The game of hockey has existed for more than two centuries now, and it is quite fair to assume that the game’s inventors had no idea that hockey would one day become a billion dollar sport which was played on a global level. Hockey has been played with roughly the same team structure throughout its history, where each team usually has six skaters on the ice, consisting of three forwards, two defenders and one goaltender. The goalie, like the quarterback in football, and the ace pitcher in baseball, is the most important player on a hockey team, as they are ultimately the last line of defense; and their performance, either good or bad, usually determines the outcome of a game.
The NHL is the largest hockey league in the world, and possesses the best talent the sport has to offer, which therefore means that they possess the best goalies in the world, which is often the case. A good goalie is determined by how good he is at stopping the puck, and the better a goalie is at stopping it, means that their save percentage will remain high and their overall win total will continue to rise. Here is a list of the top 15 current NHL goalies with the most wins all time.
15 Jimmy Howard - 189
The Detroit Red Wings have the distinction of being one of the NHL’s original six teams, and in their nearly ninety year history, the team has had hundreds of players play in the winged jersey. Of all those players though, only around fifty of them have ever played goal for the Wings, including some Hall of Famers like Dominik Hasek, and the legendary Terry Sawchuk, as well as other noteworthy goalies like Rob Crozier and Chris Osgood. For the past two seasons, Detroit has had a bit of a goaltending controversy, between rising young star Petr Mrazek and their veteran goalie Jimmy Howard who has had to deal with injuries and stretches of bad performances. The wings drafted Howard in 2003 with the 64th overall pick, and within two years he found himself playing on the Wing’s main roster. Howard showed enough promise and skill, that Detroit signed him to a lengthy extension, which was a good deal with the exception of his recent troubles. All that being said though, he has still managed to amass 189 wins.
14 Niklas Backstrom - 196
Niklas Backstrom, is a living example of the fact that you do not necessarily have to be drafted in order to play for a North American professional sports team. Backstrom was born and raised in Finland, which is also where he spent most of his playing days before entering the NHL. While in Finland, he helped his country to win the World Junior Hockey Championship as a backup goalie, and he also played nine seasons in Finland’s own professional hockey league known as the Finnish Elite League. His performance in Finland was enough to catch the eye of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, which is why in 2006, Minnesota signed him to a one-year contract. Backstrom shortly went on to become the Wild’s number one net-minder, and helped to lead the team into the playoffs one year; a feat that he was unfortunately unable to duplicate despite being nominated for being the best goalie in the 2009 season. The past few seasons, Backstrom has had numerous injuries and slumps, so many that he ended up being scratched and traded to another team, but that has not stopped him from earnings 196 wins.
13 Jonas Hiller - 197
Joining the ranks of goalies who made it into the NHL without being drafted is Jonas Hiller, and the Swiss-born net-minder shares a somewhat similar story with Niklas Backstrom. Hiller was born, and raised in Switzerland, and his homeland was also where he spent most of his early professional playing career. He played for several teams in Switzerland's league, the NLA, where he won three national championships and a Spengler Cup, and his performances in those games garnered him the attention of the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim signed him, and started Hiller out as a backup, but he quickly worked his way into becoming their number one goalie for nearly five seasons; and when he left the Ducks to sign with Calgary, he also became their number one for an almost four year span. In his time with both teams however, Hiller has had to deal with severe vertigo-like symptoms, and, stretches of bad play, but despite this, he now has 197 wins.
12 Jaroslav Halak - 200
Jaroslav Halak was born and raised in Slovakia, and unlike the last two entries on this list, he was indeed drafted into NHL. It was the Montreal Canadiens who drafted Halak in 2003 with the 27th overall pick, the team which caused him to be a sought after goaltender. He made his NHL debut in 2007 and spent most of the next two seasons as a backup, until the 2009-2010 season which saw him get into a competition with teammate Carey Price for Montreal’s number one goalie spot. Halak went on to get the edge on Price, and became Montreal’s starter for the tail-end of the regular season and the playoffs, where he single-handedly got the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite his amazing play, Montreal ultimately chose Price when the two goalies were both pending free agents, and traded Halak to the St. Louis Blues. Halak played for the Blues for four years, and was then traded to Buffalo, then to Washington, and finally to the New York Islanders; and he has 200 wins between all those teams.
