#1: Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators
2021-22 Stats: 67 Games, 38-25-3, 2.64 GAA, .918 Save %, 4 Shutouts
Before you accuse me of being blatantly bias here, let me just say that Saros is objectively the best goaltender in this division whether you’re a diehard fan of the Nashville Predators or if you hate them.
With that said, Saros is at the top of the mountain in terms of goaltenders in this division, but not by a wide margin. Oettinger and Hellebuyck are right there with him on talent level, with Hellebuyck having that elite quality and Oettinger possibly reaching it this season by my prediction.
Saros was a victim to playing for the most penalized team in the NHL last season, which really screwed up his numbers and wasted some strong outings.
If you watched the Nashville Predators with any regularity last season you would have noticed how often that Saros kept his team in games they had no business being in. Sometimes the result would still end in a loss but wasn’t due to Saros.
Furthermore, the team fell apart after Saros went down with an injury late in the season that kept him out of the first round series against the Avalanche. The ending was the first sweep in Predators franchise history.
A more refreshed and energized Saros in 2022-23 should terrorize the other teams in the division. He’ll still be the workhorse for the Nashville Predators, but the hope is Kevin Lankinen can relieve him of starting 67 of 82 games.
Saros got his first career Vezina Trophy nomination last season and going into his second full season with Pekka Rinne in the picture will tell us a lot about the hype of Saros being one of three best NHL goaltenders, and certainly the best in the Central Division.