season with Crosby.

Don’t overdraft him, though. He is almost guaranteed to be there into the seventh round of a ten man league. If you get paranoid and want him then, go ahead and take him. The later you take him, the smarter you’ll look.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 31 A, 62 PTS, +24 +/-, 16 PIMs

Conor Sheary, LW

The other wing on Crosby’s line, Sheary will also excel if he stays with Crosby. Buyer beware, though.

Every player goes through slumps, but the one Sheary suffered in last year was atrocious in the playoffs. The playoffs don’t matter in fantasy, but it’s proof that if Sheary slumps, it could get very ugly.

He is a solid player with upside but I wouldn’t consider him before round ten. If someone takes him before then, you can find value elsewhere in some other players around the league.

He’ll play with Crosby but it remains to be seen how long. Don’t overdraft him but if he’s there and legitimately the best available, don’t hesitate.

Projected Stats: 18 G, 25 A, 43 PTS, 13 +/-, 31 PIMs

Sleepers…

Phil Kessel, RW

I know it’s odd to see Kessel’s name as a sleeper to some. But, a lot of people are down on him lately.

So depending on how you classify Kessel’s talent, he is a sleeper.

Kessel has played on the third line for the majority of his Penguins career but has found some guys he meshes well with. He could finally end up back with Malkin on a permanent basis.

Kessel will still be anywhere from a third to fifth rounder depending on league size so it’s tough to title him a sleeper. But there is a solid chance he could contend for a Rocket Richard. He is THAT much of a scorer. He just has to do it for a season to get fans to fully buy in again.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 50 A, 81 PTS, -1 +/-, 6 PIMs

Justin Schultz, D

Maybe this lengthy, lucrative contract will finally give Schultz the respect he’s earned throughout the league.

Schultz’s offensive rejuvenation in Pittsburgh’s system is something that went unnoticed last year as he was only added by many fantasy teams in the middle of the year. This year, he is a mid-round pick with early-round pick potential.

Again, he isn’t someone you should draft early especially if some other guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Duncan Keith remain available. But Schultz is a guy you shouldn’t let slip if you think he is one of the top three players you’ve got to choose from.

There is a good chance Schultz could put up 50 points. While I think he will fall short, he is a solid option and you wont be able to find him on waivers so take him if you can.

Projected Stats: 9 G, 34 A, 43 PTS, +19 +/-, 20 PIMs

Overview…

Just because a few guys were omitted from the list doesn’t mean they aren’t worth drafting. A lot of them could be waiver claims if you run into injuries. Or, even I it is late in the draft and you aren’t sure who to take, take them.

Regardless, just win the league. It’s all about bragging rights, correct?

P.S. The staff is going to have their own fantasy hockey league that we will keep you in touch with.

If you would like to be a part of the “LTP Community” league, DM me upon reading this and I will reserve your spot.

Top 10 NHL Goalies

NHL Network featured who they believed are their top 10 goalies currently. Our guys, Connor and Austin list who they think the top 10 goalies are currently in the league.

