One of the highlights of the 2010-2011 NHL season has been the influx of ripe talent between the pipes.
This sudden explosion was likely responsible for the Chicago Blackhawks' return to the postseason and the Toronto Maple Leafs' late-season turnaround.
It has given certain franchises, such as the Leafs, the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators, a glimmer of hope and a sense of stability.
Let us now take a closer look at the top 15 goaltenders who made their presence felt this year and have a chance to become the stars of tomorrow.
Justin Peters, in parts of two seasons, has proven himself as a solid netminder, posting a 9-8-0 record over 21 games played during 2009-10 and 2010-11.
He was a second round pick of the Hurricanes, back in 2004.
Peters should develop into a reliable goaltender, he just needs more seasoning.
Koskinen, a second round pick of the Islanders in 2009, played just four games in the NHL this season, but was very solid in those contests, sporting a 2-1 record.
His stats look unimpressive, but a closer look will reveal that, in two of his starts, Koskinen was nothing short of brilliant.
Starting on consecutive nights, Mikko would make 40 saves to stymie the Canadiens in Montreal, following up with 38 stops during a 9-3 Islander blowout of the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nassau Coliseum.
Koskinen has a bright future ahead of him, the Isles just need to be patient.
Dubnyk appeared in 35 contests for the hapless Oilers, winning 12 games and dropping 13, eight of which were overtime/shootout losses. He had two shutouts, coming against the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks. Both are playoff teams in the Western Conference.
He was Edmonton's first round choice in 2004 and, as he's demonstrated this year, for good reason. The Regina native finished out 2010-2011 with a .916 save percentage and a 2.71 goals-against average.
Hockey Canada rewarded Devan for his impressive showing this season, placing him on the national team for the 2011 World Championships.
You can expect Dubnyk to patrol the crease at Rexall Place for years to come, he's a very capable goaltender. He's just as important to the future of this organization as Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
Lehner's numbers don't tell a very compelling story, but you must bear in mind, he's on the Ottawa Senators, for heaven's sake.
Billy Smith wouldn't have fared much better in Ottawa, had he been their goaltender this eason.
To me, Lehner's key stat is that, in three of his five starts, he made 30-plus saves, despite losing all but one of those games.
The team's second round pick in 2009, Robin Lehner is the goalie of the future in Ottawa. It's just a question of whether not the supporting cast will improve, so that he, at the very least, has a better defense in front of him.
Craig Anderson came over to the Sens at the trade deadline, which should take some of the pressure off the young Swede's back, allowing him to develop at a reasonable pace.
Some might argue that, considering how much talent this Capitals team possesses, having a glut of quality young netminders is simply unfair.
Well, Caps GM George McPhee would tend to disagree with those people. He's stocked up on 'tenders, drafting the likes of Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.
But there's one goalie that seems to get lost in the shuffle, and that's Braden Holtby.
In 14 appearances this season, Holtby went 10-2-2, posting a 1.79 (!) goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.
Not bad for a fourth rounder, huh.
Kevin Poulin, originally a fifth rounder back in 2008, quickly rose to the top of the organizational depth chart.
He was initially thought to be a first round shoe-in, but the Montreal native fell apart during the 2007-08 QMJHL season, dropping him into the later rounds.
At one point, Patrick Roy (yes, that Patrick Roy) called Poulin the best goaltender in Canadian junior hockey.
With the Isles' various injuries between the pipes, Poulin was forced into action on an emergency basis. He didn't flinch, posting a 4-2-1 record over seven starts for New York. Couple that with a .924 save percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average, and you can see why he's worthy of the hype.
Poulin would injure himself during warmups, on the night that would have been his eighth start of the season, forcing him to have surgery and the Isles to shut him down until training camp.
Backing up Ryan Miller isn't an easy job. Just ask Enroth.
Nevertheless, the youngster from Stockholm closed out the 2010-2011 campaign with a 9-2-2 record, a .907 save percentage and a 2.73 goals-against average. He also picked up one shutout, a 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers, back on March 30.
