In The Nets at 22Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
In the history of the NHL – which spans nearly a century now – only 71 goaltenders have played in 30 or more regular season games in a campaign at the age of 22. Looking at the Capitals’ depth chart, it is possible that Washington will have a pair of 22-year-old netminders who will turn that trick in 2010-11. Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth became linked together when the Caps drafted them both in consecutive rounds of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The [/caption] Russian-born Varlamov was chosen in the first round (23rd overall) while Czech Republic native Neuvirth was chosen in the second round (34th overall). The two goaltenders were born exactly five weeks apart in the early spring of 1988; Neuvirth is the elder of the two. Heading into the 2010-11 season, Varlamov and Neuvirth sit atop the Caps’ goaltending depth chart. Varlamov has appeared in 32 career regular season games (winning 19) to date while Neuvirth has played in 22 (winning 11). Since it’s August and I’m bored, I decided to pore over the list of those 71 goaltenders to see what sort of informational nuggets could be gleaned. If both Varlamov and Neuvirth manage to get into 30 or more games this season,Washington would become just the second club in NHL history to have a pair of 22-year-old goaltenders play in 30 or more games each. Back in 1967-68, when the Original Six expanded into the Original 12, the expansion Philadelphia Flyers had a pair of 22-year-old goaltenders in Bernie Parent and Doug Favell. Parent went on to the Hockey Hall of Fame, helping the Flyers to a pair of Stanley Cup championships after a brief (and failed) dalliance with the Philadelphia Blazers (née Miami Screaming Eagles) of the World Hockey Association. Philly drafted both Parent and Favell from Boston in the 1967 expansion draft. Remember, the Bruins drafted Ken Dryden in 1964 and they also had Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnston in their goaltending stable in the mid- to late-1960s. Dryden and Cheevers also went on to enjoy Hall of Fame careers, showing that Boston had a burgeoning array of netminding talent at the time. [/caption] Parent won 271 games before an eye injury cut short his NHL career. He won 16 of the 38 games in which he played as a 22-year-old in 1967-68. Favell, who was later traded in a deal involving Parent, won 15 of his 37 games in ’67-68. Favell labored for less-than-stellar teams for the bulk of his dozen NHL seasons, topping out at 20 wins in his final season with the Flyers and finishing up with 123 career NHL victories. Parent is one of eight Hockey Hall of Fame goaltenders who appeared in 30 or more contests at the age of 22. Thirteen of the 71 goaltenders who have done so are still active, and that list includes New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, so the ranks of Hall of Famers on the list will swell with time. During the league’s Original Six era, only seven goaltenders played in 30 or more games at the age of 22 and four of those seven – Alec Connell, Turk Broda, Harry Lumley and Terry Sawchuk – went on to Hall of Fame careers. Three of the 71 goaltenders – Sawchuk in 1951-52, Grant Fuhr in 1984-85 and Brodeur in 1994-95 – backstopped their teams to Stanley Cup championships during their age 22 seasons. Three more – Harry Lumley in 1948-49, Andy Moog in 1982-83 and Ron Hextall in 1986-87 – led their clubs to the Cup final before falling during their age 22 seasons. Three more goaltenders – Rogatien Vachon in 1967-68, Phil Myre in 1970-71 and Rollie Melanson in 1982-83 – played the requisite 30 or more games during the regular season for teams that went on to win the Cup but did not start the lion’s share of the postseason games for their teams that spring. Don Edwards played the most games (72) of the 22-year-olds with 30 or more games played. Edwards posted an impressive 38-16-17 mark for the Buffalo Sabres during his sophomore season in the circuit in 1977-78. He led the league in minutes that season, rarely giving back-ups Bob Sauve (11 games) and Gerry Desjardins (three games) a chance to shake off the rust. Edwards’ 4209 minutes is the most ever for a 22-year-old NHL netminder. Sawchuk and Roger Crozier (in 1964-65) both played in 70 games at the age of 22, appearing in all of their team’s games that season. Sawchuk (44 wins) and Crozier (40 wins) are two of the three goaltenders to win more games than Edwards at that age; Marc-Andre