Hello everyone. I’m enjoying the first weekend of the season; it’s so exciting to see the city of Winnipeg back in the fold. I have (like everyone else) waited all summer and even pre-season to get to the good stuff. I have been following all the organizations and it’s so fun to see players start to come into their own maturity wise or just getting the opportunities to make a bigger name for themselves.
These are some goalies I am following closely and am expecting to make a splash in the league this season. They are already good, but I’m looking for them to take it to that next level.
Ondrej Pavelec – Winnipeg Jets
Will certainly be under the microscope as the No. 1 for the new/old franchise. The 24-year-old has a great work ethic, almost to the point where he tries to will the puck out of the net with his great agility and lightning quick reflexes. His childhood idol was Dominik Hasek and Pavelec’s style is a lot like his mentor’s…or should I say lack of style. Hasek was the best at just making the save, almost never making the same save twice, but used his sheer talent and reflexes to get it done. Pavelec uses that same style and determination. He sometimes gets himself in trouble when he is overactive in the net. He is an original shot goalie who can be beat more often on the second shot and the scramble, but as he gets comfortable and more patient, he will be a household name in Canada.
James Reimer – Toronto Maple Leafs
Talk about being under the microscope, Reimer is the No. 1 in the biggest hockey market in the NHL. He was great last season in an abbreviated 37-game season for the Leafs, but establishing himself as an everyday starter in the NHL will be tough to do. He has tremendous confidence and demeanor in the net and will be relied on heavily to backstop the Leafs on their quest towards the playoffs. He has good ability, but my interest will be to see if he can sustain that level for a full season and push himself to become the top tier goalie the Leafs are dying for him to be.
Devan Dubnyk – Edmonton Oilers
He’s definitely in the right situation when you talk about development. The ship is certainly headed in the right direction for the Oilers – it’s just going to be a matter of time before the young guys develop into special players. Dubnyk has given himself a chance to play valuable minutes and be their go-to guy for years to come. With Nik Khabibulin mentoring him he is in an excellent position. Dubnyk has worked on his movement in the net and has really improved his conditioning, which will give him a mental edge to start the season. If he can play big in the net with his 6-foot-6 frame and close up the holes through the body, he will have a coming out year in Edmonton, which is what the Oilers are hoping for.
Steve Mason – Columbus Blue Jackets
Any hopes the Jackets have of making the playoffs lie squarely on the shoulders of this young goalie. He has had a couple subpar seasons in a row after making a splash as a 20-year-old Calder winner. He has tremendous size with a great butterfly, plus he handles the puck extremely well. However, he has been inconsistent and has been known to give up easy goals that take away momentum. The great thing for Blue Jacket fans and management is that he’s just 23 and has an opportunity to wipe the slate clean with a new backup and a new goalie coach (Ian Clark).
Semyon Varlamov – Colorado Avalanche
The 23-year-old is going to have his work cut out for him with a young rebuilding team in Denver. After losing his job in Washington to Michal Neuvirth last season, he will get the opportunity to play a lot of games for the Avalanche, while being mentored by J-S Giguere. He has great quickness in the net as well as a good glove hand, but he has been known to commit early on shots and get beat up top. If he can be a more patient goalie, he will make a splash and develop into a solid No. 1 for years to come.
Jonathan Quick/Jonathan Bernier – Los Angeles Kings
These two don’t get enough credit because they are in Los Angeles, but with an improved team ready to do something special, it’s time to sort out which of the two plays more. With only one net to occupy, this will be an interesting battle to watch as the season unfolds. Both are going to be very good starters in the league one day. To be honest, Quick does not get enough respect: he has won 74 games over the past two seasons and is still fighting for his job with Bernier, but this is a great problem for the Kings to have. I can’t wait to see how L.A. will deal with this situation.
There are obviously more storylines to follow, but I am excited to see who seizes their opportunity.
Born in Edmonton, Jamie McLennan is a former NHL goaltender currently working as an analyst for TSN. Nicknamed ‘Noodles,’ McLennan was drafted by the Islanders in 1991. He played 254 NHL games with the Flames, Rangers, Panthers, Wild, Blues and Isles, compiling a 80-109-33 record. He will be writing for THN.com throughout the season. Follow McLennan on Twitter @jamiemclennan29.