When I finally got a chance to sit down and write about James Reimer (which I apologize for it taking so long), two questions kept coming up.
The first; is #3 too high of a ranking for Reimer?
While his statistics have been an improvement over the level of goaltending the Leafs have received since the lockout, they aren't exactly mind-blowing. His 921 save percentage over 37 games last season was good for around the 20th best rate in the league last season, but if you look at the splits by month it also decreased each month of the season, a feat that up until this month was repeating itself this year (although January's .857 included just one game). Having battled injuries and inconsistency for much of this season, it's possible that one of the Leafs top young prospects in Joe Colborne or Nazem Kadri should be placed ahead of him.
Then there was the second question; is #3 too low of a ranking for Reimer?
As far as the accomplshments of the Top 25 go, Reimer's 60 NHL games are the fourth-most of all players; only Phil Kessel, Luke Schenn and Cody Franson have played more in the NHL. So as far as actual accomplishments in the NHL, he's made more of an impact than many of those behind him. And one month shy of 24 years old, with the later development track common in goalies, Reimer could very well still have quite a ways still to go in developing consistency.
And then there's this; the Brian Burke era of the Maple Leafs never resembled a playoff team until James Reimer (and Jonas Gustavsson, to an extent) gave the team playoff calibre goaltending. Reimer's save percentage of .906 is depressed by a horrific save percentage on the penalty kill, where the Leafs to a man were simply incapable of stopping a puck while shorthanded. When at evens, Reimer's ES save percentage of roughly 930 (before games against Philly and Montreal) would have put him among the top goaltenders in the league.
You would be hard-pressed to convince others of the argument, but is Reimer more valuable than Phil Kessel? Kessel's managed at least 30 goals in every season in Toronto, but like I said, the Leafs never resembled a playoff team until James Reimer started to give them playoff calibre goaltending.
Maybe #3 is just about right. At this point in his young career, Reimer's definitely shown flashes of what he can provide as the Leafs' starter. After bursting through a crowded development system to wrestle the starting job away from Giguere and Gustvasson, Reimer was the one the team handed the reins to down the stretch last season, and the odds are he'll carry the mail in the last 25 games of this season as the Leafs look to finally snap their drought of no playoff hockey since 2004.
And while Reimer still has plenty of work to do to become more well-rounded as a netminder, he still has time to continue to develop and progress. Leaf fans have been understandably wary of Reimer's struggles this season, because we've been burned by a brief hot streak from a goalie before. But with Reimer, things are definitely different. Reimer's the type of kid you want to see succeed, and he has been willing to put in the work to make his dream come true.
Reimer received no votes higher than 2 and no votes lower than 4, putting him well clear of Luke Schenn and just behind our pick at #2.