Since this summer, a sect of fans on X (formerly known as Twitter) has been championing Jaxson Stauber as the Chicago Blackhawks’ goalie of the future. While we at The Rink dismissed this chatter as just offseason noise, the clamoring for Stauber has intensified since the season began. When Arvid Soderblom was crushed by Arizona, the noise began to bubble up. While Soderblom rebounded in his next start against New Jersey, people on X were still saying that Soderblom was a problem and Stauber was the solution. I decided to look deeper into Jaxon Stauber.
Who is Jaxson Stauber?
Jaxson Stauber is a 24-year-old goalie from Wayzata, Minnesota. He is the son of former NHL goalie Robb Stauber, who played in 68 NHL games and was the first goalie to win the Hobey Baker Award in the NCAA.
Stauber began his junior hockey career in the USHL, playing with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. The USHL has players aged 16–21.
In his first season with Sioux Falls, he appeared in 22 games and notched 3.07 goals against average and .900 save percentage in 2017–18. Stauber’s .900 save percentage was not good enough to be one of the top 20 goalies of the USHL. In comparison, former Blackhawks prospect Wouter Peeters posted a .902 save percentage and a 3.02 GAA and was ranked 17th because of his goals against average. Stauber improved in his second USHL, finishing 13th in USHL with a 2.91 goals against average and .883 save percentage. As a comparison, current Blackhawks prospect Drew Commesso posted a 3.48 goals against average and a .889 in his rookie USHL season with the U.S. National Team Development Program. In addition to improving to a top-15 goalie in the USHL, Stauber helped the Stampede win their third USHL league championship, going 11–1 en route. He was also named as the Clark Cup MVP.
After his second season in the USHL, Stauber went off to college at the University of Minnesota State-Mankato. He appeared in one game for Mankato before returning to the USHL. At the University of Minnesota State-Mankato, Stauber was blocked Dryden McKay, who was one of the top freshman goalies in the country. McKay would go onto win the Hobey Baker Award in 2022.
Upon returning to the Stampede, Stauber put up his best season yet. He finished fifth in the USHL with a 2.45 goals against average and .918 save percentage. As a comparison, current Blackhawks goalie prospect Dominic Basse, as a rookie, put up a 3.48 goals against average and a .887 for the 20th-best goals against average in the USHL that season.
While his tenure at the University of Minnesota State-Mankato did not work out the way he intended, Stauber was still open to playing college hockey. In 2020–21, Stauber went to play hockey for Providence College. In his first season with the Friars, he went 11–7–5 with a 2.24 goals against average and .916 save percentage. He recorded shutouts against Northeastern, Vermont, UMass and UConn.
He followed up his first season at Providence College with an even better second season. He started 37 of 38 games and went 21–14–2 with a 2.10 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He had shutouts against New Hampshire, Vermont, Princeton and Boston College. He then left college and signed his entry-level contract as an undrafted free agent with the Blackhawks.
Since signing with the Hawks, Stauber has primarily been an AHL goalie. He appeared in 17 games with the Rockford IceHogs last season, posting a 3.32 goals against average and .894 save percentage. He did get a brief cameo with the Blackhawks, in which he appeared in six games. He posted a 2.81 goals against average and a .911 save percentage with five wins. So far in the 2023–24 season, Stauber has been firmly planted behind Commesso in Rockford.
The fans calling for Stauber point to the fact that he is a winner at the NHL level. He has recorded five wins in six starts. His six starts were good for 83rd out of 107 goalies that made an NHL start last season and only five other goalies won exactly five games. As points of reference, here are the other five goalies that won five NHL starts last season. The first goalie was Magnus Hellberg, who went 5–8 with a .888 save percentage and 3.20 goals against average. He was waived by the Seattle Kraken and claimed by Ottawa, played one game for Ottawa and then was claimed by off waivers by the Detroit Red Wings. He appeared in 18 games between three NHL clubs last season. Hellberg spent most of this year with Pittsburgh’s AHL team before making two starts in the NHL this season. Devon Levi appeared in seven games for Buffalo, winning five with a .905 save percentage and 2.94 goals against average. So far this season, Levi is the back up in the NHL, appearing in five games with a record of 2–3 a .885 save percentage and 3.41 goals against average. Alex Nedeljkovic won five games last season for Detroit, but has fallen from grace since winning four playoff games in 2020–21 with Carolina. He went 5–7 with a .895 save percentage and 3.53 goals against average last season. He has appeared in two games for the Penguins this season. The journeyman Anthony Stolarz won five games last season with the Anaheim Ducks with a.897 save percentage and 3.73 goals against average. He has currently appeared in two games with the Florida Panthers this season, one of which coming against the Blackhawks. The last goalie to have five NHL wins last season was Cal Petersen. He went 5–3–2 with a .868 save percentage and a 3.75 goals against average. He was moved in a salary dump to the Philadelphia Flyers. As you can see, you do not have to be a future NHL regular to win five NHL starts.
