Vancouver Canucks’ Jacob Markstrom: Most underrated goalie in the NHL

The Vancouver Canucks goaltending situation has done a complete flip with the emergence of Jacob Markstrom as a bonafide starter.  The team in front of him hasn’t allowed him to get the recognition he deserves.

Jacob Markstrom was once considered the best goalie not in the NHL by many fans and writers. It’s taken him longer than expected to live up to that potential and it may finally be here for the Vancouver Canucks this season. Over Markstrom’s tenure with the Canucks, they have not been a very good team overall, especially defensively.

Since the start of the 2017-18 season when Markstrom was in sole possession of the starter job, he has faced the seventh most high danger shots against in the NHL with 1013, as per NaturalStattrick. While Markstrom has started the sixth-most games of all goalies in that period, his high danger SV% of .828 is ninth in the league. All of these stats are amongst goalies who have played at least 80 games over the last two seasons.

I’ve been guilty of criticizing Markstrom for some of the rebounds he lets out and I wanted to see if that was one possibility for the high danger stats he has, and Markstrom is guilty of allowing the 10th most rebound attempts against. This isn’t enough to remove him from elite status however, as other elite goaltenders are higher up on the list.

Another area where Jacob Markstrom has struggled in the past has been letting in a less than threatening goal in some form or another, whether it be a bad bounce or a misplay.  There isn’t really a stat for that but it does seem to reflect in his SV%. Coming in with a SV% of .912 over the last two years puts him in 16th amongst goalies playing at least 80 games the last two years.

Jordan Binnington and Carter Hart are omitted from the data found above due to not meeting the required games but they are included in the article later, including them would have been a statistical nightmare.

On August 5th, 2019 the NHL released their top 10 goalies, Markstrom wasn’t included amongst these goalies, but maybe he should have been.

The Top Ten consisted of:

  1. Andrei Vasilevskiy
  2. Sergei Bobrovsky
  3. Ben Bishop
  4. Carey Price
  5. Tuukka Rask
  6. Marc-Andre Fleury
  7. Braden Holtby
  8. Jordan Binnington
  9. Pekka Rinne
  10. John Gibson

These rankings were based on the 2018-19 season so going forward I will be referring to stats from that year alone. These charts below represent the top 10 plus Markstrom, data from NaturalStattrick.com

By using GAA which is one of the worst stats to evaluate a goaltender’s talent, Jacob Markstrom remains with the bunch and even beats out #10 Gibson.

Using the main source to determine a goaltender’s skill and performance, save percentage, Markstrom performs better than the seventh-ranked goaltender Holtby and equal to Rask. Markstrom also remains amongst the lower end but not far behind others in the top ten.

Markstrom is among the better half of the top ten goalies when it comes to this advanced stat HDSV%, beating out the likes of Holtby, Fleury, Rask, Price, as well as reigning Vezina trophy winner Vasilevskiy.

To those of you thinking that maybe he hasn’t proved himself (Jordan Binnington though) enough or maybe he hasn’t been consistent enough to be top ten but maybe he’s still at least considered by the league to be in the top half? Nope, the NHL released the five goalies that just missed the cut on August 21st, 2019. One could make the argument that lots of these goalies also deserve to be in the top 10 but that’s not what I’m here for.

The five that just missed out on being top ten are (in no particular order)

  1. Frederik Andersen
  2. Connor Hellebuyck
  3. Matt Murray
  4. Robin Lehner
  5. Carter Hart

These charts below represent the five bubble goalies plus Markstrom.

Again GAA, but this gets a little bit more interesting because of how much better Toronto was than Vancouver last season, Markstrom is equal to Andersen. Also surpassing Hellebuyck and Hart. Even further the fact that lots of these “bubble goalies” have higher SV% than goalies solidified in the top 10.

Here’s why Markstrom is a great goaltender and why the Vancouver Canucks stay in most games that they are clearly being outplayed in. Jacob Markstrom is clearly a clutch goaltender coming up key and keeping the Canucks up when they should be getting put down. There’s a reason why some people were arguing for him to be the Canucks MVP last season.

Jacob Markstrom has gone through some tough times in Vancouver but he definitely deserves a little bit of recognition for a bit and not fans breathing down his neck for Demko to take his job. Markstrom could very well be the goalie to lead the Canucks out of their playoff drought and I, for one, am all for it.