(Rankings are based solely on players' projected performances in 2011-12. Players are listed at their official position when the rankings were created.)
There are only 30 starting goalies in the NHL, so a top-25 ranking is almost as much about who didn't make the list as who did. On that note, the five projected starters who didn't make the cut are Colorado's Semyon Varlamov(notes), who still has star potential but is coming off a couple of injury-plagued seasons in Washington; Florida's Scott Clemmensen(notes), who'll compete with 2002 NHL MVP Jose Theodore(notes) for the No. 1 job; the Islanders' Rick DiPietro(notes), the first overall draft pick in 2000 who seems destined to be remembered for his 15-year contract and penchant for injuries; Phoenix's Mike Smith(notes), who couldn't hold on to the top job in Tampa Bay last season; and, Toronto's James Reimer(notes), who rose from the minors to play a starring role for the Leafs in the second half of last season.
Varlamov, Reimer and a healthy DiPietro are the best candidates to crack the 2012-13 edition of this list, with Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) (No. 23) and Ottawa's Craig Anderson(notes) (No. 25) a couple of keepers in danger of going the other way. Of course, goaltending is a crazy, topsy-turvy profession, and you never really know how things will work out until the mask comes off at the end of the season. Just ask Boston's Tim Thomas(notes), who won the Vezina Trophy in 2009, was relegated to backup duty due to injuries and sub-par play in 2010, and then rebounded with a storybook season in 2011.
Best backups: Tuukka Rask(notes), Boston Bruins; Cory Schneider(notes), Vancouver Canucks; Michal Neuvirth(notes), Washington Capitals; Sergei Bobrovsky(notes), Philadelphia Flyers; Antero Niittymaki(notes), San Jose Sharks.
25. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators: He's had world-beating stretches and is used to seeing a lot of shots, which bodes well for the Sens.
23. Nikolai Khabibulin, Edmonton Oilers: Age and injuries are the big cracks in the Bulin Wall.
18. Corey Crawford(notes), Chicago Blackhawks: It's not often that a rookie takes over starting duties for the defending Cup champions, but Crawford performed admirably and nearly rallied the 'Hawks past the Canucks in the first round of the playoffs.
11. Martin Brodeur(notes), New Jersey Devils: The all-time gold standard for goaltending, but age is finally becoming a factor. Injuries have sidelined him for big chunks of two of the past three seasons, including last year when he posted his first-ever losing record (23-26-3).
1. Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins: In the span of a couple weeks, he won the Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup. Who else did you think would be No. 1?
Sam McCaig is the NHL editor for Yahoo! Sports and Yahoo! Canada
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