Throughout the season, we’ve seen twenty-three young goalies appear in the NHL. However, less than half of them managed to make ten appearances or more. Every fan recognises the value of a competent body between the posts, and it is not uncommon for this to influence the betting odds on any hockey match listed. With this mind, let’s take a look at the key characters who have proven themselves more than capable of holding their own and protecting that goal.
Mackenzie Blackwood — New Jersey
We kick off our list with Mackenzie Blackwood, and for a good reason. Out of all the rookie netminders, Blackwood is the only one to be a mainstay in the first team. He made 23 appearances last term too, so, it shows he’s progressing as a player. It has been somewhat of a difficult time of late at New Jersey. But against the odds, Blackwood has managed to do himself justice consistently. Stats wise, the 23-year-old is proving himself to be a capable performer, and this will allow him to make the number one spot his moving forwards.
Igor Shesterkin — New York Rangers
New York Rangers know they need to find a replacement for Henrik Lundqvist, and Igor Shesterkin’s arrival on the scene has seen many suggest he is the man for the job. His first eleven appearances yielded nine wins, and this helped to drive New York Rangers towards the playoff places. His stats over those outings signalled he’s undoubtedly one to watch and a goal minder who could go on to replace Lundqvist as number one. However, eleven games aren’t enough appearances to judge him on. But as he will get another chance to impress next season, it’ll be easier to see if he is the real deal.
Elvis Merzlikins — Columbus
Latvian Elvis Merzlikins stepped into Joonas Korpisalo’s starting role back in December, and made a significant impression between then and February before he picked up and injury and became sidelined as a result. The 25-year-old has all the physical attributes which will allow him to go on and establish himself as a number one in future. During his run in the team, his fourteen starts delivered a record of 12–2–0, with eight consecutive wins and five shutouts. It’s something to build on moving forward, and if he can force his way back in and stay injury-free, good things can happen for the big Latvian.
Thatcher Demko — Vancouver
Thatcher Demko is perhaps in a different situation to the other rookies in this list. Yes, he is tipped as one for the future, as most rookies are, but as his team is also one for the future, his progress is occurring at a gentler rate. Jacob Markstrom is the current number one, and the Canucks are hoping to see Demko eventually succeed him. Still, they’re keen to develop him properly rather than throw him into the action and hope he hits the ground running. Injury to Markstrom has seen Demko get his chance of late, and it’s these bits of experience which will enable him to progress as a player.