Hockey East has been one of the best conferences in the country for three decades now, and has seen some great goaltenders come through the league. Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick and Ben Bishop are alums of the league who will all have a chance to be the starting goaltender for the US Olympic team along with Ryan Miller.
Every goaltender in this league has proven himself to be one of the best at perfecting his craft or he wouldn't be playing at this level. With no further ado, let's get to the point.
- This writer ranked goalies based on who would give a team the best chance for success this season.
- These rankings do not reflect pro potential or the defensive system the goaltender has in front of him.
- Another stipulation to the rankings was one goalie per team. In instances of BC, BU, Merrimack and Vermont, I picked the goalie who gives his team the best chance to win.
- It is worth noting that teams such as UMass-Lowell, Boston University, Boston College, Merrimack and Vermont appear to have more than capable backups. For example, UML backup Doug Carr took home hardware from the league banquet in 2012 for his performance that season before Connor Hellebuyck arrived.
1. Jon Gillies, Soph., Providence (Calgary Flames)
The facts are undeniable. He will be the starting goaltender for the United States team at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Uva, Sweden and he has carried Providence on his back for much of the first year-and-a-half in a Friars uniform. He is technically sound, almost always in position, but he can make the acrobatic save when called upon.
2. Martin Ouellette, Sr., Maine (Columbus Blue Jackets)
The Kimball Union Academy alum has come a long way since he was a young freshman. There were always flashes of promise, but Ouellette has really put it together and is a major reason for the Black Bears being three games over 500 at the break. Ouellette is a very athletic goaltender who can recover from being out of position He's also very good going post-to-post.
3. Connor Hellebuyck, Soph., UMass-Lowell (Winnipeg Jets)
The Commerce, Mich. native led his team to Hockey East regular season and tournament championships and the Frozen Four in 2013, all program firsts. He is a tremendous goalie that takes up a lot of the net and plays the angles well, but he has the most help in front of any of the top three goaltenders.
4. Steven Summerhays, Sr., Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish have not lived up to expectations in the first half of their first season in Hockey East, but that isn't any fault of the senior goaltender. Like Hellebuyck, Summerhays plays for a team with a very defensive minded coach whose game plan is to clog up the neutral zone. The Anchorage native started the season with a 142:21 shutout streak.
5. Thatcher Demko, Fr., Boston College (2014 Draft Eligible)
The San Diego, Calif. native, who most project to be the first American-born goaltender taken in the 2014 NHL Draft, has generally looked very solid for the Eagles. He was the goaltender of record when BC lost to Holy Cross, but it was his first game back from a hamstring injury. The USNTDP product usually looks very poised in the crease and squares off to the shooters well. Down the road he's probably higher up on the list, but for this year he falls to the fifth spot.
6. Matt O'Connor, Soph., Boston University
The Toronto native has a very good save percentage and has had to bail his team out on countless defensive breakdowns and inexplicable turnovers. However, to his own admission, his rebound control needs work. He's a big, rangy goaltender who takes up much of the net and has a quick glove.
7. Clay Witt, Jr., Northeastern
Witt has done a terrific job in stabilizing the goaltending position for Jim Madigan's team. The Huskies struggled with Chris Rawlings' inconsistency for the past few seasons. Witt goes down early and flops around some, but he's made some terrific saves and helped the Huskies to upset victories over UMass-Lowell and Notre Dame. The biggest positive has been his ability to make the routine save, something that troubled Northeastern with Rawlings in net.
8. Casey DeSmith, Jr., New Hampshire
A year ago at this time DeSmith would have been much higher on this list, but something happened around this time last season. He has been terrific at times, but inconsistency has plagued the Rochester, NH native. He certainly has the athletic ability and fundamentals to be one of the better goalies in the league, but can he do it each and every night?
9. Brody Hoffman, Soph., Vermont
It's debatable who belongs in this spot, if it's the incumbent Hoffman or the rookie Michael Santaguida. Both goaltenders have been good this semester, but Santaguida has allowed a few costly soft goals. Hoffman is another one of those big goaltenders who takes up a lot of the net. No one outside the Catamounts' locker room saw this team being three games over 500 at this point in the season, but Hoffman or Santaguida will have to stay hot to keep this team afloat.
10. Rasmus Tirronen, Jr., Merrimack
Tirronen and senior Sam Marotta rotated for much of the first half last season, but Marotta took the job and ran with it in the second half. His phenomenal play led the Warriors into first place, but this season Tirronen has taken the reins for now. He has started four games in a row, and has proven to be more than capable of keeping the Warriors in games. Tirronen has had trouble staying focused for an entire 60 minutes, and doesn't have the athletic ability of some of the goaltenders above him on this list.
11. Steven Mastalerz, Jr., UMass
Mastalerz is certainly in important element of the UMass team, but it's hard to be sold on his ability to consistently provide the goaltending necessary to keep UMass in games. He is an athletic goaltender that has a good glove, but positioning and keeping square to shooters is his weaknesses.
Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.