Justin Peters Impresses in NHL Debut: Who's the 'Canes Goaltender of the Future?

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IFebruary 7, 2010

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 06:  Justin Peters #60 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his victory against the New York Islanders with teammate Rod Brind'Amour #17 on February 6, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

For Carolina Hurricanes 23-year-old prospect goalie Justin Peters, Feb. 6, 2010 will forever be a cherished memory in his mind through, what will hopefully be, years of success at the NHL level.

His first NHL Game? How about, in addition, his first NHL win?

Peters, who was 18-13-2 in 33 games played with the AHL's Albany River Rats and was named to the AHL All-Star Team several weeks ago, came up the NHL level last night to get the first start of his hopefully long NHL career.

Cam Ward, who is out with a minor upper body injury, was unavailable, and Manny Legace, who won the first game of the back-to-back 4-3 Friday in Buffalo, was resting, so the 'Canes decided to take this chance and see what Peters could do against the slumping New York Islanders.

Obviously, he could do a lot. By the night's end, Peters had racked up some unbelievable stats, that would be an impressive night for even the most proven goaltender around. Even though Carolina was outshot by New York 35-25, Peters came up big time and time again.

In the 'Canes 3-1 road victory, their sixth in their last eight games, Peters finished the game stopping 34 of 35 shots for a .971 save percentage and earned, very deservedly, the first star of the night.

Justin Peters was a 'Cane from the start, drafted with the 38th over choice in 2004 at the age of 17. Peters played with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL and various other low-level minor league teams until the beginning of last season.

Although the River Rats finished as one of the AHL's worst teams in '08-'09, Peters still compiled at .910 save percentage and a 2.89 goals-against average in 54 games played. This season, not only has the team improved but Peters has also improved greatly, and apparently it was enough for the Hurricanes management to give him a shot in the "big leagues."

And we all know how his debut went. Time after time, Peters shut the door on young Islanders stars like John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and, on by far his best save of the night with some help from the goalpost, John Sim.

Still don't believe this magical tale? Visit this web page to see the official nhl.com game highlights.

So, now that we've all been filled in on Peters' unimaginable and electrifying NHL debut, this brings us to the question, "Who is the 'Canes goalie for the week until the Olympic Break, who is the 'Canes goalie for the rest of the season, and who is the 'Canes goalie for the future?"

Despite the all-star presence of former Cup winner Cam Ward, who's become a household name not just in Raleigh, NC, but around the world of hockey fans, that question might be harder than one would think to answer. In addition to Ward, there's aging but solid backup Manny Legace, Justin Peters (no more introduction necessary, hopefully), and 21-year-old AHL backup Mike Murphy, who has quite a bit of potential one his own.

While still-young 25-year-old Ward is probably still the goalie going forward for the next perhaps even 10 seasons, this large selection of goaltenders gives the 'Canes not only a issue to work out but also a relatively large monopoly on the prospect goalie world of the NHL.

Leaving out over-his-prime Legace, Carolina now has three solid goaltenders all under the age of 25. It might be a very tough choice, but could one of these goaltenders perhaps be expendable?

Legace is definitely available for trade (he will be a UFA at the end of the season) but likely wouldn't get the 'Canes much in return due to his age. On the other hand though, Carolina could make a hard choice and perhaps trade one of these prospects away with another expendable forward or defenseman and they might be able to get quite a return.

Teams such as Edmonton, Toronto (JS Giguere won't be around to solve their problems for long), and Ottawa may be interested in securing their goaltending future more with a highly performing young prospective goaltender. However, all of these teams have their fare share of other younger forwards or defensemen to help stabilize the 'Canes lacking situation of young in key positions.

While it may sound like the perfect fit for both teams, this trade would be a hard choice for Carolina to make. Are we really willing to give up one of these shining prospects who appears to have such a bright future? Are we sure that all three of them have a solid NHL career in store for them and are we positive that this trade won't end up leaving us weak at the goaltending position?

No matter what happens, it won't be easy to do. Even if there isn't a trade, it might be a hard choice having to leave one or even two of these players down in the minor leagues. But one thing is certain: with last night's impressive performance by Justin Peters, it's really begun to bring to light be massive treasure chest of goaltending wealth the Hurricanes have built.



Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist for the Carolina Hurricanes. In his 17 months so far with the site, he has written over 160 articles and received over 100,000 total reads.

Visit his profile to read more.