The goaltender is the most important position in all of sports. In the salary cap era, teams do not have a lot of money to spend on goaltending, so finding a cheap alternative in net is important.
Teams are constantly in the search for a young goalie around which a team can be built, but the position can be tricky. NHL History is littered with sure-fire prospects like Maxime Ouellet who amount to nothing. On the flip side, there are also goalies that were drafted late, did not receive a lot of recognition but then become stars, like Henrik Lundqvist.
This is my list of the top 10 goaltenders under the age of 25.
With Ryan Miller, it could be a while before he has a shot with the Sabres, but that does not mean that Enroth doesn’t have the talent. At the age of 22, the young Swedish goalie has nine wins so far and will likely spend a couple more seasons with the Portland Pirates of the AHL. The Sabres are going to take their time with Enroth, and with Miller in net, why shouldn’t they?
The Los Angeles Kings have quite a future with their two young “Jonathans.” Jonathan Quick is 25 (making him too old for my ranking), but Bernier is 22 and has earned his spot as No. 9 here.
With a 2.46 GAA and .913 save percentage, Bernier has the potential to be a great goalie, but it likely won’t be with the Kings. Many teams has shown a lot of interest in the young keeper from Laval, Quebec, and it is only a matter of time before he moves away from being Quick’s backup to being another team’s backbone.
Reimer has been a pleasant surprise in Toronto. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, Reimer has become a solid keeper for the Leafs. After starting the 2010-2011 season with the Marlies in the AHL, the 23-year-old goalie earned his shot when he was recalled and made his first start in December 2010. In his first game, Reimer made 32 stops in a 5-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators and instantly became the future in net for Toronto.
Steven Mason exploded into the NHL in 2008 with a Calder-winning season. The goalie turned heads with a stunning rookie campaign, earning 33 wins and a remarkable 2.29 GAA. After 2008-2009, it was tough to find someone who didn’t believe that Mason was a star in the making, but then his sophomore season hit.
In the two seasons since his rookie year, Mason has been somewhat average with nearly two identical seasons (3.05 GAA and 20 wins in 2009-2010 and 3.03 GAA and 24 wins in 2010-2011). The potential is still exists, but Mason is falling fast on this list.
Goaltending is definitely not an issue in Washington. Both of these young goalies have the skills to be a great NHL goalkeeper, but two goalies on the same team rarely works out and the Capitals will soon have to make a choice.
Both goalies could be a starter somewhere in the NHL, and having one on the bench just isn’t right. Varlamov seems to be the odd man out in this group, but he still had a great season with a 2.23 GAA and .924 save percentage. Neuvirth is in his first full season in the league and still has to prove he is no fluke. His 27 wins in 48 games say he is the real deal, but he has only played 70 games in the NHL, so only time will tell…
The Atlanta Thrashers have been taking their time with Pavelec, and it seems that this effort is beginning to show results. In 2010-11, Pavelec started over 55 games and earned 21 victories with a solid .914 save percentage. He has the skills to be a great goaltender and has shown improvement in nearly every season as a pro. Pavelec is the real deal and will likely be in the top three on this list after next season.
Wearing the “Flying P” has not been kind to many young goalies (see Brian Boucher and Maxime Ouellet), but Bobrovsky looks to be an exception.
“Bob” is a skilled goalie who, at the age of 22, is the future in net for the Philadelphia Flyers. There is a lot of potential here, but improvement is also needed. Bobrovsky allows too many soft goals to be an elite goalie and his puck-handling skills need work.
That being said, “Bob” still easily makes it to No. 3 on this list. He is quick, athletic and can carry a team when he is hot. His rookie season was impressive with 28 wins and a .923 save percentage. Bob’s sophomore season will determine if he is the real deal or just another goalie to throw onto the Flyers scrap heap.
Tuuka Rask has been all but forgotten this season. After taking the Bruins within one win of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2010 playoffs, Rask lost the starting job to a more experienced and talented Tim Thomas. Though Rask is not currently a starting goalie, there is no question that he has the skills. Rask had a less than stellar year with a 2.67 GAA and .918 save percentage, but the talent is there and Rask could be the starter on many teams in the NHL.
Many hockey fans were shocked after seeing the Montreal Canadiens trade away playoff hero Jaraslav Halak after last season. Carey Price had been less than stellar in his career so far and Halak had shined. Well, those critics have been silenced.
Price has not only become the top goalie under the age of 25, but he has made a case for why he may be the top goalie, period. This season, Price turned heads playing in over 70 games and coming away with a 2.35 GAA and 38 wins. Price was unable to get the Canadiens past the first round against the Bruins, but there is no question that the right decision was made in the off-season.