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Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 draft goalie roundup Pt 2

About 10 days ago, we took a look at a lot of goaltenders available for the 2011 NHL Draft, but faithful readers pointed out how many we missed. So, here's a follow-up post that will help to acquaint you with more of the netminders.

This isn't a great crop of high-end guys, but there are plenty of interesting developmental project types who could turn out nicely in time. Just go back to 1994 and look at all the late-round picks in net who ended up panning out as NHL stars (Tim Thomas, Evgeni Nabokov, Tomas Vokoun- all 9th rounders, Marty Turco went in the 5th), while 1st-round guys like Jamie Storr and Eric Fichaud never really met expectations. And of course, we don't want to bring up Evgeni Ryabchikov's name, taken 21st overall in '94 by the Bruins that year and couldn't even hack it as an AHL starter before going back to Russia never to be seen again. Oh, wait- I guess we just did.

Point being- teams are spending fewer high picks on goalies these days after seeing so much empirical evidence that says good scouting can unearth late-round gems given the kind of disparity in the individual development curves for players at the position. This is one reason we didn't take Samu Perhonen in the 2nd round of the mock draft covered recently (although he could very well be a solid value pick at the end of that round) and when you look at a prospect like Zane Gothberg, tabbed in the 6th round a year ago and developing nicely in the USHL even as a backup.

So, without further ado- here are more goalies from the 2011 class (not an ordered list, just the way it happened to shake out as I consulted various rankings and databases for this post):

Liam Liston, Brandon (WHL)- If you watched him in the CHL Top Prospects Game, you would think this guy had second round written all over him. He was dialed in and stopped all 18 shots he faced in the first 30 minutes of Team Orr's victory, stemming the tide when his squad was outplayed by Team Cherry early. Although he had some shaky moments (his glove was a bit of an adventure), the puck never went in on him. Unfortunately, his up-and-down performance for the Wheat Kings this season has scouts a tad perplexed. He's got the 6-2, 200+ pound size NHL teams covet, and the physical tools to be a big league goalie. However, the focus and consistency has not been there. He's sporting an outrageously bad .879 save percentage with an 18-16-1 record (and inflated 3.79 GAA), and it's not like he plays on a lousy team either. You can only blame the defense and team in front of the goalie so much- at the end of the day, you have to make the saves and according to reports, he's been a gongshow at times. Compare his numbers to that of Eric Williams of the lesser-talented Prince Albert Raiders, and you begin to understand why opinions are so divided on Liston.

Jordan Binnington, Owen Sound (OHL)- At 6-2, 160, he's another Tuukka Rask in terms of his body type, but has those long arms and legs, quickness that is always at a premium in the NHL. Got his chance this season when Scott Stajcer went down. Played well in the CHL Top Prospects Game after Shane Prince scored on the first shot Binnington faced, the only goal surrendered by the Liston/Binnington duo for Team Orr. His 24-12-1-4 record is pretty good, but the .896 is part of what keeps him out of the discussion with the Gibsons (John, Christopher) and Perhonen as the top 'tenders in class. Consistency is something goalies can do to sell themselves and even the most ardent Binnington supporter can admit that he's had some pretty mediocre outings. Binnington takes up a lot of the net with his limbs but we hear his lateral quickness is not great.

Mike Morrison, Kitchener (OHL)- Late '92 is in his first year of eligibility and has played very well for the Rangers as Brandon Maxwell's second. He's a composed netminder who doesn't get rattled easily from most accounts. His size is pretty average (6-0, 175), but he's got good lateral quickness. He's only seen 25 games of action this season, but is a solid 15-5-2 with a .914 save percentage. Not a lot of flash or hype with this guy, but we've heard nice things about him from Ontario-based scouts and think that there are more than a few NHL teams who are targeting him for a later-round flier.

Robert Steeves, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)- Olivier Roy's backup hasn't seen a lot of action this season (20 games) but has played well when called upon. He's only about 5-11 and about 150 pounds soaking wet- he needs another couple inches and 30 pounds on his frame to give NHL teams confidence in his ability to be a stopper at the highest level, but the early returns are good. He's got a lot of raw talent, quickness and the mental toughness to be a gamer. However, this is a classic long road player who is going to require a leap of faith on draft day, and then loads of patience from the team that invests in him. Sleeper- could go as high as the fourth round or drop out of the draft completely. If a team thinks he's going to grow a bit more, then someone will take him.

Maxime Lagace, PEI (QMJHL)- Another backup who has had a hard time seeing action, Lagace's stats are nothing to write home about (8-4, 3.59 GAA, .884 save percentage), but he's got the prototypical size and superb quickness and athleticism that teams demand from their draft picks at the position. He has extremely quick pads and a good glove hand. Lateral agility is pretty good. Evan Mosher is a workhorse for the Rocket, which is a shame because viewings on Lagace have come so few and far between for scouts. That's one of the reasons Lagace is only making his B2011DW debut here tonight in this post with the QMJHL nearly in the books.

Steve Michalek, Loomis-Chaffee (HS- CT)- We. Love. This. Kid. OK, full disclosure- he's a high school goalie, which makes it extremely difficult for scouts to discern whether a player has the goods, but we think Michalek is one of the legit sleeper prospects in the 2011 draft. He was under siege for much of the season on the worst prep team, but still managed to post a .919 save percentage while making more than 1,000 saves on the year. Does anyone understand how many shots he stopped given the small amount of games prep schools play when compared to their junior counterparts? What we don't like about the Harvard recruit's game is that he tends to overcommit on shots, leaving himself open for backdoor plays, but he's very athletic, mentally tough and one of these guys with intriguing potential. You can't use the standard, "he's a HS goalie" argument with him either, because he played so well at the Ivan Hlinka in August. Interesting guy to watch for sure.

