Finding a talented and reliable goalie is one of the toughest tasks for almost any NHL team. A consistent netminder is often the difference between a deep playoff run or a failed season. Every year a handful of teams put faith in a young or unproven goalie hoping to find a star. Most of the time they aren't so lucky.
Being a professional hockey goalie is one of the toughest jobs in sports and even the most promising of prospects can fail to put everything together. Goaltenders don't get a lot of time to work through their problems in the NHL, so if a goalie can't produce, he's often out of a job and sometimes out of the league entirely.
All 15 of these goalies played in the NHL during the 2000s or later and for some reason or another failed to find success during their time in the NHL. This could be for a number of reasons: lack of playing time, playing on a crowded roster, and obviously posting mediocre numbers. Some are years removed from the game while others are still struggling in the minors or in European hockey leagues. Regardless of where they are now, you likely won't see them on an NHL roster any time soon.
15 Antero Niittymaki
Antero Niittymaki was drafted late in 1998 by the Philadelphia Flyers and spent a handful of years playing professionally in Finland and the minors before he managed to crack the Flyers' lineup full-time in the 2005-06 season. He earned the starting job on a talented Flyers roster and responded by posting save percentage numbers south of .900 for two seasons Niittymaki handed the reins over to Martin Biron as the starter in in 2007 and mostly rode pine for the rest of his time in Philly. He posted average numbers in 2009-10 with the Lightning as a starter during his last full year in the NHL.
The next season Nittymaki inked a deal with the Sharks to replace Evgeni Nabokov and began a tumultuous relationship with what would be his last NHL club. After a lackluster season, the Sharks waived Niittymaki while he was on vacation; he found out he was waived not from the team but by the media during a vacation to Lake Tahoe. Niittymaki would spend a couple years in the minors with the Sharks to end his playing career. Niittymaki made his return to Philadelphia in 2013... when the team signed him as a goalie scout.
14 Jeff Deslauriers
Jeff Deslauriers just barely missed being selected in the first round when the Oilers took him 31st in the 2002 NHL Draft. Call it a blessing that the Oilers don't have to call Deslauriers a first-round bust. Deslauriers was slated to start in net for some of the talented Oilers teams of the mid-2000s but instead spent years in junior and the AHL before he finally got an opportunity as a starter in 2009-10. He went back to the AHL the next year after a disappointing season that had both the Oilers and Deslauriers' numbers in the basement.
Deslauriers played a few games with Anaheim in 2011 but beyond that the rest of his North American career was spent in the AHL. Deslauriers tried to rehab his game by making a move overseas in 2014, but struggled to put anything together in other leagues as well. After a stint as a backup in the KHL for Riga Dynamo, Deslauriers played in 35 games for Augsburg in 2015-16 and posted a .888 save percentage. Unsurprisingly, Deslauriers has yet to find a job this season.
13 Hannu Toivonen
Like Jeff Deslauriers, Hannu Toivonen was also drafted in 2002. The Bruins took the Finnish-born goaltender with the 29th overall pick, just a few picks after the Carolina Hurricanes selected one Cam Ward. Toivonen spent a couple years in Finland's SM-liiga and in the AHL with Providence before he got an opportunity with Boston. Unfortunately, Toivonen was selected by a club that had a reliable veteran in Tim Thomas, so he didn't get the opportunity to play much in Boston. On top of that, Toivonen didn't do all that much to impress as the Bruins backup.
After some playing time during the 2007-08 season with the Blues, Toivonen dropped down to the AHL and never managed to work his way back up. Maybe it was never meant to be for Toivonen to play in the NHL. It seems like the past few years he's finally found his niche in the Finnish league he got his start in. Toivonen has played reliably as a starter in SM-liiga for the past three years and has already posted a shutout for Ilves Tampreen this season.
12 Tom McCollum
Tom McCollum is one of the youngest players on this list at just 26 years old. However, McCollum was selected in the first round by Detroit back in 2008 (30th overall) and it's fair to expect more from a goalie when he's drafted in the first round. McCollum had a very successful career in junior hockey with the Guelph Storm in the OHL, so McCollum has some potential, but it appears he's yet to show it. McCollum did play in one game back during the 2010-11 campaign with the Red Wings; he let up three goals in 15 minutes.
McCollum, however, might actually have an opportunity to play in the NHL in the distant future. He currently plays for the Calgary Flames' AHL affiliate in Stockton and the Flames have been plagued with goaltending problems over the past few seasons. McCollum has to hope he gets the opportunity to contribute to or remedy Calgary's problems in net in the future.
11 Mike McKenna
One of the least recognizable names here boasts one of the more impressive resumes. Mike McKenna has been a consistent career AHL goaltender his entire career. McKenna was a Nashville draft pick back in 2002 in the sixth round, so it's safe to say expectations might not be that high for the veteran. However, he played three respectable years with his college club in St. Lawrence before he transitioned to the AHL. He would play in the minors for half a decade before he got a shot in the NHL. McKenna performed decently in a backup role on the Lightning in 2009-10, but not well enough to stick around.
