Juuse Saros (2nd in Goals Saved Above Expected in NHL)
Saros will be a shoe-in to get a Vezina Trophy nomination for a second consecutive year at the NHL Awards in Nashville this summer, and even though he’ll almost certainly come up short to Boston’s Linus Ullmark, what a season it’s been for Juice.
I would have to turn in my Predators fandom card if I left Saros off of this list. It would be blasphemous. Simply put, the Predators are a lottery team picking in the top-10 without Saros between the pipes.
Even though Kevin Lankinen has been a quality backup and deserves to be a No.1 goalie on an NHL team, this team only goes as far as Saros can take them. Just take the most recent loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. A 2-0 loss, no offense at all being generated, and yet Saros gave his team a chance to win deep into the third period.
Saros probably has six more starts left for the 2022-23 season, with two back-to-backs where Lankinen will get the starts. It will be close, but there’s still a chance that Saros in fewers games than last season will establish a career high for saves in a season.
With very little goal production around him, Saros has managed to mirror his Vezina worthy numbers from last season. Pretty incredible feat.
It takes no stretch of the imagination to understand that the Nashville Predators will always be a playoff bubble team at worst as long as Saros is in net. If they can build a team around him, which it looks like they’re doing, then this team can hopefully move quickly through this “retool” period and get back to competing for deep playoff runs.