Drafting goaltenders: we say that teams don’t need to do it, but there’s plenty of merit in ensuring one of the league’s best young goaltenders is in your system early on. Free agent goaltending is considered somewhat of a crapshoot. It’s costly and uncertain, especially with the ever-shrinking margin between the league’s best netminders and the league’s worst.
Drafted talent is cost-controlled at best and provides depth options at the very worst. After all, the Pittsburgh Penguins just won a Stanley Cup on Matt Murray’s entry-level deal.
Clubs that are sparse on goaltending depth right now should look long and hard at taking a goaltender in the upcoming NHL draft. Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars would all do well to try and snag one of this draft class’ biggest names.
Ranked: 2nd (North American Goaltender, CS)
Stats: .918 SV%, 2.14 GAA
Few goaltenders have shone as bright as Carter Hart this past season.
Named CHL Goaltender of the Year, Hart offers what looks to be sustainable skill development for the team that’s willing to draft him. He’s made a point of emphasizing tracking and head trajectory as two of the biggest tools in his arsenal, which make him less of a ‘big body’ advantage among junior skaters and more of a true talent.
After edging his way into the starting role with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips during the 2015 playoffs, Hart appeared in a whopping 63 games for the major junior club this last year, posting a .918 save percentage in all situations while playing the lion’s share of games for his team. He showed sustainability, proving to his doubters that his playoff performance the spring prior wasn’t just an adrenaline-fueled fluke; the team that selects him this summer will have quite a lot of promise on their hands.
Hart could still work on his instincts, but his technique-based foundation looks strong — and he’s proven able to sustainably use what he learns. It’s hard to overstate his tracking game; with proper development, he could become a starter for an NHL team in coming years.
Ranked: 1st (North American Goaltenders, CS)
Stats: .896 SV%, 3.42 GAA
Hart may have taken home the CHL Goaltender of the Year award, but some expect Fitzpatrick to jump him in the draft. He was named the top North American goaltender by Central Scouting this year, overtaking Hart for the coveted top spot by the end of the season.
Like Hart, Fitzpatrick won’t necessarily wow you with his size and his numbers aren’t great during the regular season, although playing behind a far less impressive Sherbrooke Phoenix team in the QMJHL may have had something to do with that. Hart’s Silvertips were miles above Fitzpatrick’s team this year in terms of defensive structure and ability to limit shots against. Fitzpatrick saw over 31 shots a night on average over his 54-game regular season, while Hart saw just over 25 shots per night across his own season.
What Fitzpatrick does have to offer is smart depth positioning and what scouts are describing as a calm demeanor that few goaltenders his age possess. He may be a bit more of a project technically than Hart, but it’s hard to teach the kind of composure he already possesses; considering the team he played behind this year, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Fitzpatrick will be able to handle the ups and downs of pro hockey for the team that takes a chance on him.
Ranked: 3rd (North American Goaltenders, CS)
Stats: .921 SV%, 2.33 GAA
The bad news is that Tyler Parsons played behind the best team in the entire Canadian Hockey League this season, so there’s obviously a case to be made for his great season being a product of the talent he played behind.
The good news is that Parsons still managed to show that he was as much a part of the team’s success as anyone else on the London Knights.
Many NHL scouts still overvalue ‘big games’ for young goaltenders, so don’t let the clutch performances Parsons delivered blind you from his technical inconsistencies. Still, the bottom line remains: the goaltender that stops the most pucks wins the game, no matter how pretty or ugly it may have been, and Parsons has proven that he’s able to win those ugly contests when needed.
His biggest weakness is in his technical game. Parsons can sometimes see his athleticism serve as his greatest enemy, not just his biggest asset. He’ll find himself wide of his own net scrambling for a rebound, although he’s proven able to push that panic button and get himself in front of the puck when that happens. It will depend on his development, but Parsons could easily become a starter at the NHL level in a few year’s time.
Ranked: 1st (European Goaltenders, CS)
Stats: .910 SV%, 2.17 GAA
Although he looks eerily like the polarizing Jonas Gustavsson, don’t let any lingering backup goalie-related PTSD feelings turn you off the goaltender who may be the next best European option.
Like Parsons, Fitzpatrick and Hart, Gustavsson lacks that ‘ideal’ size that so many have been suggesting is the next big thing in goaltender attributes. Coming out of Sweden, that’s going to be interesting to see; those familiar with Swedish goaltending have seen a reliance on dropping into butterfly earlier, which can hurt these smaller netminders.
Gustavsson had a monster showing at the U18 World Juniors this year, taking home goaltender of the year. And at just 18, he managed to hold his own at the SHL level, which is no easy feat.
InGoal Magazine’s Greg Balloch cautioned about hip and groin issues for the netminder, but observed that he was one of a handful of goaltenders within the Lulea system who spent part of the year dealing with hip or groin injuries — meaning that it may be a problem with something in either training or practices for that club that’s hurting their goaltenders.
This may be a goaltender a team should add to their system if they can bring him over to North America soon, where hopefully those concerns can be alleviated; he’s certainly not the only European netminder teams should try to snag, but he’s one that could make a team very happy in the future.
Rank: 4th (North American Goaltenders, CS)
Stats: .915 SV%, 2.16 GAA
Standing at 6-foot-4, here’s your ‘big’ goaltender for the draft; listed as one of the best goaltenders in the CCHL, he’s got the ideal frame for an NHL team looking to find the next big man in net.
Playing Junior A this past year, Point was good in the regular season and unbelievable in the postseason. He’s heading to Colgate University this upcoming season to play NCAA hockey, where he’ll have up to four years to develop for the club that drafts him without worries of a crowded depth chart; add in a reputation for great puck-tracking sense, and there’s plenty of reason to pick up this netminder at the draft.
For those worried that Point may not have what it takes, wanting to wait until a year has gone by at the NCAA level before drafting the oversized netminder, it’s worth pointing out that he held a CJHL Top Prospects Team with both Dante Fabbro and Tyson Jost to just three goals during the Top Prospects game earlier this year. His technical game still needs some work, but expect many of the wrinkles in his play to iron out over the next handful of years in college.