The Top 10 backup goalies in the NHL

It is inevitable that every pro goalie will, at some point in their career, sit on the bench as a backup. Unfortunately for most of them, this is where they will spend the majority of their careers. There are only 30 No.1 positions available so unless you were drafted first overall … oh wait - that didn’t work out too well for Mr. DiPietro! 

It is not easy being a backup goalie, you have to be ready at a moment’s notice and often times after not playing for two to three weeks. This season has seen a few long-term injuries to No.1 goalies and quite a few of the backups have responded very well. Playing more games in succession can boost a backup goalie’s confidence or it could send him spiraling back to fantasy purgatory.

We are very close to the midway point of the season so let’s take a look at the Top 10 fantasy backup goalies that have performed well over the first half. This list has been compiled based on statistics for a “points-only” season where wins are one-point and shut-outs are two. Did I miss anyone? Comment below


#10 – Marek Mazanec, NSH

When Pekka Rinne suffered a hip infection and was placed on injured reserved many thought that the Predator’s season was in jeopardy. For the most part those that thought that way were correct; Nashville has a huge battle in front of them if they hope to make the playoffs. The tandem of Mazanec and Hutton is proving to be a little more challenging than originally speculated; both have played 21 games and won seven of them. Mazanec does have two shutouts this season so that is why he made this list. He has faced more shots (550) than anyone else listed here but he has also given up more goals (53) as well. Mazanec, like McElhinney, needs his numbers to improve in a big way. He is currently sporting a save-percentage of .904 and a goals-against average of 2.82

With Rinne still out for the foreseeable future, Mazanec needs to seize this opportunity and capitalize to the best of his ability. Unless he or Hutton can string some wins together look for a 50/50 split the rest of the way until Rinne returns.


#9 – Curtis McElhinney, CLB

Since being drafted in 2002 McElhinney has suited up for five NHL teams, playing in 88 games over six seasons. He has almost matched his career best in wins (9), which isn’t saying much when you consider that in 19 games played this campaign he has seven wins with two shutouts. It also didn’t help that Columbus had a few players on the injured reserve list, which may have resulted in a couple more wins had they been in the lineup. McElhinney has responded relatively well considering the team in front of him and currently has the same save-percentage (.909) as the reigning Vezina winner. He has also faced a ridiculous amount of shots, which is good if you are in a league that counts saves. Over the first half of the season he saved 468 shots and let in 47 goals. His goals-against average is 2.81 and it is this number, along with the others, that need to improve if he wants his career to move in a positive direction.


#8 – Eddie Lack, VAN

When Luongo went down with a groin strain it appeared that the Canucks may have been in a bit of a pickle. Eddie Lack was relatively untested at the NHL level and his backup even less than him. Just recently the Canucks had to sign a 42 year old to an emergency contract, so that he could back up the backup. Nevertheless Lack has proven that he can handle the pressure with seven wins in 15 games and two of those were shutouts. He has faced a total of 376 shots and turned aside 347 of them, giving him a save-percentage of .923 and a goals-against average of 2.16

It has been hinted that Luongo’s most recent injury could be a serious one so look for Lack to start the majority of the games until he returns. This should be an ideal situation for Lack to focus and continue to improve.


#7 – Jean-Sebastien Giguere, COL

Giguere has only played in 11 of the Avalanche’s 41 games and has won seven of them, two of which were shut-outs. He played extremely well during the latter stage of October and throughout November, only allowing 2 or fewer goals in each of his victories. Sadly he has not played as well during December letting in three goals each against Vancouver and Dallas. He then followed that up with an atrocious outing against Chicago allowing seven goals on 24 shots. He still has a respectable save-percentage of .918 and a mediocre goals-against average of 2.51 while facing 317 shots on goal.

Giguere will get the spot start here and there for the remainder of the season unless (starter) Semyon Varlamov is injured so don't rush to grab him off the wire. Unless of course you need the help in net and you have unlimited moves available.


#6 – Jonas Gustavsson, DET

Jonas Gustavsson ties Antti Raanta on this list with the most wins (11) and before he got injured he had a three-game win streak going. He has performed well when called upon, in the 17 games he has played so far he has a save-percentage of .914 and a goals-against average of 2.39, all while facing a total of 455 shots.

Gustavsson is currently dealing with a groin strain so it could be a couple of weeks before he gets his next start. If you are an owner, all you can hope for is that he can get back to where he was before the injury.


