Sergei Bobrovsky leads the way 

January, 19, 2011

For most of the season, the Philadelphia Flyers' Sergei Bobrovsky and Washington Capitals' Michal Neuvirth have been considered the top two freshman goaltenders. The two young stoppers faced off against each other last night in Philadelphia.

Bobrovsky worked overtime to get the 3-2 win, while Neuvirth had to check out early with the dreaded "lower body" injury. (I would suspect it's the same groin injury that has nagged him for several weeks.)

Of course, these aren't the only two rookie stoppers who've seen crease time during the first half of the season. According to the stats pages of, 17 newbie goalies have appeared so far. (That list doesn't include newcomers whose age or previous experience pushes them outside the league's official rookie designation.)

Just last night, for example, Minnesota Wild rookie G Anton Khudobin (pronounced Who-dob-in) came within 3:46 of recording his second straight shutout in a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. In four appearances (three starts), the 24-year-old Russian-born netminder has a tidy .942 save percentage. Put that together with his near-perfect play in a pair of games last year, and you have an interesting prospect.

The Toronto Maple Leafs' James Reimer (4-2, .933 SP), the Tampa Bay Lightning's Cedrick Desjardins (2-0, .968) and the New York Islanders' Kevin Poulin (1-1-1, .915) also have played well in limited action.

Those four guys not included (they haven't played enough yet for me to have a really good read on them), here's my up-to-the-minute rankings of the top five rookie goaltenders:

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.