I can't believe I'm already saying this, but 'tis the season, folks. Goalies everywhere are strapping on their new "smaller" pads, taking care of team physicals, and hitting the ice for tons of pre-season prospect tournaments.
That means it's time to release the latest update of my NHL Depth Charts report and start preparing for the upcoming 2013-14 campaign! This update marks the three-year anniversary of my classic report, which acts as a way for me to get a good understanding of how the pro goalie landscape looks as time goes on.
As I almost always do to all of my reports heading into a new season, I've made a few tweaks to the layout and design to make it easier to read. The Alteration Marks are prominently displayed at the top, and I'll have space below for any other important notes. I also went a little OCD and fixed the spacing between each team, just to make it a bit easier on the eyes.
Before you dig into the depth charts, I suggest you read up on the influence that smaller pads (specifically the thigh rises) may have on goaltending with my piece over at InGoal Magazine called Contemplating Movement and Technique in Smaller Gear.
My Top-30 Fantasy Goalie Rankings for NHL Fantasy released on Friday at noon EST. As you can see, I selected Henrik Lundqvist as my top goalie for a second year in a row: Fantasy Faceoff - Lundqvist or Niemi?
September and October releases are always fun because everyone basically starts on the same exact page. A fresh sheet to work with, expectations around the league are high, and everyone is feeling good.
Nobody probably feels better than Corey Crawford, who enjoyed his day with the Stanley Cup by signing a six-year, $36-million contract extension. That solidified his long-term future as a starting goalie in the league, making Chicago's depth much more stable over the next few years. Keep an eye on Finnish standout Antti Raanta, who could prove to simply be too good for the AHL.
With training camps right around the corner, I'm always really excited to see how the class of 20-year old goalies will perform. The class of 1993-born prospects is phenomenal, as we have names like John Gibson, Malcolm Subban, Laurent Brossoit, Jordan Binnington, Andrey Makarov, and Maxime Lagace vying for spots in the AHL. Some may be sent back to their junior teams, but we know for sure that Gibson will secure a spot in Norfolk, and Subban will likely back up AHL Goalie of the Year Niklas Svedberg in Providence.
Clearly regarded as one of the top goalie systems in the league, the Los Angeles Kings are dealing with some civil unrest right now. Martin Jones is officially in a holdout, as he has yet to accept his qualifying offer. This put the Kings in a tough spot, but they covered their bases by inviting Mathieu Garon to a tryout.
In my opinion, I like Garon filling the role of a limited backup behind Quick. I don't think Ben Scrivens needs more AHL time -- he's clearly capable of being a solid NHL backup -- but I don't think it hurts him to play more games down there, either. If Jones is going to continue holding out, Scrivens can lead the Monarchs for a while and teach J-F Berube a few things about taking the next step (from ECHL to AHL). At the same time, that gives German prospect Mathias Niederberger (not listed due to his one-way AHL contract with Manchester) a chance to get acclimated to the pro game by playing in Ontario (ECHL).
These type of situations happen all the time. And if Garon performs well and shows he's in good shape, why not add a solid veteran presence to the depth chart? Garon is well-respected around the league and known for his excellent success on breakaways and shootouts, and in this highly-competitive conference, you never know when that might come in handy.
Aside from the sticky situation in Los Angeles, everything else looks pretty straightforward.
There will be some key pre-season battles for spots as the #4 goalie in different systems, including some big ones in Montreal (Condon, Delmas), Phoenix (Lee, Domingue), and Buffalo (Makarov, Knapp, Lieuwen), just to name a few.
And of course I can't go anywhere without mentioning the murky situation in Calgary. How many games will Karri Ramo play? Who wins the backup job between Joey MacDonald and Reto Berra? Can Ramo sustain anywhere close to a .912 save percentage, which is considered about the league average?
I've racked my brain about these situations and many others, and the ultimate equalizer of "only time will tell" will dominate my brainwaves for the next month.
Either way, there's plenty to get excited about as the prospect tournaments transition into training camps, so enjoy our first report of the 2013-14 season and let me know if you have any questions!