The until recently abysmal Toronto Maple Leafs are on a four game winning streak, and the biggest reason for their recent success has been the play of goaltender James Reimer, recently promoted from the Marlies. Reimer has a 4-1 record, a 0.947 SV%, and has yet to play a game where he has saved less than 30 shots or posted a save percentage lower than 0.930.
While Reimer hasn’t emerged fully-formed from the minors as the second coming of Dominik Hasek, there is reason to believe he’s ready for the jump to the big leagues.
Certainly it isn’t Reimer’s NHL results that have me saying this. Reimer’s short-handed save percentage is a dazzling 0.971, a number that has absolutely no chance of continuing. Not only does Reimer play for a team less than renowned for their penalty killing ability, but last year’s Vezina winner, Ryan Miller, managed a 0.919 SV% (the best number of any starter in the league in 2009-10). Reimer’s even-strength save percentage is also insanely good, at 0.942 – another number better than any posted by an NHL starter last season.
Reimer’s track record is a solid one. He put in three strong seasons in the WHL with the Red Deer Rebels, before making the jump to the professional level in 2008-09. Reimer’s professional debut came with the ECHL’s Reading Royals where he posted a mediocre 0.904 SV%. That sounds bad, but the Royals were a sad franchise – finishing last in the league with 24-42-6 record, 269 goals against and a minus-58 goal differential. Reimer was loaned to South Carolina late in the season, where his numbers improved greatly: he went 6-0 with a 0.961 SV% over the remainder of the regular season, and followed that up with a 0.929 SV% over eight playoff games en route to the ECHL championship.
In 2009-10, Reimer was elevated to the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. He was one of four goaltenders to play for the club, along with two seasoned professionals (Adam Munro and Joey MacDonald) and rookie pro Andrew Engelage. Reimer’s 0.925 SV% easily led the team (Munro was next with a 0.905 SV%), and though he didn’t play enough games to qualify, it would also have been the second best number in the league. He’s also been very strong this season, posting a 0.920 SV% over 11 games.
Putting all that together, we see a quality prospect with an impressive resume. That doesn’t guarantee success, but it makes it much more likely that beneath this flashy start is an NHL goalie.