Connor’s Top 10 NHL Goalies

  • Carey Price – I don’t think Price coming in at number one on my list is going to surprise anybody.  Price has proved year in and year out that he is the best in the league by carrying an average team further than they should go each year.  If it was not for Carey Price the Canadiens would be a bottom team in the Eastern Conference.  Although he may only have a .922 save percentage, the fact that has to be taken in is how much the team in front of him relies on him to carry their them.
  • Braden HoltbyThis past season, Holtby again showed why he is a top three goalie and, in my opinion, an easy choice for the second best goalie in the NHL.  Holtby turned in an impressive .925 save percentage this year.  Now even though Holtby has arguably the best team in the NHL in front of him that does not negate his preformance.  Holtby is one of the reasons his team is so good and seems to make hard saves look effortless in a similar way that Price does.
  • Matt MurrayThis choice to put Murray this high on the list may create some controversy among non-Penguins fans and Fleury fans.  However, with all bias aside including mine, Murray is easily a top 3 goaltender.  Although he is yet to play a full season he has accomplished more at the age of 23 than most goalies ever have.  Even with a team like Pittsburgh in front of him Murray still made a statement these playoffs.  He was leaned on heavily by the Penguins during some games in the regular season and during the playoffs.  He turns in an impressive .923 save percentage and like Price and Holtby, he makes most saves seem effortless due to his size and positioning.
  • Sergei BobrovskyIt may come as a shock to most people that the Vezina winning goaltender of the 2016-2017 season is placed in the fourth spot.  Bobrovsky turned in the best save percentage with a .932 this past year.  But stats are not everything. Bobrovsky’s play was very inconsistent and so was his teams.  When the team in front of him played well, so did he and vice versa.  And the thing that usually separates the top three goalies from the rest is consistency.  Because most goalies in the NHL look just as good as each other when they play at their best, but the best goalies can play at their best consistently.
  • Henrik LundqvistAt number five I placed Lundqvist, a wylie veteran who recently proved he can still compete with the best of them.  Early in the year Lundqvist struggled mightily and lost the starter job.  He eventually got it back and played the end of the year like he was out of his mind…in a good way.  He seemed to go back to vintage 2012 Lundqvist and backstop his team to the second round, where they ended up losing to the Senators boring, yet efficient, trap game. Lundqvist may be on his way out in the near future, but he is proving that he can still compete with the best of them.
  • Pekka Rinne At number six, I put the Finnish wonder Pekka Rinne, and yes I did say wonder.  When Pekka Rinne is on his game he is virtually a brick wall, but the thing that puts him at number six is his wildly inconsistent play.  Rinne has proved that he has trouble playing in away arenas in big games this past year as he also proved last year against the Sharks.  A factor that almost counteracts his negative of inconsistency is his ability to handle the puck with the best of them.  Rinne is similar to Martin Brodeur to where he is basically a third defenseman for his team and can play the puck with a ease and a level headedness.
  • John GibsonPlacing John Gibson at number seven on the list may surprise many people.  Gibson plays a very acrobatic and flashy style, which is almost obsolete in today’s game with the exception of Jonathan Quick. Gibson turned in a top 5 save percentage with a .924, however he did have one of the better D-cores in the league in front of him.  That being said, Gibson is a huge reason why the Ducks made it so far in the playoffs.  He came up huge when they needed him, and when he unfortunately got hurt it was clear that he was a key piece for their team.  It won’t be long until he cracks the top five for this list in the coming years.
  • Devan DubnykAt number eight I placed Devan Dubnyk of the Wild.  Dubnyk plays a somewhat calm game and turned in a .924 save percentage this year.  Dubnyk has one of the better D-cores in front of him as well, but when they needed him to step up he fell short in the playoffs.  Here we see the factor of consistency affecting a goalie’s rating on this list.
  • Cam Talbot Coming in at number nine we have Cam Talbot, who had a breakout year with the Oilers.  This year Talbot really solidified himself as one of the better goalies in the league.  Talbot turned in a .919 save percentage and backstopped the Oilers to the second round where John Gibson and the Ducks knocked them out of the playoffs.  Talbot’s statement was only enough to land him the ninth spot however due to the fact of some inconsistency as well as him showing characteristics of something known as the avalanche effect.  For goalies this is where when one goal goes in, others tend to follow suit and quite quickly.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury – Coming in at number ten, I have the new face of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.  Fleury, better known as “Flower”, had an interesting year.  He was going to start the year as a backup, but when Murray got injured Fleury stepped in as the starter.  However, when Murray came back he quickly regained the starter role and showed that he is an elite goalie on the rise.  As this happened Fleury struggled quite a bit, his save percentage was even below .900 at one point.  However when Murray went down with another injury at the start of the playoffs Fleury took the reigns and was a key part of the Penguins cup run.  Some people may be puzzled as to why Fleury is even on this list, and some may be puzzled at why he isn’t higher, and the answer is quite simple.  Fleury has something in common with a lot of the other goalies on the tail end of this list.  He is inconsistent, but not in the way that you may think.  When Fleury is the clear choice as the starter for a team he plays at his best, but when there is competition his game tends to take a hit as we have seen.
  • Honorable Mention

 Jonathan Quick- Some people may wonder why Quick was left off of this list and for good reason.  Quick suffered a major injury this year and missed a good part of the season, when he came back to play he jumped right back into his flashy style.  But this did not translate to much success for him at all.  He had an adequate .917 save percentage this year.  But in the larger picture Quick has not put up a save percentage over .920 since 2012-2013 when he has his best season of his career.  Quick has been given the benefit of the doubt by most analysts in a similar way that Lundqvist was where they keep saying he will return to his form.  Lundqvist has done that, Quick has not.  Quick is slowly on his way out of the conversation for the best goalies in the league and it does not seem like it will turn around anytime soon.