11 Craig Anderson - 213
In the long history of professional sports drafting, there have been examples of some players being drafted more than once for the same sport, and goalie Craig Anderson is one of those examples. Anderson was first drafted by Calgary in 1999 at 77th overall, but ultimately, things did not work out at all for Anderson, and he returned back to play with his junior team; two years later though, he re-entered the draft, and was selected by Chicago 73rd overall. He went on to spend about five seasons with Chicago, either as their backup goalie, or down with their minor-league affiliate. Anderson was eventually traded to the Florida Panthers, and after three seasons he signed with Colorado for two years. In 2011, Anderson was traded to the Ottawa Senators, the team he has spent the last five seasons with, and the team he has had the most success with as a starting goalie, as he has helped Ottawa stay in playoff contention multiple times. As of now, Anderson has 213 wins, not bad for someone who had to be drafted twice.
10 Antti Niemi - 215
Antti Niemi is yet another example that not all versatille goalies need to be drafted into the NHL, as the Finnish born goalie was also undrafted. Niemi started his early professional career playing in the Finnish Elite League, and unlike the other two previously mentioned undrafted goalies, he did not help lead any team he played for to any sort of championship; but that would not remain the case for long. The Chicago Blackhawks saw something in Niemi that they liked, and they went out and signed him to a contract in 2008. By 2009, Niemi became the Blackhawks’ number one goalie, and led them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 where they won the franchise’s first championship in almost fifty years. Despite, leading them to victory, Chicago had to let Niemi go due to salary cap issues, and he went on to play for the San Jose Sharks for five seasons where he had moderate success. He now plays for the Dallas Stars and has 215 wins under belt.
9 Carey Price - 233
The Montreal Canadiens hockey team has existed for over one hundred years, and not only are they one of the NHL’s original six franchises, but they have also won a grand-total of 24 Stanley Cups, the most of any NHL team. The Canadiens have had dozens of Hall of Famers throughout their history, including goalies like Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, and barring any unforeseen turn of events, their current number one goalie Carey Price will become a Hall of Famer as well. Price was drafted by Montreal fifth overall in 2005, after a spectacular junior’s career, and as mentioned earlier, he and Jaroslav Halak battled to be Montreal’s number one goalie, a battle which ended in Montreal choosing Price at the end. That choice paid off in a big way, as Carey Price has undoubtedly become the best goalie in the world, and without him the Canadiens are a mediocre team at best, as highlighted by this past season which saw Montreal start in first place and finish near the bottom of the league standings after Price sustained a season ending injury. Now Price has 233 wins, and that number will likely grow significantly in the following years.
8 Pekka Rinne - 238
Every now and then, a player comes along who impacts a team in a very positive way, and Pekka Rinne has done exactly that for the Nashville Predators. Rinne was born in Finland, and played in the Finnish Elite League where he won several champions as a backup before being drafted 258th overall by Nashville in 2005. He debuted in the NHL the very next season, and started out as a backup, but by the 2010-2011 season he became Nashville’s undisputed number one goalie, Since becoming their starting goalie, Rinne has set a franchise record by winning eleven straight games, he has been nominated for being the best goalie in the league multiple times, and he has helped to lead Nashville into the playoffs in multiple seasons. He has become the backbone of Nashville’s back-end, which is why the team often suffers whenever he sustains any type of lengthy injury. As of right now, all of Rinne’s NHL games have been with Nashville, and he has earned 238 wins with them.
7 Jonathan Quick - 252
The Los Angeles Kings were incredibly fortunate when they managed to successfully trade for Wayne Gretzky, as he helped to not only make hockey more popular in the United States, but he also made the Kings’ franchise a relative NHL franchise. The Kings have recently become even more relevant again, as they have won two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014, thanks to their core group of players which includes their goalie Jonathan Quick. Los Angeles drafted Quick 72nd overall in 2005, and he did not make his NHL debut with the team until 2007, where he started out as the backup. By the 2011-2012 season, he got into a competition with Jonathan Bernier for the starter’s spot, a battle he ultimately won, which allowed him to help lead L.A. to a championship that same year; that performance also earned him the honor of being named the MVP of that year's final. Quick was rewarded with a ten year contract extension, which will see him add a lot more wins with the Kings than the 252 he already has.
6 Cam Ward - 269
The Carolina Hurricanes have existed since 1997, but they have actually been an NHL franchise since 1979 when they were originally located in Hartford, Connecticut and went by the name Whalers. The highlight of this franchise came in the 2005-2006 season when Carolina went on to win the Stanley Cup thanks to their core of veteran players and their then rookie goalie Cam Ward. Carolina drafted Ward in 2002 with the 25th overall pick, and it was not until the 2005-2006 season that he actually got to play with the Hurricanes, where he started out as their backup. That season Carolina made it into the playoffs, and quickly fell 0-2 in their opening series against Montreal, partially thanks to their then starting goalie’s struggles. Ward started the third game of the series, and the team went on to win the cup, with Ward being named the MVP of the championship series. Ward has played his entire NHL career with Carolina, and he has suffered from many injuries since winning the cup, but he has still managed to win 269 games.