When you dig deeper into Stauber’s wins at the NHL level, the Hawks averaged 4.6 goals in his wins and scored zero goals in his loss. For the season, the Hawks averaged 2.6 goals per game, so the Hawks scored two more goals per game in his wins. His first win came against the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 26 when the Blackhawks still had Patrick Kane, Max Domi and Jonathan Toews on offense and Jake McCabe on defense. The win also took place when the Blackhawks were on the bit of a hot streak, winning three of their previous four games. His second win came against the Calgary Flames. He once again had a full roster of Hawks and got five goals scored for him. Meanwhile, the Flames were in the front end of a back-to-back and were probably looking ahead to Seattle. The Hawks also scored five goals that night. In his third start, the Hawks still had a full foster and Stauber had not been in net since playing against the Flames. There were two games in between, both started by Petr Mrazek. The Hawks scored four goals and won in overtime. In his fourth game, Stauber allowed four goals on 31 shots and lost 4–0 to the lowly Montreal Canadiens. In his fifth start, the Blackhawks scored five against Toronto with a full roster and he gave up three. In his final start, the Blackhawks scored four goals against Dallas and he surrendered three. The Blackhawks had yet to trade Kane, McCabe and Sam Lafferty off the roster yet. While people will point to the fact that Stauber still had to make saves, the players in front of him matter.
My point is this, there are a lot of factors that go into winning games at the NHL level, and with Stauber, the Blackhawks were putting in him in best potential spot to win games. Despite the fact that he won five NHL games in six starts does not make him a winner at the NHL level, as it is an incredibly small sample size. One must also consider the fact that teams tend to put forth a stronger team effort when playing in front of an inexperienced minor-league goalie in order to give him a fighting chance.
AHL goalies and fringe NHL goalies can get some wins at the NHL level. The Blackhawks have seen several examples of this over the years. Former KHL goalie Jeff Glass had three NHL wins with the Blackhawks. The most recent example is career minor goalie and current ECHL goalie Dylan Wells. Wells won one game for the Blackhawks last season. His NHL stat line reads 1–0–0 with .932 save percentage and 3.00 goals against average. That stat line looks good on paper, but if you dig deeper, it shows that Wells had one good night in the NHL amidst his professional career.
Stauber was sent down to Rockford after his six NHL starts. Last season at Rockford, he appeared in 17 games with a 3.32 goals against average and .894 save percentage. This season he has appeared in four games, recording a 4.01 goals against average and .889 save percentage.
In conclusion, Stauber is a fine organizational goalie. He played well enough in the USHL and college to warrant a look in the Blackhawks’ organization. He is going to be used as an AHL back up this season, but could get a look in due to future injuries to Mrazek and Soderblom, but he has a long road ahead of him if he is going to be considered a future NHL goalie.
His current road is very challenging for the following reasons. He is not a top prospect and he has not produced overwhelming numbers at the AHL level. Stauber is currently sitting behind Soderblom, Commesso and Adam Gajan in the Blackhawks young goalie hierarchy. Despite Soderblom’s struggles at the NHL level this season, the Blackhawks believe that Soderblom has more long-term potential than Stauber.
Stauber’s path to the NHL might not be with the Blackhawks, but Stauber and his fans can take solace in that organizational goalies can make it to the NHL. Former IceHogs goalie and current Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Matt Tomkins is the prime example of a goalie who worked his way up through an organization only to be given a chance by another one years later, albeit out of injury necessity.
For fans of Stauber, if he does not make the NHL on consistent basis, his career is not a failure. There is nothing wrong with a being a minor-league goalie. He is still playing hockey at the professional level and earning a solid living doing so. Regardless of how his career ends up and if he ever cracks the NHL on a consistent basis, nobody can take away those five NHL wins.