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) /

Kevin Lankinen – Chicago Blackhawks

Kevin Lankinen wasn’t drafted into the NHL but is already one of the biggest feel-good stories of the 2020-21 NHL season.

Lankinen signed an Entry-Level Contract with the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2018 and began playing with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. In 2019 he helped lead Finland to the IIHF World Championships with a 43-save spectacle in the Gold Medal game against Canada. His 7-1-0 record in the tournament raised a few eyebrows and his .942 Save Percentage was the second highest in the tournament only behind Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s .945. Shortly after the tournament, Lankinen was awarded a spot in the AHL All-Star team.

Now that you know the history, the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t exactly have their sights set on Lankinen from the get-go. According to Vincent Parise from Da Windy City, his article two months ago headlined, “Chicago Blackhawks Goaltending Is Going To Be A Nightmare in 2021.”

And rightfully so. The Blackhawks juggled five names that included Lankinen, Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban, Cale Morris and Matthew Tomkins after franchise icon Corey Crawford was allowed to walk in Free Agency. Lankinen was looking like the third-string option at best.

Numerous reports suggested both Dellia and Subban would be the one-two punch for the Original Six club. However, the nightmare slowly turned into a pleasant dream, when the Blackhawks and the rest of the NHL feasted their eyes on the potential Lankinen has at his disposal.

No wonder he has been dubbed the catalyst of the Blackhawks moving forward, according to Jeremiah Lee from Blackhawkup, and a Calder Trophy candidate in the Central Division. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Looking into the Finnish goaltenders’ history, it’s quite clear how talented he is. Along with Patrick Kane, he is currently pushing a Jonathan Toews-less Hawks roster into the postseason picture.

Last April, Lankinen signed a two-year contract worth $800,000 AAV. That’s quite the bargain for a 12-7-4 record in 23 games played this season, to go along with a .920 Save Percentage and a 2.71 Goals Against Average.

The Chicago Blackhawks currently sit in fourth place in the Central Division with a 16-13-5 record. Although Lankinen has lost three of his last five starts, his presence on the ice is key if the Hawks want to have any chance to make the Playoffs. We’ll see what they can do from here on out.