While an exact roster number for NHL teams remains up in the air, it’s very likely, that NHL teams will have more than just two goaltenders on their roster for the upcoming 24-team playoffs. That could create an interesting scenario for the goaltending situation in Minnesota, where the Wild could have an interesting situation in which three goaltenders are expected to contend for the No. 1 spot on the team.
The Athletic’s Michael Russo (subscription required) suggests that Alex Stalock, who started the season as the backup in Minnesota, would be the leading candidate to be the starter for the Wild. After all, the 32-year-old finished with a 20-11-4 record with a 2.67 GAA and a .910 save percentage on a team that many thought would be a lottery team. More importantly, he hot after the all-star break, going 9-3-1 with a 2.22 GAA and a .924 save percentage. However, there are two other goalies who could easily make a claim for that No. 1 job.
With what likely will be a four-month layoff during the season, all bets are off on who might take over as the team’s starting goaltender. There is no guarantee that Stalock will be able to continue his hot streak on the ice. There is also a chance that Devan Dubnyk could re-take his old job back. The 34-year-old veteran had a career low in many categories in 2019-20, struggling with a 3.35 GAA and a .890 save percentage in just 30 games. He also made just six appearances after the all-star break with a 3.59 GAA and a .882 save percentage. Regardless, a four-month break could give him the opportunity to re-focus on the season and re-discover his old form.
There is a third option in AHL Goaltender of the Year Kaapo Kahkonen. The 23-year-old dominated in the AHL this year, finishing with a 2.07 GAA and a .927 save percentage in 34 games with the Iowa Wild. He fared decently in five appearances with Minnesota earlier this season with a .913 save percentage. However, with that same four-month layoff, the rookie could get an opportunity to win the starting job in an abbreviated training camp and begin his tenure as the team’s future netminder.
“I think whoever’s here in our training camp is in the mix,” said interim coach Dean Evason. “There could be somebody that is absolutely outstanding through our scrimmages or what have you if we get to that point, and then we’ll be like, ‘Geez, maybe we better put him in.’ As far as our goaltending, we’ve talked to (Stalock and Dubnyk), you hear a lot about, ‘He’s my guy, or this is my guy.’ The guy that’s in the net is the guy on that night. It’s no different than our centericemen. That’s our guy. When the puck drops, that’s our guy. So if it’s Al, if it’s Duby, if it’s Kahkonen, it doesn’t matter to us. It doesn’t matter to the team. Whoever is in there that we deem is going to play well for us in whatever position, I’m sure everybody will support him and we will go forward.”