Predators Grades: Juuse Saros Takes the Starter Role

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Nashville Predators had one of the best and youngest backup goalies in the NHL in Juuse Saros, and now he’s finally taken over the starter’s role. 

In the 2013 NHL Draft, Juuse Saros was selected by the Nashville Predators in the fourth round at 99th overall. It’s proving to be a great draft pick by the Nashville Predators looking back on it now.

Saros has been a regular behind Pekka Rinne for the past couple of seasons, with his last time for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL coming in the 2017-18 season.

After seeing Saros ramp up his game and put the team on his back, it’s very fair to say that he’s overtaken Rinne as the team’s primary starter. The future is now for Saros.

Slow start, but gradual improvement

Gradually Saros has improved into the player he is currently. He started out the beginning of the season at a slow pace, but he definitely reached a steady pace of wins that brought the team back into the playoff picture.

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By deveolping more and more, from coach to coach, he is reaching his all-time peak in the net. He’s solidifying his role as the primary starter for the Predators for years to come.

Since the coaching change, we can all see that he is a more confident goaltender. His skill has become breathtaking to watch and even more to witness his wins to even shootouts.

As the current season was wrapping up we were starting to see a sign of things to come from Saros as the changing of the guard is occurring in net.

Miraculous Season for Saros

This 2019-20 season for Saros has been one for the history books. His save percentage rounded out with a respectable .914%. He rebounded nicely after struggling early on. The first three starts were rough as he had save percentages below 90 in three losses.

Saros’ playing time has rapidly increased this season with 34 starts and 40 total appearances, which is easily a new career high. That number will keep increasing into next season as Rinne most likely falls back into a backup role.

I do think that Coach Hynes has coached and trusted Saros more than Peter Laviolette did. Laviolette had been with Rinne for his entire Nashville coaching tenure and was sticking with Rinne primarily over Saros.

By standing out and developing into a more-rounded goaltender, Saros deserves to split the starting goaltender spot with Rinne at the very least. He has developed greatly this season.

Saros finished with a 17-12-4 record and was hitting the high point of his season when everything came to a halt.

In his last four games, Saros gave up just five goals and had back-to-back shutouts over the Dallas Stars to put the Predators back into a wildcard spot. Him catching fire at just the right time put his team into hopefully another playoff appearance.

Razzle-Dazzle, Juuse!

A Tweet by Alex Daugherty of AtoZSports back on March 8th highlighted how great Saros was playing as the season was about to be put on pause:

Saros developed miraculously as a goaltender from January to the beginning of March. Since the start of the New Year, Saros was among the best in the NHL in save percentage, coming up right behind Tuukka Rask and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

A-. . G. Nashville Predators. JUUSE SAROS

He doesn’t get a perfect grade because he did start off sluggish and took some bad starts, while Rinne was the one starting off strong. However, the roles flipped as the season progressed.

I’m curious on how next season will go for Saros, but I do know that he’ll definitely be more relied on by the coaching staff and teammates. It’s been a long road to get Saros to where he is now as having the team’s primary starting role, or at least as it appears.

This season ended off in a powerful way with Juuse and I am excited to see the soaring levels he will reach next season.