5 Kari Lehtonen - 273
Joining the list of goalies born in Finland who also happen to currently have some of the most wins in the NHL is Kari Lehtonen. Like the other Finnish net-minders on this list, Lehtonen first played in the Finnish Elite League, but unlike them, he had a stellar performance in his last season before being drafted, a performance which saw him lead his team to a National Championship, and where he himself won the league’s award for best goalie, and playoff MVP. That one season led him into being drafted second overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2002, the franchise that he spent half of his twelve-year NHL career with, where he primarily served as their number one goalie, and helped the team to get into the postseason for the first time in the franchise’s history. The second half of his career has been spent in Dallas, where he has also spent most of the time as the team’s top goaltender, and between both teams, Lehtonen has won 273 games.
4 Ryan Miller - 340
The Buffalo Sabres have been an NHL franchise since 1970, and since then, they have had some real good players, including a trio of forwards known as the “French Connection” and a goalie by the name of Dominik Hasek who is now in the Hall of Fame. Those players were integral to Buffalo’s franchise, just like Ryan Miller was for them for most of his NHL career. Buffalo drafted Miller 138th overall in 1999, and it was not until three years later that he made his debut with the team as a backup. By the end of the 2005-2006 season however, it became crystal clear that Miller was the Sabres’ number one goalie, and not only did he help them get into the playoffs more than once, but he also won the award for being the best goalie in 2010, and he was undeniably Buffalo’s best player even when the team became abysmal. After eleven years with the team, Buffalo had to trade Miller, and sent him to St. Louis, but shortly after that, he signed with Vancouver. Between all three teams, Miller has now won a combined 340 games.
3 Marc-Andre Fleury - 357
The Pittsburgh Penguins came into existence in 1967, and in their nearly fifty year history, they have had some star-studded and Hall of Fame caliber players, like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and more recently Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Marc-Andre Fleury has been a member of the Penguins ever since they drafted him with the first overall pick in 2003, and even though he has recently had multiple injuries and terrible performances in the playoffs, he has shown enough brilliance in the past to justify being taken first overall. Fleury’s best seasons undeniably came between 2006 and 2010, where he not only helped Pittsburgh make the playoffs all those years, but he also helped to get them to the Stanley Cup Finals two years in a row, where they won a championship in 2009. Fleury has been with Pittsburgh his entire twelve year career, and is now a two-time cup winner with them, which is an added bonus to having 357 career wins.
2 Henrik Lundqvist - 374
For a good part of the last decade, Henrik Lundqvist has been without a doubt one of the best goalies in both the NHL and the world. Lundqvist was drafted 205th overall in 2000 by the New York Rangers, but before officially joining the Rangers in 2005, he remained in his native Sweden to finish up playing in the Swedish Elite League where he ended up leading his team to four straight playoff appearances and two championships in 2003 and 2005. A year after joining the Rangers, Lundqvist was quickly recognized for his work ethic and athletic ability, and he earned the nickname “King Henrik”. In his ten seasons with New York, Lundqvist has helped lead the Rangers into the playoffs virtually every season, and was instrumental in the team making it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014; he has also won the award for being the best goalie in 2012 and was nominated for it half a dozen other times. He currently has 374 wins, so all he needs now, is to win a Stanley Cup in order to truly be considered one of the best ever European goalies.
1 Roberto Luongo - 436
In the nearly hundred year history of the NHL, there have only been eleven goalies who have ever been able to win 400 or more games, and Roberto Luongo is one of those eleven. Luongo proved to be a very skilled goalie when he was in junior, and that skill led to the New York Islanders drafting him fourth overall in 1999. He played for the Islanders the following season, where he put up some decent numbers for a rookie goalie, but they ended up trading him to the Florida Panthers during the offseason. It was during this time in Florida that Luongo began to show just how good of a goalie he was despite never being able to get the Panthers into the playoffs. After five years with Florida he was traded to Vancouver in 2006, and he helped lead the Canucks into the playoffs nearly every year he was there, including a trip to the Cup final in 2011. By 2014 though, his time with Vancouver was done and they traded him back to Florida where he continues to play. Luongo currently has 436 wins, and that number will continue to rise, so all he needs now to cement a Hall of Fame career is a Stanley Cup Championship.