The National Hockey League’s 103rd season is currently on hiatus (102nd if you exclude the infamous 2004-05 lockout which cancelled play throughout the entire year). The puck dropped in the first ever NHL game on December 19th, 1917 with all four teams in action that evening. The Montreal Wanderers were victorious in a 10-9 thriller over the Toronto Arenas, and the Montreal Canadiens earned a 7-4 win over the Ottawa Senators.
By today’s standards, it would appear as though the goaltending was non-existent during the league’s first contests. While those lofty scores might startle some, it is understandable that the gameplay differed drastically in comparison to how those zany athletes guard the cages today. While names such as Art Brooks or Bert Lindsay might not ring off the tongue (the netminders for the Arenas and Wanderers that evening, respectively), it is obvious that eras, styles, rules and equipment pay heavy dividends in a goaltender’s stat line.
Goaltenders were forbidden from falling to their knees or rears to save the puck, having to resort to the dreadful stand-up style that was ever-prevalent until fire-wagon hockey began to subside in the early 1990s. The pads and gloves these goaltenders would don could hardly compare to the wondrous technology that goes into every stitch and seam seen in the current day. This is long before the trapper, blocker, or any hint of a mask trickled its way into the echelon of the game, so show these guys some love!
Better yet, the two goaltenders who played in the Senators-Canadiens contest on opening night are Hall of Famers, two names synonymous with innovation and high respect for all those who stand between the pipes: Clint Benedict, and Georges Vezina.
Benedict would challenge the rule that prohibited goalies from falling to the ice to block shots, as well as introducing the first game-worn facemask in 1930, and Vezina, well, there’s a trophy named after him that is given to the best goaltender in the NHL after each season. Both are revered masters of their trade. So it’s safe to say these guys weren’t as bum-ass as their stat line would indicate in 1917.
That being said, trying to rank the greatest NHL goalies of all time was no easy feat. Of course, there were contentions and choices that each reader will disagree with or heavily question. Comparing eras is a monumental challenge which include but are not limited to digging up stats, accomplishments, trademark stories and impacts on future generations.
At first I was torn on whether to include goaltenders who still currently play on this list, as one sour season could render them to tumble down the list or fall off the list altogether. Yet, I’m obliged to include them, and see how they snugly fit between those individuals long deceased or retired.
Some are Hall of Famers, some will be Hall of Famers, some should be Hall of Famers, and a sad few have probably lost their chance for induction simply based off the cruelness of time. Get cozy and have a gander at the first of four parts in which we countdown the top 60 NHL goaltenders of all-time!
Source: Getty Images
60) JOSE THEODORE
286-253-30-39, 33 shutouts, 2.68 GAA, .909 save percentage
1 Vezina (2002), 1 Hart (2002), Save Percentage Award (2002), Second-Team All-Star (2002)
Picked 44th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1994 NHL entry draft, the Laval-born Theodore cherished his time with the Habitants, serving as their undisputed starting netminder from 2000 to 2005. After flirting with the big leagues for over five years, Theodore cemented his place in goal at the turn of the millennium and earned a Hart and Vezina trophy in 2002.
Going 30-24-10 with seven shutouts and a .931 save percentage, the honour of earning the regular season MVP over players such as Jarome Iginla, Markus Naslund, and Joe Sakic surprised many. Yet, Theodore single-handedly carried the Canadiens to the playoffs, earning the final seed and the hearts of all hockey fans in Montreal.
In 2001, he scored a goal and earned a shutout in the same game against the New York Islanders. He boasts the first ever win in a Heritage classic, setting a precedent that some goalies have followed by playing the full game with a toque over his mask. He was traded to Colorado in 2006 for David Aebischer and then spent the rest of his career fighting for starting spots with Washington, Minnesota, and Florida.
After failing to be retained by the Panthers after the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, Theodore retired at the age of 36. He ranks 43rd all time in regular season victories.
