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The New Crease Kings: Who makes up the next generation of elite keepers?

Along with John Gibson, these 25-and-younger goaltenders are set to form the NHL’s elite tier over the next decade.

1. ANDREI VASILEVSKIY, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
He was the NHL’s best goaltender through the all-star break last season before his game slipped in the homestretch – presumably because he was handling a career-high workload. He rebounded in the playoffs, which wasn’t a surprise considering he loves the spotlight and pressure as the son of a Soviet League pro goalie. The 24-year-old is big, strong and explosive in his movements. He was always supposed to be a phenom as a 2012 first-round pick. Now he’s living out that destiny with a perennial Cup-contending roster in front of him. Vasilevskiy is poised to pad his trophy case for years to come.

2. CONNOR HELLEBUYCK, WINNIPEG JETS
Consistency is Hellebuyck’s calling card. He posted a save percentage of .911 or higher in every month last season, when the 25-year-old finished second in Vezina Trophy voting and tied Vasilevskiy for the league lead in victories. Hellebuyck’s easygoing nature and swagger make him extremely tough to rattle emotionally. It’s no wonder he posted a .922 SP across 17 starts in the first post-season of his career. He’s in a similar situation to Vasilevskiy as the backbone of a loaded team that should compete for many titles during his prime years. The two finished side by side as Vezina finalists in 2017-18. That might be the start of trend.

3. MATT MURRAY, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
It doesn’t get any better than two straight Stanley Cups to start your career. And yet…Murray, 24, leaves us wanting more. There’s no denying the talent, but his rail of a frame, 6-foot-4 and 178 pounds, hasn’t responded well to punishment. Murray has endured eight injury-related absences since debuting in 2015-16. Included among them are an alarming three concussions. After his first two seasons, Murray looked ready to join the league’s elite. He’s since been one of the NHL’s weaker netminders according to the underlying stats. He has plenty of time to put together a few healthy seasons and get himself back on a star path.

4. JUUSE SAROS, NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Saros’ three-year, $4.5-million extension, inked in the off-season, sent a strong message the Preds like him as their goalie of the future. Pekka Rinne, 36, recently signed on for two more seasons, but it’s anticipated there will be more of a shared workload. Saros is sure to top the 21 and 26 games he played the past two seasons, not only to keep Rinne fresher for the post-season but to test whether Saros is ready to take on more responsibility. Rinne has struggled at times in the playoffs despite being dominant enough to win the 2017-18 Vezina. So Saros, 23, could take the gig even sooner depending upon how the season unfolds.

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