SUN Hockey Pool

Promising goalies poised for breakout

MACKENZIE LIDDELL, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

TORONTO -- The parity of the cap-era NHL claimed another victim this past week when the Chicago Blackhawks dumped Stanley Cup winning goalie Antti Niemi in favour of an aging Marty Turco and a paltry $1.45 million in cap relief.

Whether this move pays dividends for the Hawks is unknown, but walking away from a 26-year-old goaltender who put up impressive numbers in the regular season and didn't wilt in the playoffs could prove as a major source of dismay.

What's even more surprising is the number of young goalies who enjoyed tremendous success a season ago.

Aside from Niemi, fellow freshmen Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Howard had no trouble cutting their teeth as everyday starters despite having combined for only 10 games NHL experience prior to last season.

Expect more of the same this year, and look for other netminders to make their mark and perhaps steal away a job from a seasoned starter.

In Los Angeles, Jonathan Quick better look over his shoulder because Jonathan Bernier is quickly approaching everyday duties and could be poised for a breakout year.

Despite putting up respectable numbers and backstopping the Kings to their first playoff berth since 2002, Quick could find himself battling for minutes with Bernier, who was named the American Hockey League's Most Outstanding Goalie for the Manchester Monarchs last season.

In his brief three-game stint with the Kings in 2010, Bernier went 3-0 with a 1.30 goals-against average, .957 save percentage and a shutout.

Although Quick is a promising youngster himself, the future throne in L.A. looks to belong to Bernier.

Another goalie looking to emerge from the shadows of obscurity is San Jose's Thomas Greiss.

Having trained under the wing of KHL-bound backstop Evgeni Nabokov, Greiss will have every opportunity this season to show he is ready to steal the spotlight.

His competition between the pipes will be newly acquired Anterro Niittymaki, who will be likely pegged to receive the majority of starts.

But unlike the many serviceable years provided by Nabokov, the Sharks no longer have the luxury of relying on a clear-cut number, giving Greiss a perfect platform to prove he can get the job done.

While he didn't see much action last year, the Cologne, Germany native proved capable of weathering the storm when called upon, a fact reflected by his sparkling .922 save percentage.

Speaking of sparkling, Jacob Markstrom, the shiniest of goaltending prospects, has made the move from Sweden and should challenge for a position on the Florida Panthers roster this season.

With Thomas Vokoun the clear-cut starter, the 20-year old Swede will have to win the backup role from journeyman Scott Clemmensen.

This past year, the 31st overall pick in 2008 put up astounding numbers for Brynas IF of the Swedish Elite League while also representing his country at the 2010 World Championship. As a result, the 6'4" phenom has drawn favorable comparisons to fellow countryman Henrik Lundqvist.

It wouldn't be shocking to see Markstrom start the year in the AHL, but based on his raw skill and athleticism, Panthers GM Dale Tallon might be forced to give the kid a shot sooner rather than later.

Whether it's parity or productivity, the emergence of young goaltenders has proven to become a staple of success for many franchises across the NHL landscape.


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