Source: Mike Lynaugh
59) RYAN MILLER
387-281-1-85*, 44 shutouts, 2.62 GAA, .915 save percentage
1 Vezina (2010), 1 First-Team All-Star (2010)
Ryan Miller became the winningest American-born goalie in 2019. Despite not being selected until the fifth round of the 1999 draft, the Sabres got themselves a diamond in the rough. Miller overtook Martin Biron as Buffalo’s starting goaltender the year after the 2004 lockout, and for over 8 years was the backbone of the Sabres regular season triumphs. Though the Sabres still have yet to win a Stanley Cup in their fifty years of existence, Miller led them on deep playoff runs in both 2006 and 2007, losing in the Eastern Conference Final.
He overtook the legendary Dominik Hasek in Sabres regular season victories, taking two-and-a-half fewer years than the Dominator to set that milestone. He played in 76 regular season games in 2007-08, another team record. After a few seasons of disappointment, he spent the end of 2014 in St. Louis, and then moved on to Vancouver.
In 2017, at the age of 37, he agreed to mentor John Gibson and joined Anaheim as their backup goaltender. Olympic performances aside, Miller should be regarded as one of the finest Americans to ever play, though it’s a shame his cabinet isn’t full of more hardware.
Source: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images
58) PELLE LINDBERGH
87-49-15, 7 shutouts, 3.30 GAA, .887 save percentage
1 Vezina (1985), 1 First-Team All-Star (1985)
Okay, our first ‘contentious’ pick. Having played only 157 total NHL games over the course of five seasons, Lindbergh’s legacy lies more towards the ‘what could have been’. Still, most historians generally agree that the Swedish sensation was destined for absolute greatness. Born Goran Per-Eric Lindbergh, he was drafted at age 20 in the 2nd round of 1979 by the Flyers. It was right after Bernie Parent suffered his career-ending eye injury, but both Pete Peeters and Phil Myre were enjoying excellent seasons in what is still a record today; 35 games unbeaten as a team and a place in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Lindbergh broke onto the scene in 1982 and earned the starting spot the next year. He appeared to be in a class above all the rest in a period of high octane offensive play. His 1984-85 Vezina Trophy winning season is well below average statistics today (.899 save percentage, 3.02 GAA and just two shutouts), but that’s rather extraordinary for an era in which Wayne Gretzky was casually putting up 200+ points. Not to mention his 40 regular season wins and his fantastic display in the playoffs that took the Flyers to another final, unfortunately losing to Gretzky’s Oilers in 5 games.
What’s even more unfortunate was his tragic passing one month into the 1985-86 season from a single car accident that resulted from him drinking above the legal limit. He topped All-Star game voting for that season, the first time a player was chosen posthumously. Lindbergh also pioneered the movement of keeping a water bottle on top of the net, something all goalies consider to be a necessity today.
57) ED JOHNSTON
234-257-80, 32 shutouts, 3.25 GAA, .896 save percentage
2 Stanley Cups (1970, 1972)
Ed Johnston earns the title of being the last goalie to play every single minute for the entire season. This is something that is almost safe to guarantee will never happen again. Granted, it was in 1963-64 when there were 12 fewer games than there are today, but hell, playing a full 60 minutes in 70 games is noooooo small feat. Also, his Boston Bruins teams in the early and mid 1960s were absolute ass, so it’s a shame that it blemished his win-loss record down the stretch of his career.
A witty and pleasant teammate according to many, Johnston was the third-string goalie on the 1972 Summit Series team, seeing action in an exhibition game against Sweden in which he absolutely stood on his head to preserve the 4-4 tie. He didn’t make his NHL debut until age 26, fighting his way through the minors which was the case for many of our Original 6 heroes.
As Gerry Cheevers began to creep his way into the starting role in the late 1960s, Johnston felt some of the pressure subside and played his best hockey, winning two titles with the Big Bad Bruins. He was traded to Toronto for Jacques Plante in 1973, but then immediately went to St. Louis and served as a credible, yet old backup. He ended his career in Chicago, retiring in 1978 as the 16th winningest goalie in league history (now ranked 69th).