Fleury (40 wins in 2006-07) is the other. Getting back to Brodeur for a bit, he is obviously the goaltender with the most career wins among the 71 who toiled for 30 or more games at the age of 22. Brodeur has 602 NHL wins. And counting. Hudson Bay’s Larry Lozinski holds the distinction of having the fewest career NHL wins of these 71 men. Lozinski’s season as a 22-year-old was his only season in the NHL, and he posted a 6-11-7 record while appearing in exactly 30 games for the lowly (19 wins) 1980-81 Detroit Red Wings. While 11 of the 71 goaltenders totaled 30 or more wins at the age of 22, there were nine who weren’t able to reach double-digit victory totals. At the far end of that spectrum is Dunc Wilson, who had the misfortune of backstopping the expansion Vancouver Canucks in 1970-71. Wilson posted a 3-25-2 record, notching the fewest wins of any 22-year-old goalie with 30 or more games played. Two of the goalies played for Washington as 22-year-olds. Jim Bedard went 6-17-6 in 30 games with the 1978-79 Capitals. Jim Carey was 22-31-3 in 59 [/caption] games during the 1996-97 season. Carey is the only one of the 71 goaltenders to split his 22-year-old season amongst two teams. The Caps dealt him to Boston on March 1, 1997 in a six-player trade. Montreal and Pittsburgh have each had seven goalies with 30 or more games at the age of 22, the most of any teams in the league. Although they are one of the Original Six clubs, the Chicago Blackhawks have had only one 22-year-old goaltender appear in 30 or more games. That happened in 2003-04 when Michael Leighton posted a 6-18-8 mark for the Hawks. Leighton was the losing goaltender in the 2010 Stanley Cup final, falling to the Blackhawks as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. Carey is one of five goalies to amass 30 or more losses as a 22-year-old. The other three are Bruce Gamble (12-33-7 in 52 games with the 1960-61 Bruins), Roberto Luongo (16-33-4 in 58 games with the 2001-02 Panthers), Gilles Meloche (12-32-14 with the 1972-73 California Golden Seals) and Sean Burke (22-31-9 in 62 games with the 1988-89 Devils). Ex-Cap Pete Peeters is at the good end of the losses list. He posted a 29-5-5 mark with the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers. Sawchuk leads the way with a dozen shutouts at the age of 22. Connell is second with seven while Crozier and Lumley each had six. Among those goaltenders from the expansion era, Rask, Fleury and Martin Biron top the charts with five whitewashes each. Sawchuk’s 1.90 goals against average is tops among the 71 goaltenders, and Boston’s Tuukka Rask’s (1.97 in 2009-10) is second. Quebec’s Ron Tugnutt brings up the bottom of that list at 4.61. Save percentage numbers are available only since the start of the 1983-84 season. Since then, Rask (.931 in 2009-10) has by far the best mark. Luongo’s .915 is second on the list. Tugnutt is at the other end of the save pct. spectrum with an unsightly .859 in 1989-90. As you might expect, Hextall was the most irascible of the 22-year-olds. His 104 penalty minutes is nearly double the total of the next netminder (Burke, 54) on the list. I mentioned earlier that only seven of the goaltenders on the list had their seasons as a 22-year-old during the Original Six era. There were three 22-year-old goalies in 1967-68, the first season of the expansion era. There were four in 1972-73, 1979-80, 1981-82 and 1986-87. There have been three in 1987-88, 1988-89, 1996-97 and in 2009-10. Besides Varlamov and Neuvirth, the Blue Jackets’ Steve Mason will be 22 this season and is a good bet to reach the 30-game level if healthy. The Kings’ Jonathan Bernier and the Sabres’ Jhonas Enroth are the only other goalies who saw action as 21-year-olds in the NHL last season. Time will tell how Varlamov and Neuvirth stack up as 22-year-old goaltenders this season. Much has been written about the relative youthfulness of the Washington defense, but the Caps’ goaltending corps is even younger as the 2010-11 season approaches. Both Varlamov and Neuvirth have fared well in their North American pro postseason experience to date, and one or both could join the ranks of those who helped propel their teams to the Stanley Cup final at the tender ago of 22.
The upcoming 2010-11 campaign will be the sixth in a capitals’ uniform for 26-year-old forward Tomas Fleischmann. The left wing-turned-center arrived in the District earlier this week and he hit the ice with a few of his Washington teammates on Thursday morning in preparation for the upcoming