Tadeas Galansky, Saginaw (OHL)- Another Czech Republic product who came over to North America to try his hand in the CHL. Unfortunately for the 6-3, 190-pound right-catching goalie, he's only seen 15 games in action for the Spirit all year and is yet another player who will require a leap of faith in limited viewings for teams to draft him. He's got the requisite size and athleticism for the position and stays pretty square to the shooter. His overall game is pretty refined at this point, but again, with Mavric Parks getting most of the starts, scouts could go to a bushel of Saginaw games and never see this kid if unlucky enough. That's a bit of a stretch, but like most backups, teams want to see more of a sample size and they simply didn't get it with Galansky this year.

Matt McNeely, U.S. NTDP (USHL)- The Minnesotan and UMD recruit has played second fiddle to John Gibson this year and isn't as refined at this stage as his partner is, but there is a lot of raw material and potential with this one who brings the size, quickness you want. I'll let Chris Peters of the excellent United States of Hockey blog take it from here, but this is a pretty good writeup on McNeely based on the January release of Central's mid-term rankings.

Benjamin Conz, Langnau (SUI)-We've said it before- short and dumpy simply does not play well to the NHL scouting community as far as goalies are concerned and so when you're about 5-10 and 210 pounds, good luck with the draft. Yet, for two consecutive WJCs now, the roly poly Swiss netminder has excelled at keeping the puck out of his net. He's a popular favorite amongst draftniks at sites like Hockey's Future Boards, but the reality is- Conz is never going to be high on team lists because of his body type. Now, will the third time be the charm and see him drafted after previous snubs? He's played well enough to earn it. But we've seen people suggesting him as a second-round pick and that's just crazy talk. You'll probably see an NHL team take a flier on him this time around, but his physical traits are non-standard, and unless they think he's going to be the next coming of Tim Thomas, it will be as more of an afterthought than being seen in the upper tier of this group. At the same time, straight-killers like Conz who make all the big stops when the stakes are highest are the ones you least want to bet against making it.

Andrei Makarov, Lewiston (QMJHL)- At one time, a highly-regarded goalie prospect for this draft, but played so poorly in the early part of the season that it's taken some strong performances in the last month to get him back into the picture. Even then, it may not be enough for a player who was not even ranked by Central at midterm. We'll see if he gets a nod in their final listing. He's got good height, but is a beanpole. Has the quickness and athleticism for the game, but like many Russian goalies was lacking in technique and discipline when he first came over and paid for it. To his credit, he worked on it and is showing improvement. Might be enough to get him drafted, but with teams being skittish about Russians, his production hasn't exactly given clubs a reason to throw caution to the wind for him. Should be interesting to see if he gets picked based on what he did in international comp last year and his second-half performance for the MAINE-iacs.

Matt Mahalak, Plymouth (OHL)- Yet another backup who hasn't gotten much quality time behind a workhorse. In Mahalak's case, Devils prospect Scott Wedgewood has had much of the action 19 games- 7-7-4, 3.11, .911 save pct. for the Whalers this season, and the former USHL standout's shaky start to the season certainly didn't help his cause. He's another prototype with the size and athleticism, but is a draft wildcard who will get drafted only by a team that saw enough in a limited sample size to roll the dice a bit and gamble that the flashes they saw are worth one of 5-7 picks (in most cases). You could very well see a team with a bevvy of extra picks use one on him because of the potential upside.

Eric Williams, Prince Albert (WHL)- Tall and lean goaltender has played well for a mediocre Prince Albert squad. He doesn't get a lot of attention, but with a solid 17-17-2 record with .900 save percentage despite making more than 1,100 saves in just 39 games of action. That's a lot of rubber- kid's a gamer and with his size, athleticism and competitiveness, is going to get drafted and make one of those under-the-radar projects who could make noise in time (and with continued action and work on technique).

Colin Stevens, Boston Jr. Bruins (EJHL)- Another tall, lean goalie who is athletic and competitive. Played a very good season for Jr. B's and is strong in his crease in terms of getting the forceful four-way movements needed to play the position effectively. What drops Stevens in the eyes of some scouts is the inconsistency he displayed and a lack of focus at times that led to soft goals. There's a lot of raw talent to work with on this guy, but the operative word is "work" and it might not be enough to see him even get called. We loved Brian Billett a year ago after he had a great season in the EJHL, but nary a team called his name. Teams have specific criteria for their goalie picks these days, and we don't know if that includes game, but up-and-down Jr. B goalies like Stevens.

Pete Traber, Shattuck St. Mary's (HS- MN)- Yet another physical, but raw specimen whose 6-2 frame takes up a lot of net. Like Gothberg last year, Minnesota goalies tend to drop in the draft because that state has never been a great producer of NHL talent between the pipes. If Traber gets the call, it will be later rather than sooner, even playing for such an accomplished team like Shattuck. He needs some refinement in his technique and is a clear-cut long-term project player, but has shown some potential.

That about does it for the 2011 netminder reivew. We know we've left a few goalies out of the mix, but this is good enough for the time being. From reading the capsules, you can see that there are more than a few intriguing project types in this group and we'll continue to champion those who rise to the top like good cream does.

1 comment:

  1. Love this list. Not much to say, you covered it all. Galansky, Mahalak and Binnington came into the O with so much hype surrounding them yet have disappointed (Binnington to an extent).

    But Morrison has surprised me a lot in Kitchener. Sometimes i wish goaltenders were not eligible until a year later than skaters so that teams can get better viewings of them, but i know that will never happen.