Source: HHOF Images
56) JOHN ROSS ROACH
219-204-68, 59 shutouts, 2.42 GAA
1 Stanley Cup (1922), 1 First-Team All-Star (1933)
I’m sure many of you are thinking, who? John Ross Roach hasn’t been a household name for multiple generations, but this tiny little firecracker doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. With nicknames such as “The Little Napoleon”, and “The Housecleaner”, the 5’5, 130 lb shot-stopper won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto St. Pats at the age of 21 (his first NHL season). Roach’s name should forever be synonymous with the St. Pats era, and he has the honour of being the first goaltender during the inaugural season under the ‘Maple Leafs’ name.
Roach captained the St. Pats in the 1924-25 season, one of only six goaltenders to make that claim (seven if you count Roberto Luongo, who didn’t have the same liberties as the previous six). Due to his small frame, Roach was labelled an acrobatic goaltender, throwing his whole body around the crease to thwart opponents. He was traded to the Rangers in 1928, and posted a 1.41 goals-against-average with 13 shutouts in only 44 games during his first season in New York.
After four solid seasons with the Rangers, Roach was traded to Detroit, where he would earn First-Team All-Star honours in 1933, before retiring after the 1934-35 season. He is currently ranked 21st on the all-time shutout list with 58. Roach died in 1973.
55) BRADEN HOLTBY
282-122-46*, 35 shutouts, 2.54 GAA, .916 save percentage
1 Stanley Cup (2018), 1 Vezina (2016), 1 Jennings (2017), 1 First-Team All-Star (2016), 1 Second-Team All-Star (2017)
I remember when Holtby first made an impact with Washington in the 2012 playoffs. You always want to root for new goaltenders who get thrown right into a perilous situation and come out shining. Washington had a carousel of goalies between 2007 to 2012, so when they made the decision to go with Holtby as their starter in the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, it looked like they had finally found their guy. Boy, has it paid off. The Capitals have had some very good teams during his time in DC, as his current record of 282-122-46 is remarkable. Still only 30 years old, to be just shy of 300 career wins already is quite an achievement.
Holtby’s 2015-16 season earned him the Vezina trophy, as he posted an astounding record of 48-9-7, with 3 shutouts and a goals-against-average of 2.20 (his 48 wins tied Martin Brodeur for most wins in a regular season by one goaltender). The next year, his GAA lowered to 2.07, earning him the Jennings trophy, on top of another 42-win season and 9 shutouts.
The year after that, he won the most important trophy of them all, the Stanley Cup. Despite suffering through a relatively weak campaign up until COVID-19 halted the 2019-20 season, the Capitals still looked poised to go on a deep playoff run with Holtby between the pipes. With many more seasons ahead of him, I’m very curious to see if he’ll climb higher on this list in a few years time.
54) NORMIE SMITH
69-72-33, 15 shutouts, 2.37 GAA
2 Stanley Cups (1936, 1937), 1 Vezina (1937), 1 First-Team All-Star (1937)
If each goalie on this list were to have only one impressive claim to stake their place, Smith’s could arguably be the most interesting of the lot. He backstopped the Detroit Red Wings to a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Maroons in what is still the longest ever NHL game. It was game 1 of the semi-finals, and the defending Cup champion Maroons still boasted an impressive lineup despite their onset of financial troubles in the midst of the Great Depression.
Smith turned away 92 shots before rookie Mud Bruneteau scored with just under four minutes to play in the sixth overtime to give the Red Wings a 1-0 win. Let me just reiterate that….. A 92 SAVE SHUTOUT IN WHAT WAS NEARLY THE EQUIVALENT OF 3 FULL FUCKING GAMES!