Austin’s Top 10 NHL Goalies

  • Carey Price– I highly doubt that anyone in the hockey community would argue this one. Recently signing an 8 year extension worth $84 million, I believe Price is worth every penny. In 2015 Price took home a number of awards, including the leagues MVP. Posting a .923 SV% last season, Price is the the back bone of the Montreal Canadians.

 

  • Matt Murray- Putting Murray so high on this list may cause some controversy, but how can you argue with back to back Stanley Cups in his first two years as a NHL pro? Yes, Murray’s career is very short lived, but with a 41-12-5 career record it’s hard not to put him so high on the list. Murray brings a very calm element to his game, very similar to Carey Price where he does not panic and gives his team a chance to win every game he plays. The kid is 23 with 2 Stanley Cups! I am very excited to see Murray as a full time starter this coming season, and have full confidence he will lead the Pens to yet another deep playoff run. (I truly believe that 2-4 can be interchangeable on this list)

 

  • Braden Holtby- Holtby cracks my top 3 for top goalies in the league. The argument could be made that he is playing in front of the best team in the league, and yes this may be true, but look at the pure amount of shots Holtby sees. Ever since becoming a full time starter in 2013 he has been steady on the back end for the Caps. Not to mention he has a Vezina to add to his resume.

 

  • Sergei Bobrovsky- Boy, do the Flyers wish they still had this guy, eh? Bobs posted insane numbers last season with a .931 SV% and a 2.06 GAA on a Columbus team that took the hockey world by storm. Winning 16 games in a row this year, Bobs was a huge peace to that amazing streak. CBJ finished 3rd in the Metro with a whopping 108 points, but fell short in the playoffs to eventual the champions, Pittsburgh Penguins. Bobrovsky also has two Vezina’s to his name and honestly could add more in years to come.

 

  • Pekka Rinne- Rinne lead his team to the Stanley Cup Finals this past season with a .930 SV% and a 1.96 GAA during their run. (not to mention 3 assists) Rinne has been consistent for Nashville over the years, and is just now starting to get the credit that I truly think he deserves. His puck handling skills are some of the best in the league, and his ability to make huge saves when needed make him an elite goalie. Rinne has been a Vezina finalist 3 times in his career, but has never won the trophy. I expect Rinne to start the season on a high horse, very similar to his playoff run last season.

 

  • Jonathan Quick- Some may think that Quick has fallen off a bit since LA’s last Cup in 2013-14, but I would disagree. Recently, his career has been plagued with injuries , but when healthy Quick is among the best. Only playing 17 games this past season, it is hard to judge his play with such limited time spent, but bringing in a Ben Bishop at the end of the season may of fueled the fire for Quick, and I expect him to be back on top of the league next season.

 

  • Cam Talbot- Talbot came on the NHL radar during the 2014-15 season when he stepped in for Lundvqist during his injury. The following season he became a full time NHL starter for the Edmonton Oilers, and this past season has taken his game to another level. Talbot finished the season tied with Holtby for most wins with 42. As an Oilers fan, I’ve seen time and time again Talbot steal wins for the Oilers. Posting a .919% SV% and a 2.39 GAA is not to shabby for the 30 year old tendy.

 

  • Henrik Lundqvist-  The King comes in at number eight on my list. Lundvqist has posted 30+ wins in every NHL season he has been healthy. Many can argue that the King has it easy in New York, playing in front of one of the best defense core in recent NHL memory. the main reason why I have Lundqvist at eight and not higher is because he has yet to take that next step in his career. Yes, he has a Vezina, but he has yet to win the trophy that everyone cares about.

