MONTREAL – By notching his first win in his first start as a Hab, Dustin Tokarski joined an exclusive club of Bulldogs made good.
Recalled to the Canadiens after starter Carey Price suffered a lower-body injury following the Olympic break, the 24 year-old Dustin Tokarski spent a few games watching the action from the bench before being penciled into the line-up against the Anaheim Ducks, the number-one ranked team in the NHL, on March 5 2014.
All things considered, the 2009 World Junior Championships gold medalist from Humboldt, SK did pretty well, backstopping the Habs to a surprising 4-3 shootout win. In total, he faced 42 shots, seven from Nick Bonino, six from Kyle Palmieri and three apiece from Ryan Getzlaf and Corry Perry, and made 39 saves for a .929 saves percentage.
Tokarski is not the only Bulldog netminder to make an immediate impact on the big club. Indeed, three other young goalies in the past decade have managed to bring their A-games on their Habs debut.
Yann Danis (October 12, 2005)
Signed by the Canadiens as a free agent out of Brown University, Lafontaine, Quebec’s Yann Danis dazzled in the minors in his first full season as a Hamilton Bulldog, putting up 28 wins and a .924 save percentage, before earning a call-up with the Habs early in the 2005-06 season. Debuting in Atlanta against the Thrashers, Danis made four saves on former 50-goal man Peter Bondra, five saves on Rocket Richard Trophy-winner Ilya Kovalchuk and seven saves on Marian Hossa en route to a 2-0 shutout win.
Jaroslav Halak (February 18, 2007)
One of the best goaltending prospects to come out of Slovakia, Jaroslav Halak arrived in Hamilton after playing out his final year of junior hockey in the Quebec Major Junior League. Like Danis, Halak posted outstanding numbers for the Bulldogs, saving 93% of all shots faced in two seasons in the AHL. Late in the 2006-07 season, an injury to Canadiens number one goaltender Cristobal Huet forced the 21 year-old into the spotlight in Montreal. In his first NHL game, a 3-2 win, Halak denied sniper Rick Nash on four separate occasions and made 27 other saves against the Columbus Blue Jackets
Carey Price (October 10, 2007)
While Dustin Tokarski won the AHL’s Calder Cup as a member of the Norfolk Admiral in 2012, Carey Price was the last goaltender to lead the Hamilton Bulldogs to an AHL championship, doing so at just 19 years of age. Like Tokarski, Price was presented with an imposing challenge in his first start for the Canadiens. The Anahim Lake, BC native diffused the high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins offense, stoning Sidney Crosby on all six of his attempts on net before coming prevailing 3-2 against the eventual Stanley Cup finalists.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
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