Smith made his debut with the Maroons during the 1931-32 season, but suffered a horrendous injury when Howie Morenz clobbered him and sent him flying into the net. He needed to rehab in the minors for a couple seasons, and wouldn’t return to the NHL until 1935 with the Red Wings. After winning the franchise’s first Cup in the aforementioned 1936 hoopla, Smith had his best statistical season the year after, going 25-14-9 with 6 shutouts and a 2.05 GAA.
Unfortunately, he suffered another injury in the fifth game of the semi-finals, and GM Jack Adams brought in minor-leaguer Earl Robertson to help the Wings repeat as champions. Smith hung around Detroit for another couple years, but his relationship with Adams deteriorated, resulting in his trade to Boston for Tiny Thompson and subsequent retirement.
During World War II, the absence of many players who were fighting overseas forced Smith back into the net, though he made only 6 appearances over the course of two seasons. Had it not been for injuries or tainted relations with management, Smith could have played much longer. He died in 1988.
Source: HHOF Images
53) DAVE KERR
203-148-75, 51 shutouts, 2.15 GAA
1 Stanley Cup (1940), 1 Vezina (1940), 1 First-Team All-Star (1940), 1 Second-Team All-Star (1938)
Like Normie Smith, Dave Kerr’s rookie year was spent with the defunct Montreal Maroons. He showed promise, though he ultimately wasn’t able to fulfill the void left by Clint Benedict and wound up with the New York Americans the next season, appearing in only one game before returning to the Maroons the following year, earning the starting spot for the 1933-34 campaign. Then, the New York Rangers came calling and Kerr would begin a seven-year stint that would result in a Stanley Cup title and Vezina trophy, both coming in 1940.
Kerr was a right-handed catcher, and developed his own pads that crept up above his knees, which allowed him to chest the puck down into his pads to force a whistle. He was a master at playing the angles, and was quite durable, appearing in every contest during his final five seasons in the league. Kerr registered four shutouts during the 1937 playoffs, tied with Mike Richter for most in Rangers single-season playoff history.
The following season, he led the league in shutouts with 8, matching that mark the year he took home the Vezina. After the 1940-41 season, Kerr enlisted with the Canadian army, and stepped away from hockey at the young age of 31. The Montreal Canadiens offered him a handsome sum to return, but he refused, instead entering the hotel and bar ownership business upon the war’s culmination.
Kerr is another tale of a goaltender who could have made more of an impact had he lasted longer, but alas, his legacy nonetheless lives on in the hearts of all Rangers fans (who can remember him, which is dwindling by the day). He passed away in 1978.
52) MIKE RICHTER
301-258-73, 34 shutouts, 2.89 GAA, .904 save percentage
1 Stanley Cup (1994)
There was definitely a time when Mike Richter was considered to be the greatest American-born goaltender to ever play, some even stating that he was better than the legendary Frank Brimsek. However, with the consistent play of Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, and Ben Bishop, that title will always be up for debate. Richter was a brilliant netminder, spending his entire NHL career with the Rangers from 1989 to 2003.
He was a massive part of the illustrious 1994 Cup winning team that had waited over half a century to raise the coveted trophy for the city of New York. He was picked 28th overall by the Rangers in 1985 and would chisel his way into splitting duties with John Vanbiesbrouck by the early 1990s. Vanbiesbrouck was shipped to Florida to become the franchise’s first string tendy in 1993, allowing Richter to employ his services without much threat.
His 1993-94 output was phenomenal, going 42-12-6, setting a team record for single-season wins that hasn’t been broken. Many more successful individual years followed, though the Rangers began to deteriorate by the late 90s. So were Richter’s knees. He had a knack for stopping penalty shots, thwarting 12 out of the 13 he faced in his career. He was rarely out of position and was always square to the shooters, and in the seldom chance he was out of position, he’d sprawl across the crease and flash the leather.
After suffering a skull fracture and concussion into the 2002-03 season, Richter retired, his jersey lifted into the rafters the following year. He led the playoffs in shutouts three separate times, and still ranks 35th all-time in wins.
