People often speak of goaltenders as"voodoo", like they're some absolutely unprojectable group of players, their odd quirks befuddling both eye and spreadsheet. But this isn't really true. Both eye and spreadsheet do have some useful things to say about goaltender performance, and while the unpredictability is greater than it is for the other positions, uncertainty is just part of the projection process for any player.
We'll start with the spreadsheet. Laurent Brossoit had an impressive year in the AHL in 2014-15. Just how impressive? Let's put it into historical context. In the following chart, I've looked for all of the goalies in the last fifteen years who faced at least 1,000 shots while registering nothing less than a .915 save percentage in their 21-year-old seasons. All of the goalies who played in the NHL last season are highlighted in green, and the ridiculous save percentages that are high enough to not really be comparable are in dark green.
Interesting to see four different goalies from last season, the most of any year in the sample (though a couple of others have three). Regardless, this is broadly encouraging. Just one goalie on the list played no NHL games in a subsequent season and thirteen of twenty-one went on to play 100 NHL games or have an excellent chance of doing so (Lehner, Allen and Jones yes, Hackett no). Even if we remove the four unusually good seasons, we've got ten of seventeen, including several goalies who started for more than one season. We're looking at numbers that project very well, and Brossoit's brief NHL performance certainly hasn't given us reason to believe that he's not on the right track.
Now what about the eye test? Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of recent, detailed scouting reports available, but what is around is uniformly positive. Bruce McCurdy interviewed Barons' blogger Neal Livingston just as Brossoit was beginning to emerge as the starter in OKC, and he offered a very favourable review. Furthermore, Brossoit's one game at the NHL level was an absolute gem. The folks in Edmonton were mostly familiar with him after a decorated junior career with the Oil Kings, and that game only added to the positive impressions.
With the math and the eye seemingly in agreement, there's every reason for Oiler fans to be optimistic. The only challenge now is the competition. Brossoit heads to camp as the fourth goaltender, behind Cam Talbot, Ben Scrivens, and Anders Nilsson but ahead of Eetu Laurikainen. If all five goalies are still with the organization by the time the regular season starts, Brossoit will need to perform well from the start to earn his ice time. Fortunately, his history suggests that he'll do just that.