Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2013 Draft: The Year of the Goalie

No question that with 8 of the top 10 picks going to defencemen, 2012 was the Year of the Blueliner for the NHL Draft. It's starting to look like the Class of 2013 has an abnormal amount of high-end netminders.

Nowadays, it seems like many teams have taken a policy of not drafting goalies until the later rounds. In 2012 only two netminders went in the 1st round and that's the most since 2006 when four pipemen were selected early. Half the drafts since that year have seen no goaltender taken in the opening round. 

The reason most often given is that goalies mature so much later that it makes more sense to basically let someone else draft, develop and groom a netminder and then acquire him via trade when he's ready to contribute. It's a reasonable strategy considering the multitude of examples in the NHL of goalies draft in the 5th, 6th or 7th rounds.

But there are examples of teams who identify a goalie they think can be an exception to the rule; someone who could potentially play at the NHL during his entry level contract this making him worth using a 1st or 2nd round pick on.  Drafting such a goalie means not having to spend future assets to get him down the road. Harder to do but better asset management for those teams that have been able to pull it off.

I believe that with the 2013 crop there are already 5 goalies that fit that description. 

The notable NHL goalies from the 2011-12 season who were 1st or 2nd round picks:
  • Marc-Andre Fleury (PGH) - 1st overall 2003
  • Jimmy Howard (DET) - 64th overall 2003
  • Ilya Bryzgalov (ANH) - 44th overall in 2000
  • Kari Lehtonen (ATL) - 2nd overall in 2002
  • Martin Brodeur (NJ) - 20th overall in 1990
  • Roberto Luongo (NYI) - 4th overall in 1997
  • Corey Crawford (CHI) - 52nd overall in 2003
  • Cam Ward (CAR) - 25th overall in 2002
  • Ondrej Pavalec (ATL) - 41st overall in 2005
  • Carey Price (MTL) - 5th overall in 2005
  • Semyon Varlamov (WSH) - 23rd overall in 2006
  • Mathieu Garon (MTL) - 44th overall in 1996
  • Jose Theodore (MTL) - 44th overall in 1994
  • Corey Schneider (VAN) - 26th overall in 2004
  • Devan Dubnyk (EDM) - 14th overall in 2004
  • J.S. Gieguere (HFD) - 13th overall in 1995
  • Josh Harding (MIN) -  38th overall in 2002
  • Michal Neuvirth (WSH) - 34th overall in 2006
  • Martin Biron (BUF) - 16th overall in 1995
  • Tuuka Rask (TOR) - 21st overall in 2005
  • Jhonas Enroth (BUF) - 46th overall in 2006
  • Jonathan Bernier (LA) - 11th overall in 2006
  • Petr Budaj (COL) - 63rd overall in 2001 
It's worth noting that 13 of the goalies listed above are still with the team that originally drafted them.

I'm not a scout but I talk with a number of them as well as with coaches, players and other media members across North America. Based on those conversations and what I have seen with my own eyes, here are five goalies, in alphabetical order, that I believe are worthy of 1st or 2nd round consideration in 2013.

Eric Comrie 
Tri-City Americans (WHL)
6'1, 175 lbs

Photo: Brad Lindsey
Since going 1-3 in September, Comrie has been very, very good. No goaltender in the WHL has more wins (14) and He ranks in the top five for both save percentage (.920) and goals against average (2.38). He's posted better numbers in both categories through 6 games in November.
The son of a high profile wealthy businessman, brother of a recently retired NHL player and brother-in-law of a popular pop singer, Comrie could very easily have developed an air of self importance or entitlement but in fact, it's quite the opposite.   

Comrie has been described to us as remarkably coachable; always ready to listen and is able to take direction and apply it to his game immediately. He's also one of the nicest young men we've had the chance to interview on The Pipeline Show

The California native has ties to Edmonton and thus qualifies to play internationally for Canada. He made the Ivan Hlinka team this past August amid stiff competition but only appeared in one of the five games Canada played in the tournament. 

He was also named to Team WHL in the recent Subway Super Series getting a chance to play the final 30 minutes of Game 6. Although a long shot because of his age, he is getting some consideration by some for Canada's 2013 WJC camp in December.

GM Bob Tory of The Tri-City Americans: 
"Unbelievable. He's a special goalie boy, we're very lucky. I was really happy for him at the Subway Series too, coming in cold like that is not easy. He's right in the same mix as Carey Price and Dan Blackburn - just a great work ethic with a real humble personality. 

The amazing thing is, I get people who will call like the math tutor who doesn't even come to our games but will phone and tell us what a great kid he is. Down here it's not hockey central so they don't know who Eric Comrie is but I keep getting compliments about how nice of a kid he is. And it's genuine, that's the thing. All his teammates love him."   
Zach Fucale
Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
6'1, 176 lbs

Photo: Dave Chan
At this point the Mooseheads goalie is the consensus top goalie in the Class of 2013 but we're 7 months away from when the draft is scheduled to be held so much can still change.

The Quebec native earned his unflappable reputation last season playing 58 regular season games and 17 more in the playoffs for Halifax. The keeper received great accolades from onlookers for his performance during the post season, especially in the marathon series against Quebec. 

Fucale (pronounced Foo-CAL-eh) was Canada's starting netminder at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and backstopped the team to another gold medal. Statistically, an .860 sv% and 3.75 GAA in the event won't get anyone excited but surprisingly, those are numbers consistent for Fucale in the QMJHL too.

