Release: NHL Goalie Charts
Plus five key goaltending trends for the season
The NHL preseason is well underway, so now is a good time to release the new edition of my Goalie Depth Charts. I’ve also shared five key goalie trends that I’ll be following this season, which officially kicks off on Tuesday, October 10.
First of all, just a reminder that the depth charts only include goalies that are under an NHL contract or are listed as Reserve players. It does not include goalies with an AHL, minor league, or European pro contract.
NHL teams can have 50 maximum active contracts at any given time, so teams usually average around six or seven goalies. Some have less, some have more.
Secondly, I’m continuing to use CapFriendly for salary info, as they are easily one of the most accurate and reliable sources in the game.
I’m also leaning on NHL goalie coaches to verify certain info as well. Their support over the years is super appreciated and really helpful, especially when I’m trying to follow the revolving door of coaching changes over the summer.
Lastly, I rely on readers to notify me when trades randomly happen during the season. Moving everything to GitBook makes updating super easy, so if you see something, shoot me a message and I’ll get it done as quickly as possible.
New this Season: EBUGs!
For the first time since I launched the original depth charts back in 2008, I’m excited to include NHL Emergency Goalies.
I was an EBUG for five seasons in Colorado, so adding them is partly a matter of personal importance. They have a very unique and stressful role, so I think they deserve the publicity.
Note: Due to the nature of the EBUG role, names are rarely published or listed online. Every team handles the role differently, so I’ll do my best here, but always remember the golden rule — don’t trust, verify.
Five Goaltending Trends
Along with an influx of advanced stats at my disposal, the depth charts help me study larger-scale goaltending trends. Tracking player movement, salaries, and coaching shows the “bigger picture” of how teams manage their goaltending depth.
In a broader sense, I’m always looking for any information that shares methods, processes, and plans for NHL goalie development. This is important for many reasons, including the trickle-down effect to the minors/youth, the influence it has on the goalie community as a whole, and how it compares to pro goalie development in Europe and other parts of the world.
Regardless of the trends, ideally, every team should have a goalie department. This would include a director of goaltending, a head goalie coach, a development (minor league) goalie coach, and a goalie-specific scout or consultant that aids in the work surrounding the NHL Draft.
I wish every team had this type of setup in 2023, but steady as she goes — she’s slowly getting there. Calgary, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Jersey, the Islanders, Pittsburgh, San Jose, and Vancouver already have a “Director” role, which is awesome. As time goes on, I expect more will follow.
To shed additional light on specific aspects of my research, I’ve shared a few of the trends I will be following this season. This isn’t a comprehensive list, as we inevitably see new trends emerging every season. But it will give you a good idea of where my discussions will be focused as the season gets going!
1. Workload Management
Every season, one key trend I love to follow is workload. How teams manage playing time and decide on who starts on any given night will always carry significance in the overall health and performance of a team’s goaltenders.
Sometimes we see articles or juicy quotes from a coach stating a proposed workload for their goalies. For example, a “60-40” split, or 50-50, etc. These are crucial nuggets of insight; it helps us get a better understanding of how things are managed behind the scenes. Still, you have to take a lot of what you hear or read with a grain of salt because things are constantly changing.
Last season, seven goalies played in 60 games or more: Saros, Hellebuyck, Georgiev, Oettinger, Vasilevskiy, Sorokin, and Binnington, in that order. Do we see more or less this season? I want to believe we’ll see less. We know that rest is a weapon, so what are teams doing to help their goalies get the rest they need?
One workload stat I specifically like to track is back-to-back situations. How often are goalies starting two nights in a row? What is their success rate? When should this happen and when should teams avoid it at all cost?
Every year brings a variety of results, but no matter what plans a team puts into place at the start of the season, things inevitably change and adjustments need to be made. Plans are important, but so is flexibility and depth.
2. Depth and Injuries
Goalies are going to get hurt. This is the inevitable truth every team faces at the start of every season. But the way in which they suffer those injuries, and more specifically the root cause of those injuries, is another important trend to study.
More specifically, are the forces at play external (an unfortunate collision) or could it be something internal (lack of proper rest)? Nothing in goaltending happens in a vacuum, so it will almost always be a combination of various factors that weigh into the equation.
Last season, a total of 105 goalies played at least 20 minutes in a regular season game. Eclipsing the 100-goalie mark has now become the norm as opposed to the anomaly. In the 2021-22 season, there was a whopping 118 goalies with 20+ minutes of action. There was only 95 goalies with the same totals in 2020-21.
I suspect we’ll see another 100+ goalies appear in a regular season game this year. More than 115 seems a bit extreme, but you just never really know.