McKenna has played games for three other NHL teams since then but never more than a couple games at a time, so it's safe to say that even though McKenna got a taste of the NHL, he was never a good enough goalie to make an impact. He's currently buried in the AHL with the Florida Panthers' affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds.
10 Dany Sabourin
Dany Sabourin was drafted back in 1998 and was one of the more promising goaltending prospects out of his draft class. Despite being a Calgary Flames draft pick and playing in their organization for about half a decade, Sabourin only ever managed to suit up and play in four games with the Flames. It wasn't until he ended up in Pittsburgh during the 2007-08 season that Sabourin managed to see any substantial playing time. He would back up Marc-Andre Fleury for a couple seasons, including when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup back in 2009.
After that season, Sabourin wouldn't play another NHL game. He would bounce around a couple years in the AHL before coming to the conclusion that he would have a better shot playing in Europe. After a couple seasons in Austria, Sabourin made a move to Ligue Magnus, a French professional league. Sabourin signed a deal with the Rouen Dragons for the 2015-16 season and has been quite successful as their starter.
9 Viktor Fasth
Viktor Fasth was born in Sweden and spent the beginning of his professional career playing with AIK in the Swedish Elite League. Fasth got an opportunity to play in the NHL when he was first signed by the Ducks back in 2012. He split time pretty evenly with Jonas Hiller (more on Hiller later) during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and posted a very respectable .921 save percentage on a talented Ducks team. The following season, Anaheim acquired Frederik Andersen which meant Fasth was on the outs. The Oilers acquired Fasth in a trade with Anaheim and he showed promise at the end of 2014. Fasth followed that campaign up with a disappointing year in Edmonton, carrying an .888 save percentage over 26 games.
Between getting neglected by Anaheim and getting shelled in Edmonton, Fasth decided he'd had enough with the National Hockey League. He signed a KHL deal for the 2015-16 season with CSKA Moscow and has posted reliable numbers for the Russian squad since.
8 Jason Bacashihua
Jason Bacashihua was literally and figuratively one of the more interesting names to come out of the 2001 NHL Draft and he was selected 26th overall by the Dallas Stars. Bacashihua played a few promising years in the AHL before his rights were traded to the Blues in 2004. A couple years later, Bacashihua would see some playing time on the Blues, but he always seemed overshadowed by talents like Curtis Sanford and Manny Legace. Bacashihua would drop down to the AHL during the 2006-07 season and would never make it back up to the NHL.
In 2012, after a handful of seasons struggling in the AHL, Bacashihua signed a deal with the Straubing Tigers of the DEL. Bacashihua would spend three seasons playing in Germany with middling success before he made a move to the Slovakian league in 2015-16. Bacashihua posted a .926 save percentage there last year and it seems he hasn't looked back.
7 Dan Ellis
Dan Ellis just barely snuck into the second round of the Draft when the Stars picked him 60th overall. Ellis posted promising numbers at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, but he didn't play well in the AHL during the first few years of his career. Eventually, Ellis got an opportunity to see some playing time with Nashville but wasn't able to keep his job when Pekka Rinne started to play up to his potential for the Predators. Once Ellis left Nashville, he jumped around the league, including stops in Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Carolina, Dallas, and Florida. Last year, he signed with Washington, but only played in the AHL for their affiliate team, the Hershey Bears.
Ellis was a serviceable NHL backup, but has had trouble finding work this year and is currently an unrestricted free agent. You have to wonder if he'll ever come back to the NHL after being bounced around so much as a backup. He's not currently retired, but it would probably take a convincing offer to lure Ellis away from his family and back to the NHL.
6 Vesa Toskala
Vesa Toskala is the oldest player to find his way onto this list and, in spite of that, Toskala was still a well-known NHL goalie only five years ago. He was drafted by the Sharks in 1995 but spent a few years playing for his hometown team, Ilves Tampere in Tampere, Finland, before making the move over to the NHL. Toskala started to play regular minutes with San Jose in 2002 and was a serviceable backup goalie for the Sharks until 2007. That off-season, the Toronto Maple Leafs struck a deal with the Sharks that included sending three draft picks to San Jose to acquire Toskala, along with Mark Bell. Toskala, who at the time seemed like the answer to Toronto's goaltending woes, put up three mediocre seasons for the Leafs, which including posting an .874 save percentage during his final year in Toronto.
Toskala played a few games for the Flames in the 2009-10 season, but it was evident after his time in Toronto that he was on his way out of the NHL. In 2011-12, Toskala signed a one-year deal with his hometown team in Tampere, but he only managed to post mediocre numbers. Between lackluster play and injuries Toskala was forced to retire in 2012.