Source: fearthefin.com/SB Nation
51) EVGENI NABOKOV
353-227-29-57, 59 shutouts, 2.44 GAA, .911 save percentage
Calder (2001), 1 First-Team All-Star (2008)
Nabokov most certainly has a case for best Russian goalie to ever play in the NHL (though he was born in what is today Kazakhstan). He certainly was a favourite of mine in the early to mid 2000s. It was hard to not like the Sharks, and Nabokov’s heavy work load will forever cement his name in franchise history for consistent regular season dominance, though the Sharks could never go all the way during his ten seasons in San Jose.
Nabokov was a bit of a late-bloomer, not emerging onto the NHL stage until he was 24 years old (his first appearance being on the first day of the millennium), and won the Calder trophy as top ‘rookie’ shortly before his 26th birthday. After starter Steve Shields suffered an injury early into the 2000-01 season, Nabokov stepped in, appearing in 66 contests, winning 32 and posting a 2.19 GAA.
His best campaign was in 2007-08, where he was a runner-up for the Vezina trophy and appeared on the First All-Star team, having gone 46-21-8 with 6 shutouts and a 2.14 GAA. He scored a goal in 2002, the first goaltender born outside North America to do so, also the first to score on the powerplay. His save on Brad Richards against the Stars where he robbed him with his glove on the goal line will forever be a part of Sharks lore, despite sadly losing that contest in the fourth overtime.
After not being re-signed due to salary cap restrictions, Nabokov went back to Russia, only to return with the New York Islanders in 2011-12 after refusing to play for Detroit. He enjoyed three decent years in New York before closing out his career as Ben Bishop’s backup in Tampa Bay. He currently ranks 22nd on the all-time win list, as well as 19th in shutouts. Do you think the Hall of Fame will ever come calling?
50) MIKE KARAKAS
114-169-53, 28 shutouts, 2.92 GAA
1 Stanley Cup (1938), Calder (1936), 1 Second-Team All-Star (1945)
Don’t let his losing record fool you. Karakas had the misfortune of playing all but five games of his career with the laughable Chicago Blackhawks for 8 seasons. Born in Minnesota, Karakas has the distinction of being the first American-born goaltender in the NHL, and also the first player of Greek descent. He was good friends with Frank Brimsek and the two played baseball together growing up, Karakas being the catcher. Hence, he had a lightning fast glove hand and would bait shooters into thinking they had the whole left side of the net, only to be foiled with a cheeky wink.
Lorne Chabot was injured to start the 1935-36 season, so Karakas was called up and started his career by going unbeaten in four games, two of them being shutouts. Chabot was promptly traded to the Montreal Maroons and Karakas went on to win the Calder trophy with an impressive 1.85 GAA and 9 shutouts.
The 1938 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks are arguably the worst ever Cup-winning team, victorious in only 14 regular season games, a .411 winning percentage. Karakas turned his game up immensely in the post-season despite suffering a broken toe late in the semi-finals. Wearing a steel-toed boot against the Maple Leafs, the Blackhawks shocked the world with a team chock full of Americans,
Karakas going 6-2 with a 1.71 GAA in the process. In his fifth season, he was dealt to the Canadiens after a contract dispute, where he played those 5 aforementioned games without his Blackhawks sweater, and then went down to the minor leagues.
However, like Normie Smith, the Second World War allowed Karakas to come back into the NHL, once again with the Blackhawks, for three more solid seasons before retiring at the age of 35. Aside from that 1938 Cup win, the Blackhawks’ losing ways never did kind to Karakas’s overall record, despite emerging as one of the finest Americans to play in the first fifty years of the league.
Source: HHOF Images
49) CHUCK RAYNER
136-201-74, 25 shutouts, 3.03 GAA
1 Hart (1950), 3 Second-Team All-Star (1949, 1950, 1951)
“Bonnie Prince Charlie”, as he was affectionately known as, was the biggest gem the Rangers had in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He is another fine example of a wonderful goaltender who was simply on a bad team, hence the losing record.
