Aaron Dell’s Emergence As A Top Backup

Jones isn’t the only great goalie in San Jose as Dell is quickly showing what a talented netminder he is, playing excellently in his first year in the NHL.

It was just last night where the Sharks finally broke out of their six-game losing streak, beating the New York Rangers 5-4 and collecting their 43rd win of the season. They had been stuck at 42 wins for quite some time. Since beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 for their 42nd win of the season over two weeks, the Sharks had yet to win another game since. It seemed that Friday night would be the low point of the losing streak and the season, as San Jose gave up six goals against the Dallas Stars, the 26th placed team in the league. But then on the next day the Sharks lost 7-2 against the Predators.

Aaron Dell was in net for one of those games, the first one against the Stars. It was a tough loss for him, giving up six goals on only 29 shots for his third loss in a row. But despite this mini-slump, Dell has had a fantastic year, playing a key role as the Sharks steady, trusted backup goalie. There wasn’t a lot of hype surrounding Dell at the beginning of the season but now most who follow the NHL are sure to know the young goalie’s name as he’s been one of the best backups in the league.

After going undrafted, Dell took his talents to the University of North Dakota, where he would play for the next three seasons. As a sophomore, he led the nation in wins with 30 and dominated the competition with a .924 save percentage. After another year at North Dakota, Dell turned pro and moved on to the CHL, playing for the Allen Americans and posting a .916 save percentage in 44 games. He was picked for the CHL All-Star Team and won the CHL Most Outstanding Goaltender award.

Impressing enough throughout his minor league career, Dell would find himself with an NHL contract in the following year. The San Jose Sharks opted to sign the young netminder to a one-year deal in March 2015 and Dell went on to the AHL. Playing for the Worcester Sharks, Dell recorded an impressive .927 save percentage and a 2.06 GAA over 26 games, earning himself another one-year contract from the Sharks in the offseason. Following that up with another .920+ save percentage through 40 AHL games in the next year, the Sharks once again resigned Dell, but this time to a two-year contract. Dell was showing great promise in San Jose and it was expected that he would contend for the backup job.

Flash forward to the end of the season and Dell has delivered. Earning the backup job out of training camp, Dell would get his first taste of the NHL and was expected to provide adequate goaltending for the Sharks in games where Jones would have to sit. But Dell has done far better than adequate.

Getting into 18 games this season, Dell has 10 wins to go along with an impressive .928 save percentage and 2.09 GAA. Compare that to Jones and his .913 save percentage and you can see that Dell has given the Sharks a stellar second option in net. Out of the entire league, among goalies who’ve played in at least 18 games, Dell is tied for the third highest save percentage in the NHL, behind Jimmy Howard and Sergei Bobrovsky and tied with fellow rookie goalie Juuse Saros. And out of all his 18 games, Dell has only posted a save percentage below .900 three times.

Last year at the trade deadline the Sharks acquired James Reimer for their playoff run, worried about their backup goalie situation. Reimer did great with the Sharks (winning six games out of eight while posting a .938 save percentage) but he left immediately after the playoffs in free agency. There was a bit of concern about the position at the start of the year with Dell taking the role but having no experience playing in the NHL. However, those doubts have been completely erased as Dell has stepped up and excelled in his role, forming a great tandem with Jones. It was quite obvious at this year’s deadline that the Sharks had no need to trade for another back up goalie and they should feel safe knowing Dell will be backing up the team in what’s hopefully another long playoff run.

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