Earlier, we talked about what the acquisition of Anton Khudobin by the Boston Bruins on trade deadline day might mean for the team's approach to the goaltending position at the 2011 NHL Draft.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the better options available in the draft. Given that the Bruins have a strongly-established tandem in Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, getting help at the position is not a pressing need. That said, the system lacked a dependable option for the immediacy, should the Bruins have any injury issues in net, which thankfully, they have not. Khudobin appears to address that need between now and the end of the season, but his future with Boston is very much up in the air if in fact he is a Group 6 unrestricted free agent.
Our belief is that the Bruins won't be inclined to take a goaltender in the first three, maybe four rounds of the 2011 unless they simply cannot pass on the value available to them. One caveat to this theory is Finnish goalie Samu Perhonen, who could be a goalie the B's will try to get for several reasons not the least of which is the cooperation agreement they have with his senior team Jyvaskyla JYP of the Finnish SM-Liiga. Perhonen has played very well for JYP's Under-20 junior team, posting a 2.57 GAA and .927 save percentage. He was Finland's third goalie at the 2011 WJC, and though he didn't play, looked good in practices as a Rask clone- tall (6-3), lean (170), extremely quick and fundamentally sound.The problem with the Bruins getting Perhonen is that the proverbial cat is out of the bag with this kid. If the B's were hoping that their close relationship and knowledge of him might be more of a secret that would give them an edge at draft time, that theory is out the window, as Perhonen has played well for Finland in the international tourneys this season and will likely further elevate his profile at the World Under-18s next month. If the Bruins are going to land him, they would probably need to do so in the second round, and the value of that pick may not warrant it being spent on yet another developmental goalie project albeit with the kind of promise Perhonen brings.
Here is a look at some of the rest of the options for the 2011 as far as goalies go:
John Gibson, U.S. NTDP (USHL)-- The Pennsylvania native has played excellent hockey this year for Team USA and will attend University of Michigan. He's very similar in style and substance to Jack Campbell, and like USA's international star, has the ability to play a very composed game when the pressure is highest. Gibson is big, athletic and refined; the prototypical modern netminder, but Campbell's OHL struggles could serve to hurt Gibson's chances of being picked in the top-20 of this class. More and more, teams are becoming disenchanted with taking goalies so high when that position is becoming such a wildcard in terms of player development and timelines- with late-round picks flourishing more and more while high-profile kids at 18 flameout. Gibson could go in the bottom 10 picks of the opening round, but is a solid second-round bet at the very least. He was Central Scouting's No. 1 North American goalie in their midterm rankings.
Samu Perhonen, JYP Jyvaskyla (Finland- Jr.)-- Central's top European netminder at midterm has been covered above, but he's got perhaps the greatest upside of any goaltender in this class. One NHL scout very familiar with him oozed about his technical excellence, mental toughness and mature game despite being a few days short of 18. Don't expect him to be on the board very long in June. His last name translates into the word 'butterfly' so like Swede Jesper Fasth last year, this kid is the most appropriately named prospect in the 2011 class.
Magnus Hellberg, Almtuna (SWE-2)-- At 6-5, 185 pounds, this Swede blots out the sun when he's in full gear standing in between the pipes. That said, he's as intriguing a prospect as any in this solid, if unheralded group. He's playing in Sweden's second division or Allsvenskan, and put up hellacious numbers- a 2.01 GAA and .936 save percentage this season with 5 whitewashes. Don't be surprised if this netminder, who goes side-to-side extremely well, ends up being a darkhorse who pushes into the second round and challenges Gibson and Perhonen for supremacy, because his ceiling is extremely high. We've been slow to come around on him here at B2011DW, but no longer. This guy is the real deal and rising rapidly.
Christopher Gibson, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)-- Another native of Finland who is the son of a British father and Finnish mother came to North America several years ago to play for the Notre Dame Hounds of Saskatchewan, playing on the midget national championship team alongside Jaden Schwartz. Like his American counterpart with the same last name, he's got a big frame and moves extremely well. He struggled in the CHL Top Prospects Game, but has played some real good hockey for one of the Q's weaker clubs this season.
