The Top 5 American Goaltenders in the NHL Today
Who are the Top 5 Goalies with an American Passport?
The road to success for a goaltender in the NHL is usually paved with many twists and turns. It is much more difficult to make it in between the pipes, which is why many net minders often spend years toiling in the minors or heading across the pond to one of the many European leagues to play.
For goalies, it is often a situation of numbers. Each team only has two. Therefore, in order to crack the lineup, one truly has to be the best of the best.
In years past, the majority of goaltenders in the NHL were Canadian. However, that is a statistic which has been rapidly changing.
While Jim Craig never attained professional success as a goalie, he will be forever remembered as the man draped in the American flag following the United States’ dramatic Miracle on Ice gold medal triumph in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Craig and the rest of his teammates showed the world that yes, Americans can indeed play hockey. Just as Americans have been gaining a strong foothold throughout the NHL, the number of goaltenders with a US passport has been on the rise as well.
Players like Mike Richter of the New York Rangers, who finally silenced the 1940 chant by backstopping the blueshirts to a Stanley Cup victory in 1994, have strongly influenced the young net minders of today.
Tom Barrasso is probably the best American goaltender of all time. He is the only goalie to ever enter the NHL straight from high school and is the youngest recipient of the Vezina Trophy which is awarded to the league’s best goaltender. The Massachusetts native also played on back to back Stanley Cup teams when he manned the net for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992. Barraso was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
If the NHL allows its players to continue to compete on the Olympic stage, Team USA will have a wealth of talent to choose from in net, and these are the top five in an ever-growing class.
No. 5 Tim Thomas
Tim Thomas, who is currently the property of the New York Islanders, tops off the list at number five. The 38-year old Michigan native took the scenic route to the NHL, playing with various minor league and European clubs before finding a home with the Boston Bruins. Thomas would backstop them to a Stanley Cup in 2011. He is one of only three Americans to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, which goes to the MVP of the playoffs. Originally, Thomas was a draft pick of the now-defunct Quebec Nordiques and is the owner of two Vezina Trophies.
No. 4 Corey Schneider
Corey Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks holds the No. 4 spot. The 27-year old Massachusetts native successfully challenged Roberto Luongo for the Canucks starting position, putting Luongo and his big contract on the trading block. He shared the Williams Jennings Trophy with Luongo which is awarded for the lowest goals-against average in his first full season in the NHL. Schneider has found success at every level he has competed at from college and beyond.
No. 3 Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings grabs slot No. 3. The 28-year old who hails from Syracuse, New York finished second for the Calder Trophy in the 2009-10 season. He also holds the University of Maine’s records for most shutouts as well as the lowest goals-against average. Howard led his college team to the finals of the Frozen Four in 2003-04. As a member of the US National Development Team Program, Howard backstopped the U18 division to a gold medal in the 2002 IIHF World Championships.
No. 2 Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings comes in at No. 2. This Connecticut native hoisted his first cup last year and also became one of three Americans to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. The 27-year old was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy after his impressive play last year. 2011-12 was a banner year for Quick, who led the league in shutouts and posted the second lowest goals-against average.
No. 1 Ryan Miller
The No. 1 spot goes to Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres even thought he has yet to hold the Stanley Cup over his head. This 32-year old Michigan native was a standout at the University of Michigan and set a NCAA record with 26 shutouts throughout his four-year college career. He also took home the Hobey Baker award for the best collegiate hockey player in 2001. The 2009-10 season belonged to him, as Miller backstopped Team USA to a silver medal and was named the MVP of the tournament in Vancouver, even though they lost the gold medal game in overtime to Canada. He took home the Vezina Trophy that year as well.