 

  • Devan Dubnyk- Ever since being traded to the Wild in 2014, Dubnyk has turned his career completely around. The 1st round, 14th overall pick of the 2004 draft was one more bad season away from being run out of the NHL. In the 3 years spent in Minnesota he has had a .936, .918, .923 SV% years. Those numbers are among the best in the league and he’s even been in Vezina talk in recent years. Needless to say Dubnyk has completely revamped his career and is proving to be the goalie the Wild needed.

 

  • Cory Schneider- Schneider rounds out my top 10 list. He some what goes under the radar playing in NJ with no real superstars, or playoff success in recent years. But Schneider has played consistently well since being traded from Vancouver in 2013. His save percentage has been above .920 in every year since 2011, except this past season. (.908) NJ had a bad season this year but that is not to blame Schneider, he goes unrecognized around the NHL, but has been solid for regressing NJ team.

 

  • Honorable Mention -Martin Jones- Jones led the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015-16 , and was a key factor to their success. Posting a .925% that playoff run is a positive for San Jose moving forward to a new era in SoCal.  Jones recently signed a 6 year extension with a cap hit of $5.75 per year. Sharks fans, you have your goalie for the future.

The Future Is Now

The Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to get noticed when it comes to developing their talent. They’ve found ways to make mid to late round picks being huge contributors. Players like Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary, etc. All of those players have had huge influences on this club. They provide speed and reliable minutes. But this article is about breaking down the Pens prospects not old ones (not that old still). But the rules for this breakdown are players 23 and under and are in no particular order.

Jake GuentzelForward

I know he just made a historic run in the playoffs and seems to be on track to be a superstar, but at 22 he is still very much in development. In my eyes, he can only get better and grow his game from here. He fits the Penguins’ scheme extremely well in that he plays fast and can chip bodies. He is such a great winger for Sidney Crosby and as they continue to play together, I expect Guentzel to raise his game even more.

Matt Murray, Goaltender 

Believe it or not Murray is still a work in progress. Eventually, he is going to be one of the youngest and most successful goaltenders of all time. He can still develop more. He has already won 2 Stanley Cups as a rookie and has some of the best numbers in the league. If he improves even more it’ll be something to see. I expect Murray to always be on the rise and have the ability to rebound from bad games. It’ll be exciting to watch Murray grow from stellar to interstellar (i know cringey saying). 

Daniel Sprong, Forward

This kid is only 20 years old and has me extremely excited. He scored a ton of points. Not only is he a goal scorer but a playmaker as well. He fits extremely well in our speed system because of his game. They call him the flying Dutchman which would be a great t-shirt when he’s a regular in a Pens uniform. He will be pushing for a roster spot this fall and could crack the roster. I can see him like Guentzel last year as a mid season call up. Or even after some injuries, which you know will happen to the Pens during the season. But he has to stay on the ice and somehow stay away from the injury bug he keeps getting. SOMEONE BUY HIM A FLY SWATTER! But on a serious note don’t be surprised if he plays a big role on the Pens next season (unless he’s traded).

Tristan Jarry, Goaltender 

Remember when Jarry was the goaltender of the future and Murray was gonna be the future backup. But Jarry could become a 1A to Murray if he continues to develop. He’s only 22 and has had only 1 game in the NHL. He will play most if not all of his games in the AHL and hopefully he will continue to grow. He bounced back with great numbers last year instead of his rookie year numbers in the AHL. If he continues where he left off last year then he will be the backup for Murray next year.

Zack Aston-Reese, Forward

Again, a star player coming out of college. The Pens are extremely successful with developing college players and making them extremely productive. He is physical and fast. He is compared to Patric Hornqvist. If he is close to Hornqvist then he is a steal and at 22 he is already gonna challenge for a spot on the NHL roster. If he can continue to develop into what he’s becoming then he will become an obvious NHL caliber player.

There are a ton of other notable Pens prospects that can develop into NHL players. I wanted to show the top prospects as of today and how they’re coming along. So enjoy and watch these future players that you’ll watch in a Pens jersey (again if they’re not traded). 

Also I started my own blog if you’d like to check that out. I’ll talk about Pens, Steelers, and Pirates basically change during the seasons. Please consider checking it out as i will be posting a lot of content on there as well as continuing on LTP (Lets Talk Pens). 

Here’s the link: https://pittsport.wordpress.com