The most memorable game for any NHL player is the first one he plays. Here are the top 10 NHL debuts in 2014. It’s dominated by goalies, who have no choice but to lay it on the line when the butterflies are swarming.
It only stands to reason that among players making their NHL debuts, goalies have the most opportunity to shine – or flop. While first-game skaters can play sheltered minutes during spot duty in many cases, the goalie is always the last line of defense.
So it’s not surprising that five goalies made our list of the top 10 NHL debuts during the calendar year 2014. In reverse order, here are the best first NHL game performances.
10. Michael Hutchison, Winnipeg. The 25-year-old Barrie native was almost perfect in his April 7 debut against Minnesota. He gave up a second-period goal to Charlie Coyle and that was it, stopping 16 other shots. He didn’t get any offensive help from his teammates though and lost 1-0.
9. Stuart Percy, Toronto. The Maple Leafs first-round pick from 2011 made his NHL debut on home ice against the Montreal Canadiens in front of Oakville, Ont., family and friends Oct. 8. He assisted on Tyler Bozak’s first-period goal and played an impressive 20:21 in a 4-3 loss.
8. Niklas Svedberg, Boston. The year was just a couple of days old when the 24-year-old Swede was called up to play the Nashville Predators. He stopped 33 of 35 shots, including six each from Craig Smith and Mike Fisher, and the Bruins won 3-2 in overtime.
7. Tobias Rieder, Arizona. The German-born winger, acquired earlier in the year from Edmonton, faced Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in Washington Nov. 2. Rieder and Ovie each scored a goal, but it was Rieder’s marker that was the winner in a 6-5 Coyotes win. Rieder had three shots and was a plus-2 in 11:30 of ice time.
6. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay. Our most recent addition to the list is the Lightning’s goalie of the future. The 20-year-old Russian who was the 19th overall draft pick in 2012 stopped 23 of 24 shots in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia Dec. 16. Filling in for injured Ben Bishop, Vasilevskiy was the game’s third star.
5. Andy Andreoff, Los Angeles. The burly forward from the Oshawa Generals didn’t waste time proving he can tangle in the big league. Twelve seconds into his first shift against the Edmonton Oilers Oct. 14, Andreoff dropped the gloves with Matt Hendricks and skated to the penalty box with a huge smile. Hockeyfights.com called it a draw.
4. Adam Clendening, Chicago. The Niagara Falls, N.Y., native was on his second shift of the game when he used plum power play opportunity to pump home a point shot past Jonas Hiller to open the scoring in a 4-3 victory over Calgary Nov. 20. Clendening was a plus-2 in 10:41 of duty.
3. John Gibson, Anaheim. The Pittsburgh native is the latest in a long line of Ducks goalies who shine in their NHL debut. Playing in Vancouver April 7, Gibson stopped all 18 shots he faced to record the shutout in a 3-0 win over the Canucks. He was named the game’s first star.
2. Kellan Lain, Vancouver. The 6-foot-6 left winger gets a high rating on this list because his NHL debut has hit the highlight reel more than any other rookie in 2014. It was the Jan. 18 line brawl versus the Flames in which Canucks coach John Tortorella had a meltdown. Only two ticks of the clock went by when all 10 skaters on the ice paired up. Lain fought Kevin Westgarth and received a fighting major and 10-minute misconduct. That’s 15 PIMs and two seconds of ice time in your NHL debut.
1. Troy Grosenick, San Jose. The Sharks were in Carolina Nov. 16 and put the undrafted 22-year-old between the pipes while Antti Niemi got the night off. He stole the show. The Hurricanes outshot San Jose 45-19 and Grosenick celebrated by throwing his water bottle towards the bench. He stopped seven shots by Nathan Gerbe and five apiece from Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and Andrej Sekera, while being named the game’s first star for the 45-save shutout. San Jose scored an empty-net goal to win 2-0.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN