Effectively Assessing Goalie Performance – Best & Worst AHL Goalies by GSAA – DobberHockey

Welcome back to The Journey, where we track the development of prospects as they excel in junior, make the NHL, and push towards stardom. Building on my recent ramblings over at Dobber Prospects, this week is all about goalies. We will highlight several of the most useful ways to measure goalie performance, and then dig into some intriguing goalie at the AHL level to project whose stocks are on the rise.

While the most common goalie categories in fantasy leagues remain Wins, Goals Against Average (GAA), Saves, Save Percentage (SV%), and Shutouts, these measures often say more about a goalie’s team situation than their individual skill. If your goalies are performing well, then that gap is not a problem. But with goalies being voodoo—in the sense that fantasy managers are consistently mystified by their year-to-year and even game-to-game ups and downs—any metric that can give us a clearer snapshot of goalie performance should be considered a valuable asset.

Quality Starts (QS) and Really Bad Starts (RBS) help us assess a goalie’s consistency beyond simply looking at their Win-Loss record. Robert Vollman, author of the Hockey Abstract series of books, first defined a QS as a game where a goalie finishes with a higher SV% than the league’s median SV% (generally around 0.910), while an RBS is when a goalie finishes with a SV% lower than 0.850. Teams have less than a 10% chance of winning a game when their goalie has an RBS.

Sorting on Frozen Tools by QS% (with a minimum games filter of 15) shows us who are the most consistent goalies in the league: Linus Ullmark (81.8), Connor Hellebuyck (72.5), Filip Gustavsson (66.7), Jake Oettinger (65), and Vitek Vanecek (63.6%).

Alternatively, the most consistently bad goalies this year (by RBS%) have been Kaapo Kahkonen (40.9), Spencer Martin (34.5), Thatcher Demko (33.3), Elvis Merzlikins (28.6), and John Gibson (27.8).

This past December, Top Cheddar Fantasy proposed a slight but important tweak to how we use QS%.

You can read the thread to dig deeper if interested, but the basic concept is zooming back a bit from games to look at weeks—to match the format of most Head-to-Head leagues. For instance, a goalie might have an average game, a Quality Start, and a Really Bad Start in a given week, and even though two thirds of their games were solid, the RBS might be awful enough to sink a category or three in your weekly matchup.

Top Cheddar sorts goalie performance by Quality Weeks, Really Bad Weeks, and Star Weeks. The benefit of this approach is that it highlights the most important quality about goalies for fantasy purposes: how consistent they are from week to week. You can see his full rankings and explanation here.

The top five goalies in 2022-23 by Star Weeks—which basically mean their performance wins you several goalie cats in a given week—are Linus Ullmark (66.7), Jake Oettinger (57.1), Ilya Sorokin (46.7), Pyotr Kochetkov (44.4), and then a tie between Vitek Vanecek, Gustavsson, and Akira Schmid (42.9). These likely won’t be the top five ranked goalies on Yahoo or Fantrax, but they are the ones who have helped their teams win the goalie categories most consistently when they have played.

Another couple important goalie metrics are Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) and Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx). GSAA is basically a step above the more traditional GAA because it assesses a goaltender’s performance in the context of the league and their team situation: a positive number indicates they are outperforming a league-average goalie; vice versa for a negative number.

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As JFresh points out, GSAx is a more accurate measure than GSAA because it accounts for shot quality instead of treating all shots as equal:

Nevertheless, when looking at leagues below the NHL, publicly available data drops off dramatically. Even GSAA is not listed on the stat page of most leagues, including the AHL. For the purposes of today’s article, we will dig into the performances of some of the most intriguing young goaltenders currently playing in the minors.

As I wrote in what was essentially Part One, because the AHL is the proving ground for up-and-coming NHL talent, a strong GSAA in the AHL is a solid indicator that a goalie is close to making an impact at the highest level—keeping in mind, of course, that this stat has limitations and this is just a single season. These would be goalies to consider investing in now before they make the jump and see their fantasy value spike.

Conversely, although we should also take low GSAA numbers with a grain of salt, if you own a prospect goalie that is struggling in that category, you can use that information to decide if now is a good time to sell high on them if their name value is outstripping their on-ice performance. I am a strong proponent of using prospect goalies exclusively as trade bait given their long wait times and uncertain success.

