Jacob Markstrom has not been without his share of criticism since his arrival in Vancouver as part of the trade that sent Roberto “strombone1” Luongo to the Panthers. His play has had some ups and downs, but the eye test and some recent stats say that he has reached another level in his recent play. In doing so, he has helped Vancouver win games they shouldn’t be winning.
But is Jacob Markstrom an elite goalie in today’s NHL? Let’s take a look at his pedigree as well as his past and current performance.
As the 31st draft pick in 2008 and as the 2009-2010 league Elitserien – aka the Swedish Elite League – save percentage leader with a .927 save percentage (SVS%), Markstrom was heralded to be one hell of a goalie. However, when he arrived in the NHL, his performance left him bouncing between the AHL and NHL for a few years before he was supposed to become the 2013-2014 Panthers’ starter. But along came Vancouver’s all-time-favorite goaltender Tim “Lu pumps my tires” Thomas to dash Markstrom’s dreams – at this point in time, Marky was relegated to the AHL.
It’s pretty clear that JM25 came into the league with a decent pedigree – and by that, I mean draft rank – but does pedigree really help determine how well a goalie performs? Let’s consider the top goalies in 2018-2019 who have played at least 20 games in terms of S% and where they were taken in their respective drafts.
Okay, well first off – a lot of those names aren’t who you expect. Second, this sample is limited to a portion of the 2018-2019 season. Third, these stats don’t take into account the strength of the team playing in front of the goalie. So yeah, this analysis is flawed – but I’ll make sure to circle back to it in another article on what the effect of smaller equipment has been on goalies this year.
Back to what’s relevant. Very few of those names are taken in the first round – in fact, it seems like late round picks (176th, 206th, 271st) seem to predominate along with mid-early round picks (85th, 87th, 87th, and 94th). This really basic analysis, although flawed, might show that at least in this year’s selection of goalies, draft position really doesn’t mean anything. In a similar vein, an analysis of Marky’s SHL stats really is not meaningful because of the small number of Swedish goalies who have played a significant number of games in the modern era.
Past and Present Performance
Markstrom’s performance boils down to a few details:
- He has proven himself to be more than capable as an AHL goalie
- He has performed relatively consistently as a goalie in the NHL
- This season is a tale of two halves for Jacob Markstrom.
From 2010-2015, Marky brought his SVS% up form an average of .905 to .934, while his GAA fell from 2.98 to 1.88. That maturation took a little while, but it showed that Markstrom is more than capable as an AHL goalie. He has nothing left to prove in that league and has shown that he is capable of refining his technique under goalie coaches such as Rollie Melanson.
But how about his NHL performance?
A couple of things to note here. First, Marky’s performance has largely stayed the same since 2015. He seems to have had an off year in 2016-2017 but has since rebounded to achieve a pretty average .914 SVS% and 2.71 GAA. So far, it seems like Markstrom is pretty average as a goalie. In fact, if you take a look at hockeyreference.com, you’ll see that .914 is a pretty average save percentage and that his GAA of 2.71 is slightly below average.
A really important thing to note here is that SVS% has not dipped below .910 since 2009-2009; Marky’s steady performance at .914 is fairly notable. It might be that Marky’s improved performance is being confounded by the introduction of smaller equipment this year. Similarly, GAA has climbed this year in the league while Marky’s GAA has stayed the same. Perhaps Markstrom really is having an outstanding year beyond his previous performances; only his future performance can help us determine whether or not he has turned a corner in his goaltending.
Last, this season has been a tale of two Markstroms. Check out the graph below:
This graph shows that Markstrom has had a steady and slight increase in save percentage over the course of the season. You can also note that he has had some inconsistency in his performances, but you can also see his one shutout in all its crowning glory (!).
Perhaps putting it a bit more simply, in his first 26 games this season, Marky sported a .906 SVS% with a standard deviation of 0.047 while his latter 26 games sported an SVS% of .921 with an SVS% of 0.048. This tells us that he has consistency has remained the same, but that he has improved on a surface level analysis as a goalie. However, the difference between his SVS% in his first and last 26 games doesn’t appear to be significant as the 2 standard deviation margin for significance overlaps between the two segments. We should keep watching to see how Marky performs.
Marky has had a rough start to his career but has slowly edged his way out of the AHL. Even on a Canucks team with poor defense. His performance this year, especially in the latter 26 games, has been very good – however, not statistically significantly better than his first 26 games. For now, the eye test tells us that Marky has been doing well, but in the context of a poor Canucks D and SVS% down across the league (perhaps due to smaller equipment), it might be safe to say that Marky Mark is finally hitting his stride at the spry young age of 29.