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Sharks Season Preview: No more mistakes of goaltending past

The Sharks are coming into this season with two different goaltenders than last year.

Adin Hill #33 of the San Jose Sharks tends net during the first period against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on September 26, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

After a really bad goaltending year for the San Jose Sharks last season, they decided to revamp their tandem in between the pipes with the additions of Adin Hill and James Reimer, letting go of long-timer Martin Jones and young option Josef Korenar. How that will pay off for them has yet to be determined, but there is lots of optimism surrounding both replacement netminders.

Adin Hill: Will he live up to the hype?

The Sharks traded for Hill before the expansion draft and free agency in the middle of July. They shipped out Korenar and a 2022 second-round pick to the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes, in exchange for Hill and a 2022 seventh-round pick.

It’s difficult to evaluate what to expect from Hill. The 25-year-old stands at 6-foot-6, 202 pounds, which allows for a ton to work with in terms of frame. However, he has played just 49 games at the NHL level, in which his overall stats have been mostly average.

Throughout his career, Hill has a 19-21-4 record to go with a .909 save percentage (SV%) and a -1.38 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx). These stats aren’t bad at all, but they don’t stand out, which I’m not sure is enough to help the Sharks succeed with the current state of their defensive core.

Nonetheless, the Sharks have made it perfectly clear that Hill is their guy for the future, and in the end, it’s a safe choice. At worst, he will be a stop-gap until a prospect like Benjamin Gaudreau can take the next step. At best, he taps into his unrealized potential and raises his career numbers. Only time will tell, but for now, he’s the starting goaltender in San Jose.

The return of James Reimer

James Reimer returning to San Jose was definitely interesting, but I can’t say I was too shocked. The 33-year-old was a part of the 2015-16 Sharks team that made it to the Stanley Cup Final, during which he played eight games before moving on to the Florida Panthers in the following off-season for a larger role.

Last season did not go how Reimer had hoped. He played in 22 games with the Carolina Hurricanes before being pushed out of the rotation in favor of Alex Nedeljkovic and Petr Mrazek. Through those games, he had a favorable 15-5-2 record, but a .906 SV% and -2.59 GSAx, which are not the best numbers for somebody who got the privilege of being behind the top team in the Central Division.

Despite last year’s woes, Reimer has proven in the past that he can be a reliable backup or tandem option, which is exactly what he will be in San Jose. Throughout his career, he has a .913 SV%, despite playing on countless rebuilding teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2010-2016, and the Panthers from 2016-2019. You can expect this same consistency from him with the Sharks this year.

Alexei Melnichuk: Reliable third-string goalie?

It’s more likely than not that we will see Alexei Melnichuk slot into the Sharks’ third-goalie spot, which may or may not be positive. On one hand, you have a relatively young goaltender who has the tools to make it to the NHL. On the other hand, he has not shown it at all since making the transition to North America.

Melnichuk, 23, split last season in the NHL and American Hockey League. With the Sharks, he had an 0-1-1 record to go with his abysmal .864 SV% and -2.32 GSAx. At the AHL level with the San Jose Barracuda, it didn’t get much better. He had a 7-7-3 record and .868 SV%.

This won’t be a problem if the Sharks don’t lose either of their goaltenders to any major injuries. However, if the team will need to have Melnichuk in the NHL for any considerable amount of time, it may be wise to invest in another option.

Nonetheless, I don’t expect Melnichuk to be as bad as he was last year, as it was his first year in North America, during a weird COVID year. He boasted very respectable numbers in the Kontential Hockey League during his two year stint there, so we know there is a reason as to why the Sharks brought him in.

Final Thoughts

Now while this goaltending trio isn’t anything to write home about, it is a major improvement from 2020-21, and will allow Sharks fans to breathe a little easier while they are playing in their own end. A slight improvement in net paired with a significant improvement from the forwards and the team’s results can look drastically different.