He never had a winning season, as his most successful outing was the year he single-handedly took the Rangers to the Cup finals in 1950, going 28-30-11 with 6 shutouts. Had the Vezina trophy been awarded in the same fashion it is now, rather than being what the Jennings currently represents, it can almost be guaranteed that Rayner would have had at least 2, maybe more. His heroics in bringing the Rangers to double-overtime in game 7 of the 1950 finals was the peak of performances that ultimately awarded him the Hart trophy that year as the league’s MVP.
Rayner also owns the distinction of being the final goaltender to suit up for the defunct New York Americans (or Brooklyn Americans as they were referred to in 1941-42). After spending three years in the Royal Canadian Navy, he joined the Rangers in 1945 and formed one of the first recognized goaltending tandems with “Sugar” Jim Henry.
He and Henry battled over the course of a couple seasons to see who would earn that true starting role, which was ultimately given to Rayner by 1948. For three straight seasons, he carried the team on his back. Despite being only 5’11, he was called “big” by many opponents for he spread himself out to challenge shots, and also influenced future goalies such as Jacques Plante to wander from the crease and play the puck in the corners. Hell, he even tried to go on lengthy rushes.
As Johnny Bower was coming onto the NHL scene, Rayner taught him his now infamous poke-check. He would even dabble in mask experimentation, donning a Plexiglas faceguard in practice from time to time. After sustaining a few knee injuries in 1953, Rayner stepped away from hockey, and enjoyed retirement until a heart attack claimed his life at age 82.
48) GRANT FUHR
403-295-114, 25 shutouts, 3.38 GAA, .887 save percentage
5 Stanley Cups (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990), 1 Vezina (1988), 1 Jennings (1994), 1 First-Team All-Star (1988), 1 Second-Team All-Star (1982)
Here is another rather contentious placement, as I’m sure many would expect to see Grant Fuhr in a much higher spot. Aside from the common arguments that claim that the 1980s Edmonton Oilers weren’t defensively equipped to prevent goals since they could score 7 every night if they wanted, that still doesn’t erase my opinion that Fuhr is one of the most overrated goaltenders of all time. Is he good? Of course! Is he deserving of being a Hall of Famer? Yes. But when you look at other Hall of Famers like Chuck Rayner who were the reason their teams would even have a chance at staying in games,
I find it hard to believe that the Oilers couldn’t have just rode someone like Andy Moog or Bill Ranford more. The Alberta-born Fuhr was drafted 8th overall by the Oilers in 1981 and promptly broke into the team and earned a Second-Team All-Star nod that season. He set a record for going unbeaten in his first 23 appearances. After battling Moog for the right to start the majority of games in their inevitable deep playoff schedule, Fuhr started the 1984 final series against the Islanders, only to suffer and injury and watch Moog start in the Cup-clinching game.
Fuhr would bounce back, and it could easily be said that he was the best goalie in the world from 1987 to 1989. He won the Vezina in 1988, as well as his fourth Cup, and was selected to the First All-Star team. He was suspended 60 games in 1990 by NHL President John Ziegler for drug use, but once again, bounced back and regained his job from Ranford for the 1991 playoffs.
He then bounced around a bit, from Toronto, to Buffalo (where he would mentor Dominik Hasek, sharing the Jennings trophy in 1994), to Los Angeles, and on to St. Louis. As a member of the Blues, Fuhr would set an NHL record for most appearances in the 1995-96 regular season, starting 79 games, 76 of them consecutively!
Wayne Gretzky joined forces with Fuhr and Brett Hull for the 1996 playoffs, but Fuhr suffered a horrific knee injury in the first round, ending his season prematurely. He spent his final season in 1999-00 with the Flames, winning his 400th career game. His role with the high-paced offensive Oilers in the 80s gives him the record for most points accumulated by a goaltender, with 61 assists to his name including the playoffs.
