Rookie Report: Looking at the League’s top goalies

Updated: November 27, 2010 at 1:53 pm by Andrew Brown

Goaltending is perhaps the most difficult position to succeed in at the NHL level. There are arguably only 30 starting jobs in the NHL, compared to defensemen or forwards who will have more opportunities to play since the demand is greater. Many goalies have been know as one hit wonders, or a flash in the pan, and others move on to become regular starters, some of which may reach elite status. Let’s take a look at this season rookie goalies to see how they stand.

Sergei Bobrovsky, PHI – One of the biggest questions you may have heard so far in this season is ‘who is Sergei Bobrovsky!?’ Signed as a free agent by Philadelphia in the summer, the young Russian played in the KHL for two seasons with Novokuznetsk Metallurg– a pretty poor team. Bob has seized the starting role for the Flyers after Michael Leighton was injured in the pre-season and stole the job from Brian Boucher, who the Flyers clearly have no confidence in. The Flyers stand second in the Eastern Conference thanks to a 12-3-2 start by the rookie, who also flaunts a 2.19 goals against average and an impressive .926 save percentage. At this rate Bobrovsky will remain the starter in Philadelphia even after Leighton returns.

Michal Neuvirth, WSH – Neuvirth was the starting goalie in Washington while Semyon Varlamov was out with his usual season-starting injury. The Capitals have a strong team that can score goals in buckets but the young Czech native put up some impressive numbers in his first 19 games with a 12-3-1 record while holding a .912 save percentage. Now that Varlamov is back, the two will have to fight for their starts but the rookie definitely showed his worth over the first two months.

Cory Schneider, VAN – One of the most highly touted young goalies is Schneider, who has great potential to be a starter in the NHL. His only problem is that he plays behind Roberto Luongo in Vancouver, which is probably the safest position in all of hockey. Drafted 26th overall in 2004, Schneider has been developing his game at the AHL level for the last three seasons before getting the call as the team’s full-time backup.  In limited action, Schneider has turned in a few impressive performances, posting a 3-0-1 record with a 2.08 goals against average and .936 save percentage.

Corey Crawford, CHI – With salary cap issues in Chicago, there were question as to who would be guarding the net for the Blackhawks this season. The Hawks decided to let Antti Niemi go and opted for veteran Marty Turco at a lower price tag. The x-factor in this development is Crawford, who was forced to play in the AHL last season after Niemi beat him out for the NHL roster spot. Now Crawford is getting his chance to show his skills as he takes on the backup roll in Chicago and has excelled with some decent peripherals:4-4-0, 2.21 GAA, .922 SV% .

Anders Lindback, NSH – In Nashville, Pekka Rinne is the starting goalie for the Predators but he will need to stay sharp with Lindback pushing for playing time. Currently serving as the backup, Lindback hails from Sweden and stands tall at 6’6″. The Giant Swede has good potential to be a starter in the NHL and has shown he is capable of taking pressure off Rinne went he went down earlier in the season. Lindback has a 3-1-1 record and a .913 SV% so far for his first season in the NHL.

Jonathan Bernier, LAK – Perhaps one of the most anticipated goalies to make his NHL debut was Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings. Drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier has been refining his game in the AHL for the last two seasons. The Quebec native is projected to be a starting goalie in the NHL with some pundits thinking he could steal the job from Jonathan Quick as early as this season. It seems it will take some time for the rookie to establish himself because so far Quick has been playing in top form for the Kings; while Bernier has had a 2-5-0 record and a .889 save percentage.

Devan Dubnyk, EDM – With the recent injury to starter Nikolai Khabibulin, Dubnyk should get a chance to play more games; it will be up to him to show he is capable. So far this season he holds an impressive .919 save percentage in seven appearances, primarily in relief role. Last season he served as a backup and while only playing in 19 games displayed a mediocre .889 save percentage.  Drafted 14th overall in 2004, Dubnyk has the skill and size to develop solid NHL goalie which is likely why he was kept opposed to Jeff Deslauriers.

Honourable mentions:

Braden Holtby, WSH – After Neuvirth became the starter in Washington, Holtby was called up to fill in the backup role. The Saskatchewan native had a 2-2-1 record before Varlamov returned from injury this week. Now returned to the minors, Holtby is not likely to see much action in the NHL this season but gives the Capitals solid depth in goal down the road.

Jhonas Enroth, BUF – With Ryan Miller missing some games with a groin injury, Enroth was called up to play a back up role. The young Swede was given a chance to play, and posted a 2-2-1 record before being sent back to the minors this week. Miller is returning from injury, so Enroth should not see much action in the NHL unless they need him to fill in. Standing third in the Sabres depth chart, Enroth does have potential to develop into a solid goaltender but will likely have to wait till next season to get a chance to prove himself.

While some are already showing their potential as starters, which of these goalies do you think could be the best in the long run? Let us know by posting your comments!

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Andrew Brown

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