David Honzik, Victoriaville (QMJHL)-- Another European who left the Czech Republic for North American major junior, Honzik has played well enough for the Tigres to be a factor on draft day, though he's a bit of a wildcard who could slip down a round or two. It's not that he doesn't possess upside, it's just that when all is said and done, he could get lost in the shuffle a bit from the players ahead of him in the rankings. He takes up a large portion of the net and is a solid butterfly goalie, but needs to work on keeping himself upright when he goes down and making sure his stick is flush and pads level. He's been beaten on pucks that go through him when he's in position to make the save. He has a lot of raw potential, though.
Matej Machovsky, Brampton (OHL)-- This 17-year-old Czech was originally taken by the Guelph Storm in last summer's CHL Import Draft, but was playing sparingly and moved over to Brampton, where his game has propelled him into serious draft discussions. He didn't get into the Top Prospects Game, but probably should have been there given how well he's played since joining Brampton. The rangy netminder is cat-quick and brings excellent quickness and athleticism to the mix.
Jaroslav Pavelka, Hradec Kralove (Czech Jr.)-- The best of the Czech goalies to stay home for his draft season, Pavelka is extremely raw at this stage but has the size (6-2), athleticism and upside to be a solid mid-round pick in the draft with long-term developmental potential. His technique needs a considerable amount of work, but he's extremely competitive, according to Red Line Report European scout Radim Jelinek, who has watched him closely this season. He has all the tools to be an NHL goaltender so long as the team that drafts him is willing to invest patience and a lot of work in teasing out the best in him. With his willingness to work, he may be one of the more promising, yet stealthy options in this class of goalies. It will be interesting to see where he goes. He has a .926 save percentage and 2.60 GAA as Hradec Kralove Under-18's workhorse puckstopper.
Richard Ullberg, HIFK Helsinki (Finland Jr.)-- What happened? Ullberg was considered Finland's best in class coming into the season, and after a solid start, his play has hit the skids. Eclipsed by Perhonen, Ullberg's development has hit a rough patch, falling to the bottom of Central's midseason Euro goalie list. He's a typical product of the Finnish goalie factory- big, skilled, technical butterfly goalie who squares up to the shooter and doesn't give up much of the net. But, he's struggled mightily and dropping like a stone. Could be one of those later round picks who rebounds in a big way and becomes one of those ubiquitous "steals" you're always hearing about.
Michael Houser, London (OHL)-- Passed over last season, Houser will likely get a call on draft day this time around given how well he's played this season for the young, rebuilding Knights. He was only two days away from being the youngest player in the 2010 NHL Draft with a September 13 1992 birthdate, so drafting him would not be a major roll of the dice. His GAA is high because of the amount of goals his team gives up, but his save percentage of .905 is solid and he's a battler who probably should have at least gotten a seventh-round call last June. Given Boston's familiarity with London in terms of keeping tabs on Jared Knight, might Houser be a late-round option for the B's?
We believe that his play has earned him serious consideration this time around as London's starter, beating out Anaheim prospect Igor Bobkov. He did get invited to the Vancouver Canucks rookie camp in the fall, but didn't get a contract offer, so like Boston's Craig Cunningham, who attended Rangers camp in 2009, Houser could be a guy who ends up with someone else on draft day. He's from Pennsylvania- the Pittsburgh area- and grew up a Penguins and Steelers fan. He is a great story as a young man who overcame 16 surgeries as a youngster to repair bilateral club feet. You can read one account of Houser's inspiring journey here in the London Free Press. We're not sure how high a pick Houser will end up being, but he's spent a season proving himself as a starter by battling hard, making the tough saves and keeping his team, which underwent huge changes via trades, in the OHL playoff picture.
While by no means a comprehensive list of available goalies, this list should at least whet the appetite, and you can rest assured that the draft watch will be back with updates and more in-depth profiles on other goaltenders not mentioned here. In the coming weeks, we'll revisit the list and add some of the guys who didn't make this first cut likke Max Lagace, Tadeas Galansky , Steve Michalek and Matt McNeely to name a few.