With all that context out of the way, here are the top ten goaltenders in the AHL by GSAA as of early February.

Dustin Wolf (CGY)

At the top by a healthy margin is Calgary phenom Wolf. There is a reason observers have been saying for years that this kid is going to be special. Remember how much hype Carter Hart (PHI) had when he entered the NHL as a 20-year-old? Dustin Wolf is on an even better trajectory than Hart, coming up through the same leagues. Compare the two below.


Year League GAA SV%
2014-15 WHL 2.29 0.915
2015-16 WHL 2.14 0.918
2016-17 WHL 1.99 0.927
2017-18 WHL 1.60 0.947
2018-19 AHL 3.05 0.902


Year League GAA SV%
2017-18 WHL 2.25 0.928
2018-19 WHL 1.69 0.936
2019-20 WHL 1.88 0.935
2020-21 WHL 1.80 0.940
2021-22 AHL 2.35 0.924

Flames incumbents Jacob Markstrom (2025-26) and Dan Vladar (2024-25) are signed for three and two more years respectively, so the situation in the Calgary net remains cloudy. But Markstrom continues to underwhelm after posting a Vezina-calibre season last year, and Wolf’s next-level trajectory is undeniable. He will likely force Calgary to attempt to trade either Markstrom or Vladar so they can begin handing him the reins—perhaps as early as 2023-24. Of course, Hart’s young career is a pertinent reminder that even the shiniest goalies often stumble—sometimes for years at a time. But Wolf is just about as solid as they come.

The only knock on him to this point in his career is his size. At 6-0, 175lbs, he is definitely on the smaller end of the spectrum for modern goalies. But as former DP editor, Hadi Kalakeche pointed out last year, concerns with goalie size are often overblown.

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For reference, while most of the top NHL goalies are 6-2 or taller, Igor Shesterkin (NYR) is 6-1 and Juuse Saros (NAS) is 5-11. Height can be a lazy way for casual observers to speculate about a goalie’s future, but as far as I can tell, the facts often do not line up with that prevalent assessment. In my opinion, Wolf has a better chance than most other goaltending prospects out there right now to become a top-flight NHL starter.

Brandon Bussi (BOS)

Where did this guy come from?

The only player within shouting distance of Wolf in terms of GSAA, Bussi is not a player I was familiar with before beginning this deep dive. He is a big-framed goalie (6-5) who came up through the NCAA with Western Michigan, where he posted slightly above-average numbers across basically two seasons—enough to earn an entry-level contract with the Bruins after going undrafted.

In 2022-23, Bussi played a few games in the ECHL before sticking in the AHL and absolutely dominating for Providence. Dobber Prospects has his upside as an NHL backup or possibly a 1B under the right circumstances. I would hesitate for now on investing too heavily in him.

Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman are one of the premier tandems in the league this year, and even though the league-best Bruins are facing an imminent decline in the coming years as Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron push further into their thirties, there will likely not be a meaningful NHL opportunity for any other goaltenders in Boston for the foreseeable future.

Joseph Woll (TOR)

With Certified Band-Aid Boy Matt Murray on the shelf (still/again), Woll has recently been called up to back up Ilya Samsonov with the Leafs. We may be looking at Toronto’s future backup here, though I doubt he arrives for good until after 2023-24 when Murray’s contract expires. Woll has dealt with a persistent string of injuries himself, however, and health remains one of his most pressing priorities.

If he can stay healthy and continue to impress with the Marlies (AHL), Woll should continue to press closer and closer to making the NHL full-time.

Joel Hofer (STL)

With Vladimir Tarasenko traded recently to New York, and Ryan O’Reilly likely on the way out as well once he returns from injury, the Blues contention window looks to be faltering. Although starter Jordan Binnington is signed at $6 million per year until the end of 2026-27, his attitude problems and consistent lack of self-control continue to embarrass the organization.

It is hard to divine what the coming years will look like in St. Louis, but Hofer has re-established his status as the Blues’ top prospect between the pipes with his performance this year—basically tied for third in the league by GSAA right now. Even dating back to his WHL days, however, Hofer has never really impressed statistically. His best junior season, for instance, saw him post a 2.49 G.A.A. and 0.915 SV%.

