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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Vitek Vanecek (41)
Vitek Vanecek #41 of the Washington Capitals. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Vitek Vanecek – Washington Capitals

The Washington Capitals signed former New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist as a Free Agent for a one-year, $1.5 million contract back in October, a move that gave them a significant edge in the crease.

The 39-year-old joined his Metropolitan Division rivals and was expected to be the backup to goaltender Ilya Samsonov. However, the former Vezina Trophy winner revealed he required open-heart surgery due to a condition that would sideline him for the entirety of the year.

Capitals Head Coach Peter Laviolette revealed before the start of the season that 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov was expected to be the starting goaltender and 25-year-old Vitek Vanecek was set to be his backup. Laviolette’s youthful approach was quite unique for this season in particular. Surely, Samsonov also had something to prove to his critics since missing last year’s postseason due to an ATV accident.

Vitek Vanecek (41)
Washington Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek (41). Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

But just one week into the NHL season, the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft was placed on COVID protocol and he wouldn’t return to NHL play until February, throwing the Capitals’ goaltending into utter chaos.

However, in his absence, the 39th overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Vitek Vanecek hasn’t disappointed and has provided the Caps with some real depth between the pipes. In 23 games played, Vanecek holds an 14-5-3 record with three shutouts. He has accumulated three straight wins twice already this season.

Vanecek currently holds a .910 Save Percentage and a 2.67 Goals Against Average, while he was spectacular in the win against the Buffalo Sabres on March 15, earning his first shutout of the season. While Ilya Samsonov is clearly the No.1 starter for the Washington Capitals, they can rest easy knowing they have a more than capable backup in Vitek Vanecek, and that will be crucial down the stretch and come Playoffs time.