On Tuesday, October 19, Aaron Dell collected his first National Hockey League win in his first start. The 27-year-old made 21 saves for the San Jose Sharks en route to the 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The path Dell took to get to the NHL wasn't as easy as he made it look in his debut. This offseason may have had the most certainty of Dell's career to date. After a strong year with the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) in 2015-16, in which Dell went 17-16-5-1 in 40 games with a 2.42 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage, and the departure of James Reimer to Florida (NHL) in free agency, the backup goaltending position for the San Jose Sharks behind Martin Jones was Dell's to lose.
Dell was solid in the preseason for the Sharks going 1-0-1-0 in two games with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage. But it was arguably his 2015-16 play with the Barracuda that allowed him to make the Sharks in 2016-17.
Before this offseason, Dell has often been overlooked but rarely overshadowed. The native of Airdrie, Alberta, Canada has slowly ascended up the hierarchy of professional hockey in North America because of his consistency and solid play at every level. Dell went undrafted after a stellar collegiate career at the University of North Dakota. He began his pro career with a CHL championship with the Allen Americans in 2012-13, had stops in Utah (ECHL), and Abbotsford Heat (AHL) in 2013-14, and ended splitting time between the Worcester Sharks (AHL) and Allen Americans (ECHL) in 2014-15 before he finally landed a full-time AHL job with the Barracuda in 2015-16.
A slight grin may have given away his internal excitement, but the goaltender stayed composed when talking to the media following Tuesday's tilt. He tried to suggest it was just another game, even though it clearly wasn't.
"I felt really good the whole time," Dell said. "I thought the guys were going to come out and play and they did. It was nice to get that one out of the way, but now we've got to move forward and finish the rest of this trip off."
"It was a great win, you could see the guys at the end were real happy for him," said Sharks Head Coach Pete DeBoer when asked about Aaron Dell.
"He (Dell) was good when he had to be, and it was great to get a win in his first start," said Sharks Captain Joe Pavelski. "First game, in a back-to-back, isn't easy for any goalie and he came in and did a really good job.