#5 – Al Montoya, WPG

The Rangers selected Montoya sixth overall in 2004 and he has played for three NHL clubs since then, appearing in 79 NHL games. If he keeps playing the way he has thus far there is a chance that he will take over the number one spot from Ondrej Pavelec. In 15 games played this season he has eight wins and two shutouts. He has faced 403 shots and surrendered 32 goals giving him a goals-against average of 2.31 and a save-percentage of .921

If you are in desperate need of goalie help, then grab Montoya off the waiver wire as I think he will get another 15 to 20 starts in the second half. However, this could all change if Pavelec actually plays the way the Jets would like him to.


#4 – Ben Scrivens, LA

I admit that I was a little surprised to see that the top four backups were all undrafted but Scrivens is slightly more experienced than the other three. He has played a total of 51 games in the NHL and is starting to find his groove in the league. In 19 games played this campaign he has seven wins with three of them shut-outs. Scrivens has also faced more shots (464) than the top three which, in my opinion, makes his save-percentage of .931 and his goals-against average of 1.97 even more impressive. The King’s are a fortunate team to have two quality backups at their disposal, even if it means having to choose between them. Los Angeles has won a total of 26 games, placing them third in the Pacific division and they have the 2A/2B tandem to thank for 15 of those wins.

Look for Scrivens to start approximately 10 games in the second half, unless Quick suffers another injury.


#3 – Cam Talbot NYR

I doubt that the Rangers had planned to start Talbot as much as they have already but that’s the beauty of professional sports, anything can happen. Henrik Lundqvist started the season poorly and so Talbot got his chances. He has the second best goals-against average (1.66) and save-percentage (.938) of this list so a case could be made to place him in the number two spot. Talbot doesn’t have as many wins as Raanta and as we all know, it’s the “w” that counts. In the 14 games played he has nine wins and two shut-outs while stopping 330 of 352 shots.

If Lundqvist falters again, expect the undrafted Talbot to pick up where he left off.


#2 – Antti Raanta, CHI

I’m not going to go on a rant about another young undrafted goalie but his 11 wins, with one shutout, in 16 games played is very impressive. The 24 year old has played well during Corey Crawford’s absence; apart from a few letdowns away from home ice. If it wasn’t for the two games in which he let in five goals his stats would be flawless. As it stands he has a goals-against average of 2.27 and a save-percentage of .911, all while facing a total of 395 shots.

Now that Crawford’s back I see Raanta starting another 10-12 games in the second half and posting the same, if not better, fantasy worthy numbers. I guess it helps that he plays for the powerhouse that is the Chicago Blackhawks.


#1 – Martin Jones, LA

Much has already been written about Martin Jones and I’m confident that this will only continue for the talented 23 year old. He leads the league in goals-against average (1.41) and he also tied a record for most wins (8) to start an NHL career. In the 11 games he has played this season he has eight wins, three of which were shut-outs. These shut-outs certainly helped his peripheral stats as he only faced a total of 301 shots during the course of his 11 games. Of the 10 goalies in this list he has played the fewest number of games and faced the least amount of shots. However, he has only allowed 15 pucks to get by him which gives him his impressive save percentage of .950

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and Jones was reassigned to the AHL upon Jonathan Quick’s return from injury. If you have room on your farm team, scoop Jones up if he is still available.



Here’s the list broken down by individual categories.







Raanta (11)

Jones (3)

Jones (1.41)

Mazanec (497)

Jones (.950)

Gustavsson (11)

Scrivens (3)

Talbot (1.66)

McElhinney (468)

Talbot (.938)

Talbot (9)

Talbot (2)

Scrivens (1.97)

Scrivens (432)

Scrivens (.931)

Jones (8)

Montoya (2)

Lack (2.16)

Gustavsson (416)

Lack (.923)

Montoya (8)

Giguere (2)

Raanta (2.27)

Montoya (371)

Montoya (.921)

Scrivens (7)

Lack (2)

Montoya (2.31)

Raanta (360)

Giguere (.918)

Giguere (7)

McElhinney (2)

Gustavsson (2.39)

Lack (347)

Gustavsson (.914)

Lack (7)

Mazanec (2)

Giguere (2.51)

Talbot (330)

Raanta (.911)

McElhinney (7)

Raanta (1)

McElhinney (2.81)

Giguere (291)

McElhinney (.909)

Mazanec (7)

Gustavsson (0)

Mazanec (2.82)

Jones (286)

Mazanec (.904)


With half the season left to play it is quite possible that other backups will steal the show and give the guys listed above a run for their money. It will be interesting to see how many of them are in the top 10 at the end of the season.

Thanks for reading and I hope 2014 is a great one for you and your families.

Until next week.


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