Last season he posted a .892 sv% and 3.16 GAA and this year it's much the same; a .883 sv% and 2.65 GAA. 

Despite the uninspiring stats, he's recevied glowing recommendations from everyone I have spoken with from Hockey Canada's Kevin Prendergast to our CHL Insider Sam Cosentino. Everyone speaks about his maturity and that is something Dean and I noticed during our recent interview with him as well.

Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild (audio clip):  
"He's so economical with his movements and so composed in the net. That's where you see the maturity in his game; He doesn't necessarily rely on his athleticism although he obviously has it. His game is more centered and focused on being in the right place at the right time, trying to absorb as many loose pucks as possible, cleaning up the loose change around his crease  area and instilling a lot of confidence in the players around him and the defence in front of him."
Tristan Jarry
Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
6'2, 181 lbs

Photo: Andy Devlin
The disadvantage the Oil Kings netminder has compared to the other four goalies on this list is that he's not his team's starter. While Edmonton coach Derek Laxdal has said that he wants to give Jarry as many starts as possible, it's not going to be a number equal to what the others will get and that will probably have an impact on draft day. There is the chance that should Laurent Brossoit be part of Canada's WJC as many expect, Jarry will get to start at least 9 consecutive games.

It's early and it's a smaller sample size but so far, Jarry (pronounced JAR-ree) has impressive stats - a .935 sv% and 1.58 GAA including a shutout, better numbers in each category that Brossoit has managed thus far albeit in twice as many games. 

Jarry, the Oil Kings 3rd round pick in 2010, has the tall frame that scouts like and the technical foundation of a more experienced goalie already in place. Oil Kings goalie coach Dustin Schwartz couldn't say enough about Jarry's potential and work ethic. 

The lack of starts is the only reason why the recently released rankings from ISS didn't have Jarry listed in the top 10 for goalies. That will change before long. NHL Central Scouting ranked Jarry as a 'B' level goaltender indicating someone worthy of 2-3rd round consideration.

Tristan Jarry on TPS
"What I think sets me apart is that, everyone works hard and everyone is a very good goalie, but it's the mental game. You have to stay positive, be confident. You have to know going into the game, have the mindset, that you're going to win."

I wanted to set my puckhandling style after Marty Turco but I like to be calm in the net like Marty Brodeur because I find that helps me keep my mind in the game." 
Spencer Martin
Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
6'2, 192 lbs

Photo: Aaron Bell
He's already equaled the number of appearances in net he made last year as a rookie but his performance has been much better as a sophomore. Mississauga netminder Spencer Martin has trimmed a goal and a half from his average (2.47) and is stopping 92.3% of the shots he's faced this year, 6th best in the OHL for both categories. 

Neate Sager had an excellent write up on Martin a few weeks ago in which the Oakville Ontartio product points to Buffalo Sabres starter Ryan Miller as his role model. He also told us that Curtis Joseph was his idol growing up as a huge Toronto Maple Leafs netminder.

Martin has dropped just 3 games all season and posted a 9-game winning streak through all of October and into November.  The biggest difference from last year, according to the netminder, is getting to play on a much more regular basis.

Spencer Martin on TPS: 
"Almost every goalie is a butterfly goalie now, but for my size I like to move as quick as I can and I think the mental toughness is definitely the key when it comes to playing goalie now."
Eamon McAdam 
Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)
6'2, 190 lbs

Photo: Matt Murnaghan
As the only 'B' rated goalie in the United States Hockey League, Eamon McAdam will have plenty of eyes watching him this year. Fortunately, the opportunities for scouts have been plentiful beginning back in August during the 2nd annual Junior Club World Cup where McAdam helped Waterloo win a silver medal. The Pennsylvania native was named the top goaltender of the tournament.

McAdam is part of a platoon system in Waterloo with another 2013 eligible goaltender, Cal Petersen, so making the most of his starts will be of increased importance. So far so good as he's won 5 of 6 games holding a .933 sv% despite surrendering 8 goals in his lone setback. 

Recently the Penn State commit represented the United States at the 2012 World Junior A Challenge in Halifax. The almost all USHL team ended up capturing the gold medal with McAdam ending the event with a .927 sv% and 2.18 GAA after 4 games.

TPS listeners and readers are fortunate to have McAdam sharing his draft season with us all year long. The first chapter of his ongoing blog came out a few weeks ago. 

Eamon McAdam on TPS:
"I guess I'm a hybrid is probably the best way to put it. I'm a pretty athletic type of a goalie, I like to get out and handle the puck, I like to make those crazy acrobatic saves but I also try and stay in control and not be all over the place. I'm not a Tim Thomas diving around, I'm more of a Ryan Miller."   

Honorable Mentions

Photo: Matt Murnaghan
Jonah Imoo - The Powell River Kings (BCHL) keeper doesn't yet have a NCAA commitment but after his Top Goalie performance at the 2012 WJAC you can bet he's on the radar for schools now.

Cal Petersen - Waterloo's other netminder, ranked as a 'C' goalie by NHL Central Scouting, is headed to Notre Dame. He's off to a 6-2 start this year for the Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL).

Evan Cowley - This year's Anthony Stolarz? That's what Justin Goldman from the Goalie Guild told us back in September about the Wichita Falls (NAHL) netminder. NHL Central Scouting has him pegged as a 'B' goalie although ISS doesn't have him in their top 10 yet. 

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