When Miller got hurt late in the year, Enroth kept Buffalo's playoff hopes alive.
He's positionally sound, and has the skills to be an excellent netminder in this league.
Lindback appeared in 21 games for Nashville this season, posting an 11-5-2 mark, a .915 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA.
He filled-in admirably for Pekka Rinne, the Preds' star netminder, and showed us why he's going to be a strong player in this league.
Lindback, who was a seventh rounder in 2008, was clearly a diamond in the rough. You have to hand it to Nashville GM David Poile. He's unearthed a gem.
Ah, the never-ending tale that is Al Montoya's professional career.
He was the sixth overall pick in the 2004 Entry Draft by the cross-town New York Rangers, who touted him as their goaltender of the future. But the emergence of Henrik Lundqvist blocked Montoya's path, prompting GM Glen Sather to ship him to Phoenix.
Al's shot with the Coyotes would never come, as Ilya Bryzgalov, who was claimed off waivers, stole the spotlight with his excellent play.
Montoya would get his chance with the New York Islanders, who traded for him at mid-season, out of sheer desperation. He would not let them down, posting a 9-5-5 record, a .921 save percentage and a 2.39 GAA.
He's clearly a talented goaltender, and has a bright future ahead of him.
Corey Crawford is the biggest reason the Chicago Blackhawks made the playoffs this year, plain and simple.
He finished the regular season with a 33-18-6 record, a .917 save percentage and a 2.30 GAA. He had four shutouts.
Crawford was a second round pick back in '04, and, thanks to Antti Niemi's contractual demands, he got his shot with the pro club this year. He made the most of it, that's for certain.
Splitting starts with two other goaltenders, Michal Neuvirth has made his own impression with the Washington Capitals this season.
27-12-4 (four shutouts), SV% .914, GAA 2.45
He was a second rounder in 2006, and we are certainly seeing why Caps GM George McPhee viewed him in such high regard.
People can say whatever they want about Sergei Bobrovsky being a half-baked talent.
Frankly, I don't see their argument. One look at his stats (28-13-8, SV% .915, GAA 2.59) and you can tell, this guy is the real deal.
"Bob" may have struggled down the stretch, but so do most Rookies. For Sergei to step in and solve the team's goaltending woes, virtually from the beginning, as a 23-year old, is impressive as hell.
Though he did not have as good a season as he would have liked, Tuuka Rask is a phenomenal talent, there's absolutely no question about that.
Despite posting a losing record, Rask still sported a .918 save percentage and a 2.67 goals-against average.
He helped the Bruins make the playoffs last year and, when Tim Thomas retires, will likely continue to do so for years to come.
Cory Schneider had an excellent rookie season, albeit seeing limited action. It's not easy backing up Roberto Luongo, especially if your aspirations include "being an NHL starting goaltender."
In 25 games this season, Schneider put up some fantastic numbers, sporting a 16-4-2, a .929 save percentage, and a 2.23 goals-against average.
Not too shabby for a "backup" 'tender.
It is likely he will be traded elsewhere within the next year or so, because Luongo's not going anywhere (he signed a long-term contract extension with the Canucks recently), and Schneider deserves the opportunity to be a starter at the NHL level. He will get his shot, and when he does, look out.
James Reimer was, in my opinion, the most impressive novice goaltender in 2010-2011.
He finished the year with a 20-10-5 mark, a .921 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA, providing stability in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs and allowing them to make a late-season playoff push.
Despite falling just short, the Leafs are in the right direction and, when they do take that next step, they'll have Reimer to thank.
He stepped into a dire situation in Toronto, with all of the pressure that comes with being a Maple Leaf. Much like Bobrovsky in Philadelphia, for a 23-year old to excel in that type of situation, it just speaks volumes of their potential.
Make no mistake, Reimer's got plenty.
Comments are welcome.