All of this points to another significant trend to follow — readiness.
In today’s NHL, you can’t get away with having just TWO good goalies anymore. You actually need THREE. Whomever is in the AHL better be ready to come up and win games or at least stabilize the backup position, because odds are every team is going to use an emergency recall at least once a season. Very rarely do you see a goalie get a recall based purely on merit or performance alone.
That places even more emphasis on the role of the goalie development coach and the need for a proper line of communication between NHL, AHL, and even ECHL organizations. But we’ll explore those roles and dynamics another time.
3. Practice Goalies
Much harder to track, but possibly even more crucial than game management, is the time goalies spend practicing…and how they spend it. All of those reps and minutes add up, so we need to learn as much as we can about team and individual practice environments. By doing this, we can learn how to better balance the demands a goalie faces over the course of an 82-game season.
This discussion will usually lead to another emerging trend: the use of a practice-specific or “third” goalie. I’m obviously a huge advocate for a new role like this, whether it is the team’s official EBUG or another goalie that carries a full-time role.
In fact, I can tell you that some NHL teams already incorporate EBUGs (Nashville, Minnesota) into practices at various times during the season.
How are those teams utilizing EBUGs in practice? Are there any legit stats or details we can find that argues for teams using more practice goalies? How do the goalies themselves feel about getting some extra time away from practice? How are they filling that extra time and how is it influencing their performance?
The whole concept of “official” NHL practice goalies are ripe for exploring, so I expect to see more of it emerge this season.
4. Gear Innovations & Mods
Every season we see a few new creative ways to wear and use the gear. Manufacturers lean on R&D to utilize new technology, but it is the goalies that are modding the current standards and using them successfully in games.
I’m mostly interested in helmet testing and safety right now, because the head is the most crucial body part on a goalie. I’m not going to get into this frustrating topic right now, but let’s just say it’s extremely expensive and severely lacking.
Aside from the helmets and the obvious changes happening with skates right now (the Bauer Konekt H2’s are already on the shelves), another really popular gear mod trend right now is stick grips.
How you place your hands and fingers against the top of the paddle will impact the wrist, and that kinematic chain can works itself through the body and increase stick and puck control. We’ve learned about Sergei Bobrovsky’s unique stick grip, and like so many things in goaltending, it’s all down to the personal feel of each goalie. Everyone’s different.
Companies like TRUE, Bauer, CCM, Vaughn, Warrior, and Brian’s are continuing to push the boundaries of what goalie equipment can do, but it’s the goalies that drive the innovation forward. Keep that in mind and keep your eyes peeled for any new mods and gear trends!
5. Scoring Trends
This could be an entire post on it’s own, but now more than ever, goalie coaches should be paying closer attention to emerging scoring trends.
When designing development programs, we need to consider the affordances (another term for scoring opportunities) of the shooters in order to better understand how goalies can respond. If everything we do for skill development is solely viewed from the lens of the goalie, we’re missing a big part of the overall equation.
While there are many scoring trends to consider in today’s NHL, one that I’m really focused on is power play situations. Screens, more traffic, harder reads, and more lateral movement all lead to vulnerable scoring situations.
To be honest, I don’t really place much emphasis on dead-angle goals anymore. This is such a heated point of discussion for armchair goalie coaches, but the truth is that the success rate of the RVH is higher than any other solution out there.
Goals are always going to be scored from bad angles and behind the net. There will always be tiny little holes for the puck to find, especially with bigger goalies. It’s a nuance, so take it for face value and try to move on.
Instead, I like to look at offensive situations in a larger context, especially plays happening down the middle of the ice. This is where things like the Royal Road, cross-lane passes, and moving screens can expose goalies in myriad ways.
More specifically, I believe high-slot redirections, swinging lateral screens, players turning to the inside lane as they are deflecting pucks, and layers of bodies are having more of an impact on goal scoring than ever before. But I need more context and data to really understand the trends, so I’m looking for studies in this area as the season moves along.
I can’t wait until we have the technology and analytics to really point at how goals are going in, because that is how we learn how to better fight back!
Coming Up Next
I’m starting to get on a bit of a roll with this new SubStack, so I’ll be back soon with another piece that summarizes my latest work on coaching education.
I’m also gearing up for my first learning event of the season! I recently secured a ticket to (virtually) attend the 2023 Sports Movement Skill Conference hosted by my friends over at Emergence.
I’ll share more about this event as we get closer to October 6, but it is going to be a great weekend learning from some of the world’s best movement specialists. And it’s perfect timing — just a few days before the regular season kicks off!
OK that’s a wrap! If you know anyone that would enjoy content like this, please consider sharing. It goes such a long way and I really appreciate it!