1. Miikka Kiprusoff
Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff got his break with San Jose. It didn’t work out for him in the Shark Tank, but if he didn’t start here, he might not have ever gotten the chance to play.
The man they call “Kipper”, could easily be labeled as “the one that got away.” To throw in another cliche, they say hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back to the Sharks goal crease in the early 2000s, the right decision was made to trade Kiprusoff.
But what could have been…
It’s just been over 19 years to the day when Kiprusoff won his first-ever NHL game. It was a 7-4 victory over the rival Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Kiprusoff had to come in to replace Evgeni Nabokov to help his team steal the win. Kiprusoff got his first actual start and win, again, against the Ducks just a few nights later.
Kiprusoff was drafted by the Sharks in the1995 NHL Entry Draft, selected 116th overall. The quiet native of Finland let his play on the ice do almost of the talking.
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At the time the Sharks farm team was the Kentucky Thoroughblades and Kipper made the most of his time in the AHL. He was selected to start in two straight AHL All-Star games and posted 42 career wins with the Thoroughbladcfes. He only lost 28 games in Kentucky.
It was safe to say the kid had a lot of potential.
Despite winning his first two appearances in the NHL, Kiprusoff struggled when he was given full control of the crease early in 2002. He finished the season with only five wins. San Jose knew he still had something in him and decided to give him a chance in the 2003-2004 season.
Again, he just couldn’t make it work. The Sharks went out and nabbed Vesa Toskala, which forced Kiprusoff to prove he could be the backup behind Nabokov. He couldn’t do it.
Eventually, San Jose traded him to the Calgary Flames, whose coach at the time was none other than former Sharks bench boss Darryl Sutter. San Jose received a second-round draft pick in the 2004 draft.
Kipper went on to take the Flames to game seven of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals, and in the coming years proved to be a hall of fame worthy goaltender.
He also won the Vezina Trophy in 2006, to go along with a silver medal from the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and an Olympic bronze medal when he represented Finland in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.