The NHL's Next Generation of Goalie Superstars
Few sports have an exclusive carousel of talent like the NHL does with its goaltenders.
There seems to always be a select few goaltenders that find a way to be head and shoulders above the competition on a consistent basis.
Think Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph to name a few in recent history. Most goaltenders seem to have peaks and valleys in their careers, but there are some that just seem to climb to the top and stay there.
Patrick Roy, for example, started 1029 NHL regular season games with 551 wins. He is second on the NHL wins list.
Current New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur is the winningest goaltender in NHL history (656). If he plays out both years of his new deal, he very well may get to 700.
In two years, it will be the end of an era of goaltending unmatched in hockey history.
With every ending comes a new beginning. These are some of the young goaltenders that look to write their own chapter in the history books and become the next generation of superstars.
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Ottawa Senators goaltender Ben Bishop has had success at some high levels of competition.
In the American Hockey League with the Peoria Rivermen, Bishop won 62 games in three seasons. Last season, Bishop led the league with six shutouts and recording a 2.27 goals-against average.
Bishop was in a rough situation in St. Louis, behind the best two-goalie tandem in the NHL with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Hence the move to Ottawa.
Bishop's numbers in the NHL have been unimpressive. He has 23 games under his belt with a 7-8-2 record.
The 6'7" goaltender is an athletic goaltender that gives opponents "little to shoot at," according to Hockey's Future.
The goaltender situation in Ottawa may give Bishop some more opportunities to prove himself. If he succeeds, he could be one of the next great group of goaltenders.
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No, this isn't the game guy as the last slide, but we will stay within the Ottawa Senators organization.
Robin Lehner didn't make as big of a splash in the media as Bishop did last season with his request to get out of St. Louis.
Instead, Lehner grabbed the Senators' attention with what he did in goal.
Hockey Futures gives Lehner a 7.5 prospect talent score, compared to Bishop's 7.0, but he has performed far better at the NHL level last season.
Lehner went 3-2 in five games with the Senators and recorded a 2.01 goals-against average. That record includes a 1-0 shutout of the Boston Bruins in Boston.
Combine that with his 14-4 postseason record with the Binghamton Senators in 2010-11, Lehner seems to be comfortable on the biggest stages.
The 21-year-old Swede is 6'3" and 220 lbs, a good size for an NHL goaltender.
The Senators will have quite the decision to make in net for the next few years. But, they could be picking between two future superstars—not a bad predicament to be in.
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When people think of the recent years of the Tampa Bay Lightning, they seldom think of goaltending being a strength. That may change in a few years.
The Bolts brought in Anders Lindback from the Nashville Predators and have Mathieu Garon as the current No. 1. But, that could all change if Dustin Tokarski continues to improve.
Tokarski is the goaltender for the Lightning's AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. Last season, Tokarski led the league in wins and helped the Admirals win the Calder Cup.
Tokarski, a 7.0 score from Hockey's Future, could be a perfect-10 for the Bolts in the future.
He continues to improve his numbers in the AHL from season to season, posting a career-best 2.23 goals-against average with 32 wins.
On the big stage, Tokarski went 12-2 with a 1.46 GAA and three shutouts for the Admirals en route to the Calder Cup
He has less than stellar NHL numbers (1-3-1 record), but is known to be a consistent goaltender who rarely gets rattled. That's exactly what the Lightning need.
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It's impossible to talk the future of goaltending without mentioning Florida Panthers' prospect Jacob Markstrom.
Markstrom is an 8.0 prospect score from Hockey's Future, but he could be a No. 1 goaltender in the next few seasons.
The Florida Panthers have the top-rated prospect system in the NHL. Markstrom leads that class.
The 22-year-old Swede has an NHL-type frame. He's 6'6" and nearly 200 lbs. If he adds some weight and keeps his quickness, that will make things even more difficult on opposing offenses.
The tall goaltender is a bit of a surprise since he favors the butterfly style, but he has found some significant success using it. He's noted to be a very intense competitor with a good glove.
Adjusting to the North American game will be one of Markstrom's bigger challenges. Once he is able to read the North American game, he could scratch his way into the NHL ranks.
Markstrom has a 2-5-1 record at the NHL level and a less-than stellar 2.69 goals-against average. But, that doesn't take away from the fact that he is probably the best goaltending prospect in the league.
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One of the most NHL-ready goaltending prospects is Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.
Some may argue that he isn't a prospect anymore, but with only 21 NHL regular season games under his belt, he is still finding his mark.
Holtby, unlike some of the other goaltending prospects, has dominated the NHL in his small sample size. Holtby is 14-4-3 in 21 regular season contests with the Caps. He has three shutouts and a 2.02 goals-against average.
Holtby also has rare postseason experience. In 2011-12, Holtby played in 14 playoff games and went 7-7 with an astonishing 1.95 GAA.
Holtby is a 7.5 prospect score from Hockey's Future but it's hard to argue with his success in the NHL so far.
A butterfly goaltender with good technical strength and a solid frame (6'1", 205 lbs), Holtby has the scouts' attention and now he has an opportunity.
With the Caps letting Tomas Vokoun head to the Pittsburgh Penguins, it's now Holtby and Michal Neuvirth in Washington.
That tandem could switch roles sporadically throughout 2012-13, but Holtby could be the next headliner in the NHL goaltending elite.
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We end this list with a great feel-good story in Vancouver Canucks prospect Eddie Lack.
Lack is a 7.0 prospect score from Hockey's Future and didn't get the attention of many NHL teams in his young career.
The 24-year-old Swede is 6'4" and even soaking wet weighs less than 190 lbs. With that said, he has fared well in his young career.
Lack was a back-up to Florida Panthers' prospect Jacob Markstrom in Sweden for the 2009-10 season, limiting his appearances.
The year before, in Sweden's Allsvenskan, Lack played in 32 games and had the league's second-best goals-against average (2.02), a .930 save percentage and four shutouts.
His limited success caused him to go undrafted, but the Vancouver Canucks took a chance on him, signing Lack to an entry-level contract in 2010.
In 2010-11 with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, Lack went 28-21-4 with five shutouts. His 2.26 GAA caught the attention of the Canucks and some of the hockey world.
He is currently the No. 3 goaltending prospect behind Markstrom and Holtby, according to the Goalie Guild.
With Corey Schneider a fixture in Vancouver and Roberto Luongo's future in flux, the Canucks could be looking for a No. 2 tender.
Answering the undrafted call could be Eddie Lack.
What a story that would be: Undrafted Eddie Lack doesn't lack NHL stardom.
Other undrafted goaltenders who have fared well:
Curtis Joseph (4th in NHL in wins, 454)
Ed Belfour (3rd in NHL in wins, 484)
Antti Niemi (96 wins, 19 shutouts in three complete NHL seasons)