In recent years, there have not been many big name goaltending prospects to get scouts excited. It would seem we have seen the end of the days of two-or three goaltenders were ranked in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft.
It’s been six years since Carey Price was selected fifth overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. In fact, the highest goaltender to be selected since has been with the 11th overall pick, Jack Campbell of the Dallas Stars in 2010 and Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Bernier in 2006.
Since 2007, just four goaltenders have been selected in the first round.
A new trend has NHL teams pondering spending an early round pick on a goalkeeper. A large reason for this is that the position typically takes the most time for a kid to develop all the skills to play at the pro level and NHL teams can basically grab the same raw talent in the middle or later rounds as what is available at the top end of the draft.
Although some prospects for the 2012 draft have shown NHL potential and the odds are they will have some sort of NHL careers ahead of them, there are no guarantees. No future superstar puck stopper is pending for the 2012 NHL draft, although this year’s edition does look to hold some good depth to develop at the position.
So who are these goaltenders NHL scouts will be watching for?
Topping the list is Oshawa General rookie starter Daniel Altshuller who has exceeded expectations at every level and in every international competition thus far. He has the size at six-foot-three and understanding of how to play the position that have us excited to watch him develop the remainder of his game this season.
The Nepean Raiders alum helped Ontario win at the U17 Challenge last winter and then went on to steer Canada to gold at this summer’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Altshuller displays good athleticism and lateral quickness, although he could stand to add leg strength and a few pounds overall.
Also in the Ontario Hockey League, Belleville Bulls starter Malcolm Subban, brother of Montreal Canadiens defender PK, has shown some strong potential for an NHL future and will be watched all season as he progresses.
Subban too shows good athleticism coupled with good agility and focus. Often times the focus is an area that goaltenders do not learn until much later in their careers but Subban seems to understand the mental aspect of shaking a bad one off and starting fresh, an attitude that will serve him well going forward.
Francois Tremblay of Val-d’Or in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is a big goaltender with good coverage due to that good size that seems to be a running theme with 2012 goaltenders. The former fourth overall QMJHL Draft pick possesses quick legs, no glaring weaknesses and loads of raw potential that have scouts excited about his potential. He is considered a big game goaltender of sorts.
United States National Team Development Program stopper Collin Olson is a big guy at just over six-foot-three but is still learning his positioning and many of the other nuances of playing the goaltender position. Closing holes is always a learning process for bigger goaltenders and that is the same with Olson. His focus and natural mental calmness will help him succeed as he continues developing.
Playing against Olson in United States Hockey League competition this season is Indian Ice puck stopper Jon Gilles, who has the best size of all listed puck stoppers on this list. The six-foot-five stopper has many excited based on the vitals alone but he also bring much more to the table than just towering height. Gilles has great lower net coverage with fast pads and a strong butterfly.
One of the most recognizable names as he has been on the radar for the past three or four seasons is Swedish goalie Oscar Dansk. Dansk actually played in the United States a couple years ago with Shattuck St. Mary’s before returning home to further develop his game in the Bryans system. Dansk, much like the rest of the goaltending crop of 2012, has nice size and quickness, but also excels in staying square to the shooter and has the ability to rise to the challenge in big games as his Ivan Hlinka performance this past August showed.
Andrei Vasilevski, the prototypical Russian goalie has athletic but under developed in technique. The Ufa keeper has nice size at six-foot-three and is in line to see some Kontinental League play this season. The fleet-footed 17-year-old shows good raw talent with quick reflexes and solid athleticism but will need some time and coaching before he will be ready for the North American pro game.
Others who have shown some sparkle but are not yet making their mark include Czech goalkeeper Marek Langhamer has the size NHL teams like at six-foot-two but also plays a technically sound game and knows his angles well. He is quick on his feet and able to make those second and even third stops because of his athletisism.
Sarnia Sting stopper Brandon Hope, who might not be the star attraction in town for NHL scouts though possessing some very intriging skills of his own, has the look of a future NHL stopper. He displays quick feet, brings an intense and emotional attitude every night and communicates well with his defenders.
Calgary Hitmen goalie Chris Driedger has prototypical NHL size at just over six-foot-two as well as some good positional play but has had trouble with fighting the puck and tracking it with his eyes. If he can work on getting lower and staying focused on the puck his game could really take off. Driedger was one of the more impressive netminders at Canada’s Under-18 goalie development camp, but has been sidelined early this season with an ankle injury.
The other USNTDP stopper is Chicago native Jared Rutledge, who possesses positives that will have scouts watching. He does not have the ideal size at just five-foot-11 but is not small by any means. His reflexes, quickness in net and heady play make up for his lack of projected size.
Ontario league stoppers Matt Murray of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Barrie stopper Clint Windsor as well as Victoriaville Tigres Brandon Whitney who started strong in the QMJHL early, and Finnish stopper Joonas Korpisalo all have good size and strong potential but do need lots of time to further develop their skills as potential wildcards going forward.
Often time’s the goalie prospect will take extra time to develop in comparison to their forward or defenseman counterparts. NHL teams recognize that, so scouts will also be watching many of the puck stoppers who have been passed over once or even twice before.
Clark Cup MVP Matt Morris of the USHL defending champion Dubuque Fighting Saints is one of these potential late bloomers whom teams might have overlooked because of his lack of ideal size. The five-foot-10 Maine commit has the speed and fight in him to again lead the Saints to the Clark Cup.
Mike Morrison, despite being ranked as the OHL’s top draft eligible goaltender a season ago, was passed over in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. After a trade from the Kitchener Rangers to the Peterborough Petes earlier in the summer, Morrison might get to show NHL teams why he was thought so highly of a season ago. While not large by NHL standards at six-feet, Morrison is quick, strong in his positioning and keeps holes to a minimum. He also had one of the best glove hands and lateral quickness in all of the 2011 draft class.
Finally after a season that went well last year Prince Albert Raiders goaltender Eric Williams went undrafted, likely due to his lack of ideal size. This year he will have a chance to show that his size is a non-factor and that 30 NHL teams made a mistake in passing him over.
While this is the early view regarding the 2012 NHL Entry Drafts goaltending crop, it should be noted that puck stoppers generally are the hardest prospect to judge as they do not all tend to develop or show the potential as early as their skating brethren do.
So much of their game is based on the mental aspect and a couple early viewings by a scout can make one think that a goaltender is nothing special until he gains a little confidence which can make him look like a totally different prospect. While the blue chippers are usually easy to identify early, all the depth of a drafts goaltending corp usually takes until mid-season to begin to shake out all the characters.
And perhaps one will emerge as a top-10 pick for the first time since 2005.
Dan Stewart is the scouting director of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!