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Who Are the Best Young Backup Goalies in the NHL?

The NHL has a number of young back-up goalies, who are the best of the best?

On September 21, The Hockey News did the second in its series of reviews on NHL goalies. In this review, they specifically looked at backup goalies around the league. In this post, I will overview the four goalies they chose as the best young goalies in the NHL.

They called these goalies “The Good and Young.”

#1: Vancouver Canucks’ Goalie: Thatcher Demko

Demko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks in April 2019. If things go well for him, he should make roughly one-third of all the starts for the Canucks during 2019-20 as a backup to Jacob Markstrom.

Markstrom has looked good with the Canucks, but his time with the club might be short-lived. His contract is team-friendly for a quality goalie – at $3,666,667, but it expires after this season and the Canucks are on a youth movement. Demko looks to be the Vancouver Canucks goalie of the future.

If Markstrom suffers an injury, Demko is ready to step in as the full-time replacement. He’s the clear front-runner for a backup goalie, with Richard Bachman and 20-year-old prospect Michael DiPietro behind him on the depth charts.

Demko was good last season in limited action, and posted a 4-3-1 record, with a 2.81 GAA and .913 save percentage is in nine games. The 23-year-old backup goalie should be busier this season and could move into the Canucks starting role as soon as 2020-21 when Markstrom becomes an unrestricted free agent if the Canucks don’t choose to re-sign him.

The future in Vancouver looks good in goal with Demko and DiPietro moving up through the ranks. Although Demko will be watching Markstrom from the bench this season, he’s the Canucks future and he’s already on the roster.

#2:  Winnipeg Jets’ Goalie: Laurent Brossoit

After struggling for a few years trying to find a place to play, because it seems like the 26-year-old Brossoit has been around forever, he looks like he’s finally landed with the Winnipeg Jets. He’s certainly a goalie people should keep an eye on. Interestingly, his story isn’t much different than many other successful NHL goalies who found their game during their mid to late 20s.

The Jets’ defense isn’t what it used to be, and starting goalie Connor Hellebuyck hasn’t played that well recently. So Brossoit might have a golden opportunity to shine. He actually might have been the Jets’ best goalie last season, compiling a 13-6-2 record, with a .925 save percentage, and 2.52 GAA.

He’s on the big club for good, in part because the Jets wouldn’t risk losing him on waivers by trying to ship him to the minors. In May 2019, he signed a one-year $1.225 million contract with the team and, in his 21 games as a backup, he more than earned his money. He could make 20 to 25 starts this season. I’m thinking the Edmonton Oilers would love to have this young goalie back on their roster.

#3:  Columbus Blue Jackets’ Goalie: Elvis Merzlikins

Although few people have heard of Merzlikins, that might not be the case much longer. He was born in Latvia, however his nationality is Swiss. Right now, in the scramble to replace Sergei Bobrovsky in the Blue Jackets’ nets, he might even be equal with former backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo for the current backup goalie’s job.

Losing Bobrovsky, who signed with the Florida Panthers, leaves a big hole in the Blue Jackets’ nets. However, this looks to be a rebuilding year for the club, so it’s probably a good time for a backup to assume the starting role.

So far this preseason, Merzlikins has looked solid. In a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, he faced a line-up that included most of the Penguins’ top players and he only allowed a power-play goal while making some spectacular saves. He’s expected to open the season as the Blue Jackets’ number-two goalie, but if things go well he could force his way into sharing more time in the net. He looks like an up-and-comer.

#4: Florida Panthers’ Goalie: Sam Montembeault

Because the Florida Panthers signed standout goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to such a lucrative contract, it’s hard to see the 22-year-old, Quebec-born Sam Montembeault getting more than 15 starts this season. In July 2019, Montebello signed a one-year two-way contract with the Panthers. Although he spent the majority of his time last season in the minors, and during that time his record doesn’t seem strong, that doesn’t suggest that he is, in any way, a poor goalie.

Quite the contrary, in his 11 starts with the Panthers last season, he posted a 4-3-2 record, with a 3.04 GAA and .894 save percentage. The 2015 third-round pick is expected to be by Bobrovsky’s backup for the entire 2019-20 season. He’s looked good for a third-round (77th overall) pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. And, as I noted, he’s a much better goalie than his record seems to indicate.

In Summary

Today’s NHL is filled with good young goalies, and these are simply four of the best youngsters. The 2019-20 season will be interesting to see how these young goalies do.

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