5 Anders Lindback
Anders Lindback was a seventh round draft pick by Nashville, so it's safe to say that expectations couldn't have been too high. However, Lindback might have benefited from a team giving him an extended look as a starter. The 6-foot-6-inch Lindback uses his size to his advantage when playing, but it's pretty evident that he doesn't have the same level of talent as Ben Bishop or other tall goalies in the NHL. Lindback has played for five different NHL teams but has never logged more than 25 games in a season in his NHL career, last playing with the Coyotes last season. It's no surprise that the career backup started the 2016-17 season as an unrestricted free agent.
However, that could all change for Lindback very soon. Hours prior to this writing Lindback was offered a PTO by Los Angeles to potentially fill in on an injury-riddled Kings team. While it's unlikely that Lindback will run with the opportunity and supplant one of the league's best goaltenders in Jonathan Quick, he will certainly benefit from a chance to get back into the league and earn some more NHL ice time.
4 Jonas Hiller
The Swiss-born Jonas Hiller could very easily be considered the most successful goalie on this list. He made his NHL debut during the 2007-2008 season after half a dozen seasons in Switzerland's top hockey league. The next year, Hiller took over as Ducks' starter and started what was a very successful six-year stretch where he was the feature goalie for a strong Anaheim team. Hiller consistently posted good numbers and was poised to have success when he left for Calgary as a free agent before the 2014-15 season. Hiller's time in Calgary is cause for us to remember him as a sub-par goaltender, as after a decent first season with the Flames, he put up an .879 save percentage and lost starter duties to Karri Ramo.
Hiller obviously has the potential to play well and decided that his time with the Flames and even the NHL as a whole wasn't doing him justice. At the start of the 2016-17 season, Hiller agreed to a three-year contract with Swiss team EHC Biel and, by the looks of it, he won't be returning to North America any time soon.
3 Al Montoya
Al Montoya gets redemption as the only current recognizable NHL player on this list. He was drafted by the Rangers in 2004 sixth overall, the highest overall goalie selected in that draft. Montoya showed plenty of promise coming into the league after a very successful college career at the University of Michigan. However, his game took a long time to translate to the pro level and it wasn't until the 2010-11 season that the top draft pick got to see any meaningful time in the NHL and even then Montoya was only tasked with backing up Rick DiPietro (bet we mention him again later) on the Islanders. Montoya would spend time in Winnipeg and Florida as a backup as well after his time in New York.
Kudos goes to Montoya for being the only goalie on this list with an NHL job. Montoya inked a deal this offseason with the Montreal Canadiens to backup Carey Price. In fairness to Montoya, though he's failed to live up to draft status, he's been solid to begin his Canadiens career, as he's 3-1 with a .925 save percentage and 2.56 GAA.
2 Ilya Bryzgalov
Ilya Bryzgalov is, if nothing else, one of the more recognizable goalies in the recent history of the NHL. Bryzgalov actually found a reasonable amount of success early in his NHL career. Bryzgalov put together sound numbers during his four years with the Coyotes and was actually a respectable starting goaltender. It was after Bryzgalov was traded to Philadelphia that the craziest of his antics began. Bryzgalov failed to play up to expectations during his time in Philadelphia from 2011-2013 and the Russian goalie is well-known for his discussion on HBO 24/7 about the universe, among other crazy interviews. Bryzgalov attracted attention and his lack of success with the Flyers made his career look less impressive by the day.
After he was finished with the Flyers, Bryzgalov would split time between the Oilers, the Wild, and finally the Ducks over the course of two seasons. After a short and disappointing run with Anaheim in 2014-15, Bryzgalov decided that it was in his best interest to retire. Bryzgalov stepped away from the game to spend more time with his wife and children and in his own words, “to enjoy life.” It's easy to imagine he was having trouble enjoying life after his time in Philadelphia. At the moment, he's back in his hometown helping train young goalkeepers. Hopefully they don't talk too much about the universe.
1 Rick DiPietro
Some would argue that Rick DiPietro is not only the most disappointing goalie of this century, but potentially the biggest draft bust in the history of the NHL. DiPietro was drafted with the first overall pick back in the 2000 NHL Draft and showed all the promise in the world for the New York Islanders. DiPietro spent a lot of the time in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the start of his career, but was solid enough to secure himself a major contract extension. In 2006 the Islanders would sign DiPietro to a 15-year deal, an NHL record. The Islanders would do nothing more than regret their decision to sign the deal for years to come. After a compliance buyout in 2013, the Islanders will be paying DiPietro, who consistently posted numbers below .900 in save percentage, $1.5 million every year through 2029.
For all intents and purposes, DiPietro retired from hockey after he was bought out by the Islanders and decided to pursue a career in sports radio. DiPietro makes up half of the Hahn & Humpty Show on ESPN Radio in New York, which began in 2014. DiPietro has also made appearances on ESPN's First Take, as well as other programs. It seems at the very least the former number one pick has managed to stay busy now that he's out of hockey.
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