One of the common inquiries I’ve been getting through e-mails and tweets throughout the course of the Top 10 Prospect series has been about goalie prospects. I have only ranked a handful of goalie prospects in the course of the series thus far:
Calvin Pickard 8th for Colorado
Jack Campbell 7th for Dallas
Jacob Markstrom 9th for Florida
Martin Jones 9th for Los Angeles
And Robin Lehner 10th for Ottawa
At first I had assumed regular readers of the site would know why these players would be ranked so low, however a lot of new readers have come to the site throughout the course of the series and in retrospect it was a mistake not to explain things a little more clearly or link to a past explanation.
I’ll start off by saying to fan of team x…. I do not hate your top goalie prospect. I do not see much value coming from that position at the NHL level, never mind for prospects.
Tom Awad has estimated goaltending is worth about 5% of winning percentage, and has done several good columns on the goaltending market and talent distribution here and here to help illustrate the goaltending situation. Combine that with how long goalies take to develop and the development uncertainty and you can start to see why goalies are given very low value in my rankings.
The bottom line is while goalies may be the most significant player on the ice who can impact a game; multiple extensive researches have shown that goalies as a whole are not that valuable in today’s NHL. That is due to an abundance of talent that is cheaply available on the free agent and trade market and the fact that goaltending performance is extremely volatile on a season to season basis with today’s star being tomorrow’s scrub and vice versa. When you then add in the tremendous risk in goalie prospects and how long they usually take to come to fruition as a regular, the actual value for young goalies are very minimal.
Sure there will be teams like Colorado who will give significant assets for a good, young goalie and every time a team does that, you can be sure the very best hockey analysts will remind you they are acting against what the market actually is, the fact many teams find equally good goalies for pennies on the dollar, and mock the team that dished it out for a goalie every step of the way.
Right now I’d be very skeptical to grade even the best goalie prospects such as Jacob Markstrom, Braden Holtby or Jack Campbell as players I’m sure will be above-average regulars. You would have to be a prospect with just about no flaws to get such a projection and I don’t see that goalie prospect out there. Then when you’re seeing an established stud Tomas Vokoun being signed for 1.5 million, we’re at the point where I’d rather take the prospect who could be a really good third liner as opposed to the stud goalie prospect.