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Price Leads a Great Crop of Under-25 Goaltenders

TAMPA, Fla. — This week, TSN’s Ray Ferraro took the first shot at picking a team for Sochi 2014. Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team will be a good one regardless who plays, but Ferraro’s team was sensational – Crosby, Staal (lots of Staals), Stamkos, Giroux, Toews, Tavares, you can finish the list.

He had young forwards (Stamkos and Tyler Seguin), young defensemen (Doughty, Pietrangelo) and young goalies (Price).

Carey Price

Carey Price

Of course, Price was the youngest of the three goalies Ferraro selected. And he’s soon going to be 26. The other two were Cam Ward, 28, and Marc-Andre Fleury, 28.

It’s often been said that learning to play defense at the NHL level is a very difficult task. Young defensemen like Drew Doughty, who stepped right in out of junior and played outstanding hockey for the L.A. Kings, don’t come along that often. It usually takes a number of years and some time in the American Hockey League before a great junior defenseman becomes a decent NHL defenseman.

However, let’s be honest. It takes longer to become a decent NHL goaltender. A lot longer. In fact, there are only eight regular or semi-regular goaltenders in the NHL right now that were born in 1987 or later.

Last year, the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie were winner Henrik Lundqvist, 30, of the New York Rangers along with Pekka Rinne, 30, of the Nashville Predators and Jonathan Quick, 27, of the Los Angeles Kings.

Obviously it takes a long time to become a great NHL goaltender, but while it doesn’t always take that long to become a backup, it does take some time to be a good one. Below is a list of 10 goalies who were all born after March 1, 1987.

These guys can play:

“The NHL’s Top Eight (Heck, there are only eight) Best Young Goalies (in no particular order).”

1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens: One of the finest goaltenders in the game, Price has overcome his own real demons plus the phony ones created by the nutty Montreal media. Lifetime, he is 130-107-35. This season, the 6-foot-3, 209 pound netminder from Anahim Lake, B.C., whose mother is the former chief of the Ulkatcho First Nation, is 6-3-0 with a 2.21 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. Still, only 25, he’s played at least 40 games a season since 2007-08.

Sergei Bobrovsky

Sergei Bobrovsky

2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: Here’s a guy with a tough assignment. He has to play goal for a team that might have the least amount of raw talent in the NHL. So far, he’s been decent. Born in Novokuznetsk, Russia (easy for you to say), he turned 24 in September. However, this undrafted free agent had an outstanding rookie season in 2010-11. He went 28-13-8 with a .915 save percentage and a 2.59 goals against average. This year, he’s 2-2-2 in six starts with a .900 save percentage and a 3.15 goals against average. He’s a goalie that is better than the team for which he plays.

3. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals: The jury is still out on Holtby, who shares the starting job in Washington with Michal Neuvirth. Of the 41 regular goalies in the NHL this season, Holtby is dead last in goals against with a 3.87 mark, albeit he’s played only six games and is 2-4-0. It’s been a struggle for this former fourth-round draft pick (93rd overall) out of the Saskatoon Blades this season, but it’s also been a struggle for the defensively impaired Capitals. Holtby is a good goaltender that hasn’t played well, but then again, neither have the 3-8-1 Caps.

Ondrej Pavelec

Ondrej Pavelec

4. Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets: Pavelec had a good year last year – not a great year – but he’s the Jets No. 1 goalie and that isn’t going to change anytime soon – despite Al Montoya’s shutout on Saturday afternoon in Ottawa. Pavelec’s problem is that he isn’t very good on the road. Last year he went 29-28-9 but was 19-12-4 at home with a 2.47 goals against average and .917 save percentage. On the road, however, he went 10-16-5 with a 3.42 goals against average and a wonky .895 save percentage. So far this year he’s 3-4-1 on the season, but he’s 2-2-0 at home with a 2.70 GAA and a .899 save percentage. On the road, he’s 1-3-1 with a 3.71 GAA and a terrible .873 save percentage. If he can figure out how to play away from MTS Centre, he’ll be a good one. The former second-round draft pick (in Atlanta) from Kladno, Czech Republic, he’s 6-foot-3, 220-pounds and just turned 25.

5. Michal Neuvirth, Washington Capitals: Two years ago, Neuvirth won the No. 1 job in Washington and it allowed (forced?) the Caps to trade away Semyon Varlamov. But after a tremendous 2010-11 season (27-12-4 in 48 games with a .914 save percentage and a 2.45 goals against average), this 6-foot-1, 190-pound Czech netminder started to struggle. As the Capitals played poorly, it reflected on Neuvirth and he’s been relegated to splitting No. 1 duties with the younger Holtby. Still, this 24-year-old is a solid butterfly netminder with quick hands and great skating ability. He was the Caps second choice in the 2006 NHL entry draft and just turned 24.

Semyon Varlamov

Semyon Varlamov

6. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche: This 25-year-old from Samara, Russia put up the best numbers of any young goalie in the NHL in 2010-11. A first round draft pick (23rd overall) of the Washington Capitals in 2006, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder went 11-9-5 in Washington in 2010-11 with a 2.23 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. In 27 games that season, he was fourth in goals against and fifth in save percentage. Then he was traded to Colorado from Washington at the draft for a first round pick and a second round pick and he jumped at the opportunity. Last year, as the Avs No. 1 goalie, he went 26-24-3 with .913 save percentage and a 2.59 GAA. This year, on a pretty wonky Avs team, he’s 3-6-1 with a .910 save percentage and a 2.55 goals against average. Despite the lousy team in front of him, he’s in the Top 20 in NHL goaltenders and is his team’s No. 1 goalie.

James Reimer

James Reimer

7. James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs: A tremendous young man from tiny Morweena, Man., Reimer went 14-14-4 last year with the Leafs and had a .900 save percentage to go with a 3.00 goals against average. He struggled in his second season, just like the Leafs. Just 24, he’s a young man of deep faith who truly believes he can make a difference in the Leafs’ future. He’s 6-foot-2, 210-pounds and while he wasn’t expected to be the No. 1 this year, he’s slowly taken over the role from Ben Scrivens. He’s 5-3-1 with a .929 save percentage and a 2.30 goals against average. He looks just as sharp as he did in his rookie season when he went 20-10-5 with a .921 save percentage (11th in the NHL) and 2.60 goals against average.

8. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: This guy’s story is an odd one. He had a marvelous year in 2009-10 – 22-12-5 with a .931 save percentage and a remarkable 1.92 goals against average (first in the NHL). Then, 2010-11, Tim Thomas stole his job and Rask struggled, going 11-14-2 with .918 save percentage and 2.67 goals against average (30th in the NHL). Last year, with Thomas as No. 1, Rask went 11-8-3 with a 2.05 goals against average and then Thomas’s brain blew up. He quit being a goaltender and turned into a Tea Party gun night, decided to stop playing and went off to his ranch in Colorado or Montana or wherever, in order to play with his weapons. That made Rask the starter by default and he’s responded. So far this season, he’s 6-1-1 with a 1.96 goals against average and his Bruins are one of the premier teams in the game.

Tuukka Rask

Tuukka Rask

 

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