Three surprising Backup Goaltenders in the NHL in 2020-21

Kevin Lankinen #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Kevin Lankinen #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Kevin Lankinen (32)
Kevin Lankinen #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

These have been the most outstanding and surprising backups in the NHL in 2020-21.

There have been many surprising backup goaltenders that have emerged this season, but there are three that currently hold podium spots as of now. We might sometimes forget how important a backup goaltender is while the starter basks in the spotlight.

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Throughout the regular season grind en route to booking a Playoff ticket, a consistent backup goaltender is most certainly essential. Usually, their names aren’t particularly involved in household conversations unless they begin to grab a hold of everyone’s attention. It’s an unexpected bonus to your team as well as a sweet-tranquility to an NHL organization.

With the NHL’s truncated season this year, goaltending options have been quite important. Teams have been looking to provide plenty of rest for their starting goaltenders to keep them fresh and ready for the next outing. It’s prudent to do so considering the number of games per week at times.

To corroborate the importance of secondary goaltending, we take a look at three goaltenders that have seemingly taken the league by surprise this season and what importance they have to their NHL franchises.

The Three Most Surprising Backup Goaltenders in the NHL in 2020-21

Kaapo Kahkonen (34)
Goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen #34 of the Minnesota Wild. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Kaapo Kahkonen – Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild had quite the goaltending conundrum to begin the season.

General Manager Bill Guerin traded former Wild No. 1 goaltender Devin Dubnyk to the San Jose Sharks before the season began, and then signed Free Agent Cam Talbot to a three-year, $11-million contract. It was to be believed that Talbot and South Saint Paul, Minnesota native Alex Stalock would be the two goaltenders to lead the Wild.

That was until Stalock suffered an upper-body injury in December and, in the first nine days of the season, he was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 list. For the first five games of the year, Talbot was their number one guy. In the fifth game, however, he suffered an injury in the first period and the AHL goalie of the year in 2019/2020 in Kaapo Kahkonen came in relief.

The 24-year-old hasn’t disappointed one bit since being introduced to the NHL. In 17 games this year. Kahkonen is 12-5-0 with a 2.29 Goals Against Average and a .921 Save Percentage. He recorded his first career shutout on Mar. 8 against the Vegas Golden Knights and his second shutout came eight days later against the Arizona Coyotes.

The 109th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft is looking like a stud and seems to have taken over as the No. 1 goaltender in Head Coach Dean Evason‘s books, with Talbot now a reliable secondary option. The Wild are 21-10-1 on the year and are currently third in the West Division, just two points behind the top two in the Golden Knights and the Avalanche.

Kahkonen is on fire having won nine of his last 10 starts, and the rookie goaltender deserves an abundance of credit for helping the Minnesota Wild emerge as a legit postseason team in the West. He is by far the most surprising backup goaltender so far, and is also a firm Calder Trophy candidate as we speak.