Source: Getty Images
47) OLAF KOLZIG
303-297-63-24, 35 shutouts, 2.71 GAA, .906 save percentage
1 Vezina (2000), 1 King Clancy (2006), 1 First-Team All-Star (2000)
Kolzig had ample opportunity to apply for Canadian citizenship in his formative years, but never took advantage. This allowed him to represent Germany in international competition without anyone too notable lurking behind him to take his place. He was actually born in South Africa; are you confused yet? As far as his NHL career goes, it took him many years to cement his place in the Capitals’ starting role.
Drafted 19th overall by the Capitals in 1989, he played two games in 1989-90, and then would bounce between the AHL and ECHL, making few appearances in the big leagues, as Don Beaupre, Pete Peeters, Jim Carey, and Bill Ranford were ahead on the depth chart. His first full season as a starter wasn’t until 1997, when he went 33-18-10 and led the Caps all the way to the finals, despite being swept by Detroit.
Kolzig was often shellacked with 30+ shots every game, and would respond with class and grace. He won the Vezina and was selected to the First All-Star Team in 2000, posting a career high 41 wins, with 5 shutouts and a 2.24 GAA. For the next seven seasons he played in nearly 60 games each year, starting 73, 72 and 71 games in 1999-00, 2000-01, and 2001-02 respectively.
He maintained his place in goal when the puck dropped after the lockout season. He won his 300th career game in March of 2008, before Cristobal Huet promptly came in and sniped the starting spot before the playoffs. Kolzig’s best days were behind him, and he concluded his career by playing 8 games for Tampa Bay in 2008-09, retiring as one of the most popular players in Capitals history. He holds team records in goaltending games played, wins, losses, ties, minutes, goals allowed, shutouts, and points scored (with 17). He ranks 15th all time in saves made, and 34th in wins, with 303 in total.
Source: Dave Sandford/Getty Images
46) MARC-ANDRE FLEURY
466-266-2-80*, 61 shutouts, 2.57 GAA, .913 save percentage
3 Stanley Cups (2009, 2016, 2017)
When you’re drafted first overall, there’s an enormous amount of pressure on your shoulders. Marc-Andre Fleury and his vibrant yellow pads and gloves debuted for Pittsburgh with a 46 save loss to the Kings in 2003. The 18-year-old spent some time in the AHL that season, and bounced up and down throughout the following two years, but by the time the Penguins made their run at the Cup in 2008, Fleury was the guy.
He rid himself of those beautiful yellow pads after he received advice from an optometrist that white pads made it more difficult for shooters to see openings when barreling down the ice with their heads swivelled. He made 55 saves in a triple-overtime win in game 5 of the finals, but the Penguins lost the Cup to the Detroit Red Wings. Nonetheless, they rebounded and won the Cup the following year, also against the Red Wings. Fleury made a scintillating save to preserve the 2-1 win in game 7 with only seconds to spare.
He became the third youngest netminder to win 300th career games when he accomplished the feat in November of 2014. After years of little challenge for the starting spot in the Penguins goal, Matt Murray emerged before the onset of the 2016 playoffs and started the finals in the Penguins’ triumph over the Sharks. Murray retained his place in goal the following year when the Pens repeated as champions, though Fleury still played admirably as backup, going 18-10-7.
With the Vegas Golden Knights becoming the newest expansion team in 2017, Fleury was left unprotected and was claimed by the team in Nevada, stopping all but one of the 46 shots hurled his way in his Knights debut against the Stars. He won his 400th career game in 2018 and nearly took the first-year expansion team all the way, losing the 2018 Cup finals to the Washington Capitals. Currently sitting fifth on the all-time wins list, the 35 year old Fleury still has a few years of elite hockey to go, as long as he can remain healthy.
*= subject to change (goalie still currently active)