As the Chicago Blackhawks head to Tampa Bay to drop the puck on the 2021 season, they will have plenty of questions to answer. How long will captain Jonathan Toews be away from the team? Will Brent Seabrook play a significant role this season? Will Duncan Keith ever cut his hair? While we may not receive answers to those questions this Wednesday, one question will be answered: Who will be the starting goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks? While a starting nod on opening night would be quite the confidence boost for whoever gets the call, it would be wise not to consider it in stone.
Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban, and Kevin Lankinen have not yet proven they can be trusted long-term. They’ve done even less to be anointed official starters. While each goalie has his own set of skills and experience, all pale in comparison to most quality starting netminders in the league. However, anything is possible and one of these men could go on the best run of their careers. Until that happens, expect a goalie by committee with plenty of fluctuation until one man takes the job.
Since we might not have a clear-cut answer for a while, let’s learn who exactly these three goalies are.
Career NHL Stats: 7-5-3, .908 SV%, 3.65 GAA
Collin Delia has been with the organization since the 2017-18 season. Signed as an undrafted rookie out of Merrimack College, Delia was assigned to the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. With the IceHogs, Delia amassed a 46-28 record, 0.912 save percentage, and 2.63 goals-against average.
What many believe gives the organization hope is his 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs performance, when Delia posted a 7-3 record, 0.924 SV%, and 2.34 GAA.
Delia has certainly shown stability in the AHL but has yet to prove it at the NHL level. As the longest-tenured Blackhawk of the bunch, he will certainly get an opportunity to prove himself.
Career NHL Stats: 30-23-7, .899 SV%, 2.97 GAA
Malcolm Subban had an interesting road to Chicago. He was once a highly-touted OHL prospect, starter of his 2012 Canadian World Junior Hockey team, and first-round pick of the Boston Bruins. Unfortunately for Subban, the Bruins already had a star in the wings to replace Vezina Award Winner Tim Thomas: Tuukka Rask.
While Subban put up some solid numbers in the AHL, he was underwhelming with the Bruins and the team placed him on waivers in 2017. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights claimed Subban that same season and he put up the best stat line of his career: 13-4-2 record, 0.910 SV%, and 2.68 GAA.
Alas, Subban never saw that success again. While he does have more NHL experience than any player on this list, many worry that Malcolm ‘is who he is’ at this stage of his career. The former first-round pick moniker may never escape him, but he should have every chance in 2021 to prove he belongs in the league.
Career AHL Stats: 15-18-6, .909 SV%, 2.77 GAA
Kevin Lankinen is perhaps the most intriguing name on this list. An undrafted player out of Finland, Lankinen showed up on the Blackhawks’ radar after an impressive five-year tenure in the Liiga (Finnish Elite League). In his final season with the HIFK, he posted an insane stat line of 10-2-3, 0.940 SV%, and 1.33 GAA.
While he doesn’t have the AHL resume of Collin Delia or the NHL experience of Malcolm Subban, Lankinen won a gold medal for Finland in 2019. In the IIHF World Championship, Lankinen once again showed star potential, finishing the tournament with a 7-1 record, 0.942 SV%, and 1.50 GAA.
The biggest factors working against Lankinen in this competition are his lack of NHL experience and stability in the AHL. While his resume on international ice is unquestionably impressive, he needs to prove he can perform at that level on a nightly basis against some of the best players in the world. The experience factor and his contract status align Lankinen as a long shot to make the NHL roster, but don’t be surprised to see him manning the net at the United Center at some point in the near future.