Backup NHL Goaltenders Most Likely to Become Starters in 2014-15

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IOctober 11, 2014

Backup NHL Goaltenders Most Likely to Become Starters in 2014-15

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    In the NHL there is one player who is usually under constant scrutiny: the goaltender. NHL teams have a starter and a backup, and the dynamic between the two netminders is interesting to say the least.

    There are some teams that have a defined starter—the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers to name a couple—but there are others where the starting job is ripe for the taking.

    The 2014-15 NHL season just got underway, so all current starters are safe for the most part. However, a few weeks from now that could change. Here are the backup NHL goaltenders most likely to become starters in 2014-15.

    Author's Note: Some goalies here are in a goalie battle for the No. 1 job, so for that reason they are still considered a backup for the purpose of this piece.

Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues

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    Twenty-four-year-old Jake Allen is finally in a position to put a stranglehold on the crease. He's developed in the AHL and has shown that he has what it takes to be the man.

    In 2013-14, Allen posted a 33-16-3 record with a 2.03 goals-against average, seven shutouts and an impeccable .928 save percentage with the Chicago Wolves.

    He's got solid size at 6'2" and 195 pounds, and he is clearly the future in goal. With Jaroslav Halak now playing for the New York Islanders and Brian Elliott's record of inconsistency, this is the year Allen takes the job for good.

John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

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    He may have had a rough preseason and season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but there’s still a good chance that phenom John Gibson is the Anaheim Ducks’ starter by the end of the season. The youngster had an impressive NHL regular-season debut and a decent playoff debut in 2013-14, and 2014-15 could be a big year for him.

    Frederik Andersen is a capable netminder, but Gibson’s upside, athleticism and reflexes could prove to be enough to snare the job away.

    Anaheim's current system is designed to give both goalies a chance to earn the starting role, so even if it ends up being a 45-37 split in games, there’s a good chance Gibson becomes the top dog by season’s end.

Alex Stalock, San Jose Sharks

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    Yes, Antti Niemi posted a shutout against the Los Angeles Kings during the San Jose Sharks’ season opener, but there is no guarantee he finishes the season as the team’s main man in net. Alex Stalock is a 27-year-old backstop that went 12-5-2 with a 1.87 goals against average and .932 save percentage last season.

    He had an amazing stretch in January in which it was nearly impossible to get a puck past him, and he showed that he had the makings of being a quality starter. Niemi is 31, a pending free agent and is coming off the heels of a rough 2013-14 season.

    Stalock proved last season that he could get hot and go on a roll, so don’t be surprised when he ultimately takes the job from Niemi once and for all.

Anton Khudobin, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Oh, how the mighty have fallen, and it is a real shame because Cam Ward couldn’t have had a better start to his NHL career. During his first taste of NHL action he led the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup win as a rookie netminder, and he took home the Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts.

    Ward has had some decent seasons in the NHL, but since 2010-11 it has been all downhill. He’s battled injuries and an inability to be consistent. Although he will start the season for the Hurricanes, this will be Anton Khudobin’s team by season’s end.

    Last season Khudobin went 19-14-1 with a 2.30 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage and a shutout. In his entire NHL career, his record is 33-19-2 with a 2.21 goals against average and a .928 save percentage.

Darcy Kuemper, Minnesota Wild

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    Niklas Backstrom is still technically the Minnesota Wild’s starting goaltender. The team wouldn't have given him a new contract for last season if it wanted him to be the backup. He’s a league veteran who has had some decent seasons in the NHL, but injuries have always been an issue for him.

    He also spent the majority of his career playing overseas, so he limited his potential prime years as a professional player in North America.

    Expect Kuemper to solidify his role as the starter now that Ilya Bryzgalov is no longer in the picture, and because Josh Harding is still a risk to go on injured reserve at a moment’s notice. Kuemper got a win in the team's opener; that could be a sign that he will be the main option this season.

    He has showed some promise between the pipes, and this can be the year he finally makes his mark.

Viktor Fasth, Edmonton Oilers

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    It appears that Ben Scrivens is the Edmonton Oilers' de facto starter this season, but that could change if he is unable to channel the success he had with the Los Angeles Kings.

    The Alberta, Canada native had his moments for the Oilers last season, including an amazing shutout against the San Jose Sharks, but his role as a starter is hardly guaranteed.

    Viktor Fasth has minimal NHL experience, but he could steal Scrivens' job if he gets off to a hot start. The 32-year-old showed poise while with the Anaheim Ducks, and during seven starts with the Oilers, Fasth went 3-3-1.

    Fasth's .914 save percentage and 2.73 goals-against average with the Oilers were decent when all things are considered, and it shows there is potential for improvement.

    There is no clear-cut winner yet, but if the season opener is any indication, Scrivens is the starting goalie who will have to fight to keep his job.

Michael Hutchinson, Winnipeg Jets

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    Michael Hutchinson is a 24-year-old netminder who could become the Winnipeg Jets' starter with ease this season. In 2013-14, the youngster went 17-5-1 with the St. John's IceCaps, posting a 2.30 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.

    Hutchinson also appeared in three NHL games in 2013-14, going 2-1-0 with a 1.64 goals-against average, and a .943 save percentage. If he can play competent hockey this season, he will have no problem unseating Ondrej Pavelec, arguably the NHL's worst starting goaltender.

    All stats used in this piece can be found at Hockey-Reference or HockeyDB.com.

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