It might be because they are as yet undrafted by a NHL team or perhaps they don't play for a NCAA program that gets a lot of recognition but there are a bunch of terrific goalies up for grabs playing south of the border. The NCAA hockey circuit doesn't get much attention here in Canada even though a large percentage of the players come from this country. Consider this a personal interest list - they might not be the "best" 5 goalies in the NCAA but these are the ones that are making me check in on them every weekend out of personal curiosity.
5. Andrew Volkening - Air Force
My man-crush on Andrew Volkening began last spring as I tuned into the ridiculously entertaining game between Air Force and Miami in the opening round of the National Tournament. The RedHawks went on to win that one in overtime but the fact that the upstart Eagles nearly bounced a true contender like Miami was remarkable and it was largely due to the stellar play of their netminder. Listening to the game online it sounded like Volkening was 'in the zone' but you be the judge:
Unfortunately the future for Volkening (and the rest of the Air Force squad) won't likely include hockey. I spoke with a pair of NHL scouts just a couple of days ago and asked about guys like Volkening and his teammate Jacques Lamoureux who has been near the top of NCAA scoring all year. The guys I talked to said there is no point scouting them because for them to get their release from the Air Force they have to prove how their playing pro hockey would better serve the military than their wearing the uniform in the field. It's only happened twice and never for a hockey player (David "The Admiral" Robinson left the Navy to play NBA and a football player did the same - someone else can remind me who).
4. Kieran Millan - Boston University Terriers
I'm not going to lie... I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I had no idea Kieran Millan was from Edmonton until I clicked on his bio. I found it really interesting that BU, a perennial force in Hockey East, was going with a pair of freshmen this year so I've been following their progress with interest. The Terriers are currently second in the HE standings right now but oddly enough are ranked #2 in the entire NCAA.
Millan is playing about two thirds of the games for BU and has a 1.63 GAA and .928 sv% in his 14 games and was named Goalie of the Month for the conference. Those are pretty strong numbers for a guy in his rookie collegiate year. Millan joined the Terriers after spending two seasons with the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL, further adding to my red-face considering I really should have clued in that they were the same guy. He was an AJHL All-Star and Rookie of the Year so it's not like he was going under the radar. Well, just mine apparently... but not anymore.
3. Jordan Pearce - Notre Dame Fighting Irish
He had to bide his time while David Brown played out his eligibility but once he got his chance to shine, Jordan Pearce has grabbed the reins and run with it. The native Alaskan has picked up a ton of awards and accolades during his tenure with the Irish but somehow has not gotten the attention of the NHL - yet. I find it pretty hard to believe that a second fantastic season won't end with him signing a pro contract with someone at the conclusion of the NCAA schedule this spring.
The Irish were runners up for the National Championship last season and are currently ranked #1 in the country so he's definitely not going under the radar this year. Still, Pearce has strung together a 18-3-3 record this year with a 1.55 GAA and .936 sv% all while playing in a very competitive CCHA conference. The Irish won't be the surprising underdogs this time around but they'll still be fighting for another shot at the National title.
2. Bryan Hogan - Michigan Wolverines
One thing I've learned since I got into the hockey prospects biz is that in college, politics are huge. The pecking order for ice time begins with the seniors and trickles down to the freshmen unless we're talking about standout players. You have to expect James vanRiemsdyk or Kyle Turris to get their fair share of shifts but if you're an incoming role player... don't expect to play much.
With that in mind, the fact that sophomore Bryan Hogan is the go-to guy now at Michigan is MASSIVE considering Billy Sauer, a drafted senior (COL), has been the starter for the last 3 years. Hogan is undrafted despite a decent USHL career with Lincoln but you have to think he's going to get some attention now. He just turned 20-years-old so he's not an aged collegian with inflated numbers playing against players mostly younger than he is. His 1.83 GAA and .920 sv% are main reasons for his 13-2 record not to mention Michigan's top 10 ranking in the polls.
1. Ben Scrivens - Cornell Big Red
Topping my personal interest list is a local product who is getting recognition from those who like to project Hobey Baker contenders. Scrivens hails from Spruce Grove and played a year in the AJHL for the Calgary Canucks before heading to Cornell and the Big Red. He only got into 12 games as a freshman in 2006-07 and had a losing record but last year Scrivens (and Cornell) bounced back in a big way. Scrivens had a .603 winning percentage and a 2.02 GAA as a starter with 35 games under his belt.
This year Scrivens has taken his game to another level. He leads the NCAA with a stellar 1.17 GAA, a .956 sv%, 5 shutouts and a 13-1-1 record. His only loss came against North Dakota and it's still the only game of the year where he hasn't held the opposition to 2 or fewer goals. Some will argue that Scrivens is a product of an uber-defensive system at Cornell who plays in a ECAC Conference that doesn't get as much respect as a hockey power as the CCHA, WCHA or HE. However, it's worth noting that Scrivens has face 25 or more shots in 10 of 17 games and more than 30 in 4 of those. It's also interesting to point our that Scrivens has shutouts against Princeton, who directed 43 shots at him, and Niagara who hit him 31 times.
I don't think Scrivens will get drafted this summer but that's only because I expect some NHL team out there that needs a goalie in their system will step up in April and sign him. I haven't talked to anyone in Cornell about it so this is just speculation on my part but I could see Scrivens (now 22-years-old) leaving Cornell at the end of the year and not returning for his senior season.