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As a second-year AHL pro last year, he started slow but finished very strong in the playoffs (10 wins, 2.56, 0.934), boosting Springfield all the way to the Calder Cup finals, where they eventually lost to a stacked Chicago team. He has continued that success into this year and helped reinvigorate his fantasy stocks in the process. Like Bussi and Woll, invest with caution.

Cal Petersen

With Pheonix Copley essentially stealing Petersen’s job and recently signing a one-year $1.5 million extension, it is an open question as to what that means for Petersen’s future with the organization. Long-time starter Jonathan Quick’s contract is up after this year, while Petersen still has two years remaining. Could the Kings finally move on from Quick and open 2023-24 with a Copley-Petersen duo?

I have been stubbornly holding onto my Petersen stocks in a couple leagues until we get more clarity on this situation. Although 2022-23 has basically been a disaster for Petersen owners, his strong AHL performance still offers a modicum of hope. The best-case scenario here is that he regains his confidence from this extended stint in the minors and returns to the NHL with the same form from a couple years ago that had him being billed as the Kings’ goalie of the future.

Copley has had some strong stretches this year, but I doubt he is this club’s long-term answer in net. The one-year “show me” contract suggests the Kings’ brass is not convinced either. Despite all the adversity he has faced this year, Petersen still has a path to an NHL starting role with a young, up-and-coming team.

Other Notables (Positive GSAA)

Jesper Wallstedt (MIN, 6.82)

Lukas Dostal (ANA, 6.53)

Alex Nedelijkovic (DET, 6.51)

Justus Annunen (COL, 4.89)

Akira Schmid (NJD, 4.31)

Mack Guzda (FLA, 3.22)

Phoenix Copley (LAK, 2.87)

Taylor Gauthier (PIT, 2.71)

Pyotr Kochetkov (CAR, 1.47)

Yaroslav Askarov (NAS, 0.92)

I like a lot of the players on this list. Wallstedt, Dostal, Annunen, Schmid, and Guzda all continue to take positive steps forward in their development. Of those five, Wallstedt and Guzda are rookies, so their immediate success in the league is particularly notable.

In terms of situation, Guzda faces the steepest uphill climb with Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight ahead of him. He will likely play a few more years in the AHL before eventually backing up Knight.

Wallstedt should see an increasing number of short call-ups over the next year before joining Minnesota full-time in 2024-25 with Marc-Andre Fleury finally beginning to slow and with only one more year left on his contract.

Dostal will likely replace Anthony Stolarz as John Gibson’s backup/1B in Anaheim as soon as next year. The current Avalanche tandem is signed until the end of next year, so don’t expect to see Annunen in the navy and maroon until 2024-25. Schmid’s future hinges entirely on what the Devils decide to do with Mackenzie Blackwood.

Look for Askarov’s numbers to take a significant step forward in 2023-24. He should be backing up Juuse Saros in Nashville before too much longer, but I imagine Predators’ brass would love to see him thoroughly dominate the minors first.

Other Notables (Negative GSAA)

Eetu Makiniemi (SJS, -0.95)

Mads Sogaard (OTT, -3.04)

Keith Petruzzelli (TOR, -3.66)

Cayden Primeau (MON, -5.31)

Ivan Prosvetov (ARI, -5.49)

Arvid Soderblom (CHI, -7.49)

Dylan Garand (NYR, -9.07)

Erik Kallgren (TOR, -9.19)

To me, the most surprising/significant AHL goalies who have performed worse than a league-average goalie would have in their situation are Mads Sogaard, Cayden Primeau, and Ivan Prosvetov.

Sogaard is supposed to be the Senators’ goalie of the future, but he will have to show much more in the coming year or two for Belleville to live up to that billing.

With Carey Price retiring, I was pretty high on Primeau’s opportunity heading into 2022-23 but he has continued to post underwhelming numbers and word on the street suggests the organization is looking elsewhere for a close-to-ready goalie prospect to supplement their current tandem of Jake Allen and Sam Montembeault.

Ivan Prosvetov seems to be slipping further and further down the ladder in the desert—both Karel Vejmelka and Connor Ingram are fairy young goalies with a ton of games still ahead of them. Prosvetov would have to make a clear statement in the AHL to steal Ingram’s back up job, and that just hasn’t happened yet.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @beegare for more prospect content and fantasy hockey analysis.

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