Sorokin's stellar play has raised the question: Who is the best goaltender in hockey?

March 8, 2023 11:17 AM

Sorokin's stellar play has raised the question: Who is the best goaltender in hockey?

Linus Ullmark (Bruins) is likely to win the Vezina Trophy as the season's best goaltender, but winning the award does not mean he is the definitive answer to the question. That will always be up for debate.

Although Ullmark has had an impressive season, several other goaltenders are also in the conversation for the title of the best in hockey, such as Igor Shesterkin (Rangers), Connor Hellebuyck (Jets), and Juuse Saros (Predators).

However, my pick for the best goaltender in hockey is Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin did not even play an NHL game until January 2021, but you would have to go back to February 2020 to find a goaltender who has accumulated more shutout victories.

To understand why Sorokin is the best goaltender in hockey right now, readers must understand two statistics: Expected Goals (xG) and Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx).

The importance of Expected Goals and Goals Saved Above Expected

Expected goals (xG) is a statistical metric used in hockey to measure the quality of scoring chances based on factors such as shot location, shot angle, and shot type. Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) is a metric used in hockey to measure a goaltender's performance by comparing their actual goals allowed to the expected goals allowed based on the quality and quantity of shots faced. Shots are not created equal. Goaltenders don’t control the shots they face, and statistics like goals against and wins are team stats. Variables like shot type and location matter a lot, which is why metrics like GSAx are so important.

Sorokin vs. Shesterkin

Shesterkin cast a big shadow in the 2021-22 season by saving the Rangers 37.2 goals above expected, which equates to saving the team approximately 0.75 goals per game. It is one of the top goaltending performances of all time, but this season, Shesterkin is in Sorokin's shadow.

Sorokin held his own in the 2021-22 season, saving the Islanders 21.5 goals above expected, but he has saved the team 43.3 goals above expected in the 2022-23 season, which is the fourth-highest mark in history. If you add up the last three seasons, it looks like this:



Games Played


Ilya Sorokin




Igor Shesterkin




Statistics via Evolving Hockey

Consistency is key for Sorokin

The Rangers would not be the contender they are without Shesterkin, but they would still be good enough to be a playoff team. The Islanders, on the other hand, would be totally irrelevant without Sorokin. The 27-year-old has been insanely consistent too. Ullmark has consistently ranked in the top 10 of GSAx month over month, but Sorokin has ranked among the top five in GSAx every month but one (December) this season, and no goaltender has played at that level consistently.

Hockey is a game of ebbs and flows, but Sorokin has been mostly elite, and he deserves the mantle of the best goaltender in hockey right now.

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