Garret Sparks. (Getty Images)
No player ever forgets his first NHL game. Here are 10 from the calendar year 2015 that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Goalies steal the show with four appearances in the top 10.
Because the goalie plays the most important position in hockey, it stands to reason puckstoppers dominate our list of the top 10 NHL debuts in the calendar year of 2015. Four goalies made our list of the top 10 NHL debuts in the past 12 months, spread over two seasons, of course. In reverse order, here are the best first NHL game performances in 2015.
10. Mike Condon, Montreal. After stealing the backup job from Dustin Tokarski, the 25-year-old Massachusetts native was almost perfect in his Oct. 11 debut in Ottawa. Condon stopped 20 of 21 shots in a 3-1 Montreal win. He allowed just a second-period goal to Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
9. Bryan Lerg, San Jose. The feel-good NHL debut of the year has to belong to the 29-year-old Livonia, Mich., native. His first big-league game after eight seasons in the minors came April 9 in Edmonton. Lerg registered eight shots on goal that game and scored the game-winner on a pass from Logan Couture.
8. Mackenzie Skapski, New York Rangers. Filling in for the injured Henrik Lundqvist, the 20-year-old Abbotsford, B.C. native allowed a goal to Matt Moulson just 14 seconds into the game. He was perfect the rest of the way, stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres Feb. 20.
7. Dylan Larkin, Detroit. The leading rookie scorer in the NHL this season started off on the right foot registering a goal and assist in his debut game. The 19-year-old center assisted on a first-period Justin Abdelkader goal, then beat Jonathan Bernier with a shot to the top shelf in the second period in a 4-0 win Oct. 9. Larkin had six shots that game.
6. Mattias Janmark, Dallas. On the very first shift of his NHL career, the 22-year-old Swede took a centering pass from Ales Hemsky and beat Marc-Andre Fleury for the game-winning goal in a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh. The memorable Oct. 8 goal came at 1:39 of the first period.
5. Laurent Brossoit, Edmonton. It had been 17 years since a goalie faced as many shots in his NHL debut as Brossoit did April 9 versus San Jose. The 22-year-old graduate of the Edmonton Oil Kings stopped 49 of 51 shots in a 3-1 loss to the Sharks. The last goalie to face that many pucks was Manny Legace in 1998.
4. Andreas Athanasiou, Detroit. You know you did something right when you score the only goal of the game in your first NHL outing. The 21-year-old London, Ont., native rushed down the left wing early in the third period and beat Washington’s Braden Holtby with a tricky shot along the goal-line for an unassisted goal in a 1-0 Red Wings triumph Nov. 10.
3. Max Domi, Arizona. Tie Domi’s son had his long-awaited NHL debut Oct. 9 in Los Angeles. Max beat Jonathan Quick with a wrister from the top of the circle to the top glove corner to register the winning goal. Domi added an assist on the insurance goal in a 4-1 Coyotes victory.
2. Brock McGinn, Carolina. It doesn’t get much better than scoring on your very first NHL shift, then adding an assist later in the game. The 21-year-old Fergus, Ont., native beat Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard on his own rebound just 55 seconds into his first game. McGinn later assisted on an Eric Staal goal in a 5-3 win Oct. 16 and was named second star.
1. Garret Sparks, Toronto. Less than a year removed from playing in the ECHL, Sparks made his NHL debut Nov. 30 on home ice against Edmonton. The 22-year-old Elmhurst, Ill., native was flawless stopping all 24 shots in a 3-0 victory over the Oilers. “It all went according to plan,” Sparks joked after the game.
Honorable mentions: As you can imagine, many other players had sterling performances in their first NHL game in 2015. Some of them include Boston’s Tyler Randell (game-winning goal), Boston’s Frank Vatrano (goal), Buffalo’s Jack Eichel (power-play goal), Chicago’s Dennis Rasmussen (goal), Chicago’s Artemi Panarin (goal), Montreal’s Daniel Carr (wraparound goal), Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki (breakaway goal), Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson (deflection goal), San Jose’s Joonas Donskoi (goal), St. Louis’s Robby Fabbri (goal), Winnipeg’s Nic Petan (goal), Ottawa goalie Chris Driedger (unbeaten in 54 minutes of playing time in first two partial games – 21 shots stopped), Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck (2-1 win with 14 saves).
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN