Skip to main content
Publish date:

The Great Goalie Ranking: NHL Backup Edition

We’ve broken down the league’s second-stringers into four categories: Best Of The Backups, Oldies But Goodies, Good And Young, and Time For Plan B. Where does your team's No. 2 netminder come in?
Author:

Last week it was The Great Goalie Ranking, which slotted the NHL’s starting netminders from No. 1 (hello, Andrei Vasilevskiy) to No. 31 (prove me wrong, Joonas Korpisalo).

This week, let’s do the backups. But instead of a coldly calculated 1-to-31 ranking, we’ve broken down the league’s second-stringers into four categories. Here’s a look at how the NHL’s No. 2 netminders stack up:

BEST OF THE BACKUPS

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: Robin Lehner
Coming off a breakout season in which he earned a Vezina Trophy nomination, he is Chicago’s $5-million insurance policy on Corey Crawford’s health.

ARIZONA COYOTES: Darcy Kuemper
When Antti Raanta went down with injury early last season, Kuemper stepped in and played like a superstar. Yes, a superstar.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS: Juuse Saros
One of these years he’s going to go from goalie-in-waiting to Pekka Rinne’s replacement.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Thomas Greiss
He was just as great as Lehner last year. His reward? A four-year, $20-million UFA deal for incoming Isles starter Semyon Varlamov.

BOSTON BRUINS: Jaroslav Halak
It looked like he was on his way out after a rough 2017-18 with the Islanders, but he landed in Boston and posted better stats than Tuukka Rask.

DALLAS STARS: Anton Khudobin
Ben Bishop played 46 games with a .934 save percentage and went 27-15-2, Khudobin played 41 games with a .923 save percentage and went 16-17-5.

ST. LOUIS BLUES: Jake Allen
OK, he’s no Jordan Binnington, but he’s not bad for a backup.

LOS ANGELES KINGS: Jack Campbell
No goalie has been drafted higher since Campbell went 11th overall in 2010. After bouncing around for years, he emerged as a bright spot in Los Angeles when Jonathan Quick was sidelined last season.

NEW YORK RANGERS: Alexandar Georgiev
He’s in a good situation in New York, mentoring under Henrik Lundqvist while the Rangers reload.

OLDIES BUT GOODIES

ANAHEIM DUCKS: Ryan Miller
Just about everything that could go wrong in Anaheim last season, well, it went wrong. Except Miller, who returns as a 39-year-old mentor for the great John Gibson.

EDMONTON OILERS: Mike Smith
The past season-and-a-half was a fall from grace in Calgary, but Smith, 37, lands in a potentially promising situation up the road in Edmonton, where Mikko Koskinen has yet to prove his chops as a bona fide No. 1.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: Brian Elliott
He’s always been a solid platoon goalie, better than most backups but never quite a full-on No. 1. At 34, he’ll help Carter Hart find his groove.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: Curtis McElhinney
He prolonged his NHL career with a stellar showing in Carolina last season, prompting Tampa Bay to bring him in as a 36-year-old veteran influence for Vezina-winning starter Vasilevskiy.

MONTREAL CANADIENS: Keith Kinkaid
His shining 2017-18 campaign in New Jersey gave way to a bumpy 2018-19 that ended up with Kinkaid, 30, as Columbus’ third-stringer. He won’t be overworked in Montreal, unless Carey Price gets hurt.

OTTAWA SENATORS: Anders Nilsson
He posted better numbers than Craig Anderson last year – heck, he went 11-11-0 for the last-place Sens – and, at 29, he barely qualifies as an “oldie.”

NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Cory Schneider
He went more than calendar year without a win (full disclosure: he was injured for a good chunk of that time), but Schneider, 34, found his mojo down the stretch and will battle rookie Mackenzie Blackwood for the top job.

CAROLINA HURRICANES: James Reimer
Carolina’s defense is a lot better than what Florida has put on the ice the past few years, and Reimer, 31, will benefit when he spells starter Petr Mrazek.

DETROIT RED WINGS: Jonathan Bernier
The 31-year-old was serviceable for a Wings team that struggled last season, but Jimmy Howard shouldn't be concerned.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: Michael Hutchinson
A career minor-leaguer with a few NHL stints, the 29-year-old Hutchinson will give Frederik Andersen a break now and then.

GOOD AND YOUNG

VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Thatcher Demko
The future has arrived in Vancouver, but he’ll mostly be watching Jacob Markstrom from the bench this season.

WINNIPEG JETS: Laurent Brossoit
Keep an eye on this guy. The Jets’ defense corps has been decimated and Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t exactly an all-star last year.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: Elvis Merzlikins
Prediction: He will be, by far, the best Latvian-born Swiss League goalie named Elvis that the NHL has ever seen. Merzlikins is trying to outflank incumbent backup Joonas Korpisalo for the starting job.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: Sam Montembeault
The Panthers just broke the bank for Sergei Bobrovsky, so it’s hard to see sophomore Montembeault getting much more than 15 starts.

TIME FOR PLAN B

CALGARY FLAMES: Cam Talbot
Last year was a write-off. He gets a fresh start in Calgary, with a chance to unseat David Rittich.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: Casey DeSmith
Matt Murray is the main man in Pittsburgh, at least until his next stint on the IR. If and when that happens, DeSmith has shown he’s up to the task of taking over the crease.

BUFFALO SABRES: Linus Ullmark
He’s big, he’s only 26, and there’s opportunity knocking with journeyman Carter Hutton as Buffalo’s de facto No. 1.

COLORADO AVALANCHE: Pavel Francouz
Francouz got into two games for the Avs last season. He turns 30 this season. Philipp Grubauer doesn’t need to worry.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Pheonix Copley
He’s coming off a solid debut season in which he posted a similar stat line as that of starter Braden Holtby.

MINNESOTA WILD: Alex Stalock
There’s a dropoff when Devan Dubnyk isn’t in the Wild net.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS: Malcolm Subban
Subban hasn’t been able to pressure Marc-Andre Fleury for starts.

SAN JOSE SHARKS: Aaron Dell
Martin Jones struggled last season, and quite significantly at times, but Dell was unable to seize the opportunity.

TOP HEADLINES

USATSI_17316476

Blackhawks’ Khaira responsive after being stretchered off

Chicago Blackhawks forward Jujhar Khaira was taken to a hospital after he was leveled by New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba and wheeled off on a stretcher Tuesday night. “He’s up, he’s talking, he’s very responsive.”

Jason Spezza
Play

Maple Leafs' Spezza Suspended Six Games for Kneeing Jets' Pionk

The NHL's Department of Player Safety handed Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza a six-game suspension for kneeing Jets defenseman Neal Pionk.

Vancouver Canucks Logo

Five Candidates to Become Vancouver Canucks GM

The Vancouver Canucks are on the search for a new GM. Who will it be? Mike Stephens takes a look at five candidates for the position.