The 2016 World Cup of Hockey is approximately 10 months away and as the anticipated event slowly approaches rumours of which players will make the cut on the eight teams is ramping up.
Goaltenders take much longer to develop than skaters, which could result in some difficulty for Stan Bowman and Peter Chiarelli when they put together Team North America – a roster that will be comprised entirely of players under the age of 24.
In his weekly West Coast Bias column, Mark Spector speculated about who could be on the U-24 squad and said the two frontrunners to play in net on the team are likely John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets prospect Connor Hellebuyck.
Gibson and Hellebuyck both have the potential to be future NHL stars, but are they the two best netminders in their age bracket? We look beyond North America and present five of the best goalies currently under the age of 24.
Petr Mrazek, 23
The Ostrava, Czech Republic native is having a solid campaign with the Red Wings. He’s 6-4-2 with a .931 save percentage and 2.21 goals-against average and if he continues his quality play there’s a strong chance he will wind up being the starting goalie for Team Czech Republic.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, 21
Things didn’t go his way Friday, allowing four goals on 37 shots in a loss to the Capitals, but Vasilevskiy is an outstanding, young talent. If he manages to improve at this current rate, he has all the makings of becoming the next great Russian goaltender in the NHL.
John Gibson, 22
Prior to being recalled by the Ducks earlier this week, the 39th-overall pick from the 2011 NHL Draft was putting up stellar numbers with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. He was 7-4-1 with a .917 save percentage, 2.63 GAA and led the league in saves after 13 starts. The Ducks also have Frederik Andersen, but Gibson is waiting in the wings.
Connor Hellebuyck, 22
The Jets prospect picked up his first career NHL win in his first start Friday. Before donning a Jets uniform, Hellebuyck was putting up respectable numbers on a subpar Manitoba Moose team. The 6-foot-4 American went 7-1 for Team USA at the 2015 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships in the summer en route to a bronze medal. His ceiling is quite high.
Matt Murray, 21
The Thunder Bay, Ont., native is making a name for himself with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He was named the AHL’s rookie of the year last season in addition to winning the Baz Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s best goaltender. This season he’s 9-2 with a .931 save percentage, 2.11 GAA and two shutouts. He’s one of the non-NHLers who should be on Bowman’s and Peter Chiarelli’s respective radars when they decide on the U-24 North American roster. There’s a strong chance he’ll be Marc-Andre Fleury’s successor one day.
Honourable mention: Jack Campbell (23), Kristers Gudlevskis (23), Calvin Pickard (23), Sami Aittokallio (23)