I almost thought I wasn’t going to get to write this piece in 2021, so I’m excited I have the chance to. I’m even more excited that hockey is just one day away – and that means that it’s time for placing bets and making predictions on which players will stand out and strive, and which ones won’t. Here are my official preseason predictions for 3 goalies to boom, and 3 to bust in the 2020-21 NHL season!
To revisit my preseason predictions from last year ahead of the 2019-20 NHL season, click here. Enjoy!
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
2019-20: 52 GP, 29-13-7, 2.85 GAA, .909 SV%, 3 SO
There’s a couple reasons that Freddy is the first goalie on my “Boom” list for the 2020-21 season. The first reason being that the Maple Leafs are in a new division – an all-Canadian division – that catapulted them from being maybe the third-best team in their division after Tampa Bay and Boston to being arguably the number one team in their new division, ahead of all the other Canadian teams. Andersen has been solid his entire time in Toronto; he faces a lot of shots and his goals against average probably takes a hit because of that, but his save percentage is always in the top of the league, and he is more often than not one of the better Leafs players on the ice. With less stiff competition in the new Scotia North Division, look for Andersen to stand out amongst his peers.
Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils
2019-20: 47 GP, 22-14-8, 2.77 GAA, .915 SV%, 3 SO
Blackwood was already a goalie I had high on my list of interesting ones to watch, and with the announcement of Corey Crawford’s sudden and untimely retirement from the NHL, he is now the undisputed starter for the New Jersey Devils – and I think the Devils are better for it. On a team that hasn’t been very good at all in the past few years, Blackwood has stood out as a bright spot on the roster, and looks to have a ton of potential upside in an increase of ice time. He could very well help the Devils to cause a ruckus in their new division, too.
Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators
2019-20: 40 GP, 17-12-4, 2.70 GAA, .914 SV%, 4 SO
Including Juuse Saros in this list was contingent upon whether or not I thought he would get more playing time over longtime Preds starter Pekka Rinne, and I think I can finally safely say that’s all but confirmed now. Saros carried the load of starts late last season and into the playoffs, and played rather well, if you’re willing to look past the Predators’ loss to the Arizona Coyotes in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. I still think this Preds roster is a competitor, and I expect Saros to cement himself as a franchise goaltender as soon as this year.
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames
2019-20: 43 GP, 23-16-4, 2.75 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO
Markstrom had to go to a new team to do it, but he finally inked that big deal he was after with the Calgary Flames. As a member of the Vancouver Canucks last season, Jacob Markstrom had one of the best years of his career, but I’m hesitant to give him too much credit for the Canucks’ unexpected winning season when much of the credit goes to Quinn Hughes and other young players. Markstrom had been shaky and frankly disappointing since being drafted into the league by the Florida Panthers about a decade ago, and just seemed to get his feet under him recently. I’m still not convinced he can be a reliable starter in the NHL.
Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders
2019-20: 45 GP, 19-14-6, 2.62 GAA, .914 SV%, 2 SO
Varlamov has had stellar seasons in the NHL, and some not so stellar. Last year was a pretty good one for him with the New York Islanders, all things considered. I actually debated whether or not I should include him on this list at all, but his tendency to slump in years following strong seasons was the factor that placed him in the “Bust” category. I could be totally wrong about this one, but the fact that Ilya Sorokin is waiting in the tunnels to take his spot makes me think Varlamov might belong here.
Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild
2019-20: 26 GP, 12-10-1, 2.63 GAA, .919 SV%, 2 SO
I’ve always been a fan of Cam Talbot, and I would really like him to succeed in a starting role. He had a breakout year in New York with the Rangers back in the day, and about one and a half good years with Edmonton before they started to trend downward, and the rest is history. Talbot now finds himself with the Minnesota Wild, and by all means should be expected to fill the shoes left by Devan Dubnyk between the pipes. The biggest reason I have Talbot here is because of the roster in front of him, so don’t take this as a knock against him. Can he solidify the net for a slowing, aging Wild team? I’m not so sure.
Honorable mentions (boom): Linus Ullmark (BUF), John Gibson (ANA)
Honorable mentions (bust): Devan Dubnyk (SJS), Jonathan Quick (LAK)
- Talbot/Blackwood images from Puck Prose and Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images, via Hockey Wilderness, via Photo Joiner
- Andersen image from by Claus Andersen/Getty Images, via Tip of the Tower
- Blackwood image from Puck Prose
- Saros image by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, via Predlines
- Markstrom image by Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports, via Canucks Army
- Varlamov image from NBC Sports
- Talbot image by Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP, File, via Pioneer Press