Should the Oilers be looking at taking a goalie early in the second round?

It’s a decent year for goalies, with a trio – Andrei Vasilevski, Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk – all arguably under consideration for first-round status. The trio were all ranked in the top-35 of Bob McKenzie’s latest list and any of the three might be available when the Oilers pick early in the second round.

Should the Oilers use an early pick on one of them?

There’s a case to be made for all three.

Vasilevski starred for the Russian entry at this year’s World Juniors, and will probably the first goalie drafted in 2012 – the concern with him is that he’s a Russian who is actually still playing in Russia. I was blown away by him at the World Juniors; he’s big, and plays a patient, intelligent game. His numbers across the board are brilliant (including a 0.931 SV% in the MHL – Russia’s second league – a 0.922 SV% at the U-18’s and a 0.953 SV% at the World Juniors) and if he were playing in North America I wonder if he might be in the conversation for a top-10 pick.

Subban is the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, and despite lacking ideal size (various sources place him between 6’ and 6’1”) there’s a lot to like. Prior to going down with a groin injury midway through December he posted superb numbers in the OHL, including a 0.937 SV%. He wasn’t as sharp when he came back from injury a month and a half later, posting a 0.908 SV% the rest of the way. Red Line Report is harshly critical of his glove hand but does like his athleticism.

Dansk showed very well in tournament play but was only middling in Swedish junior (0.910 SV%) and he struggled in a brief post-season showing. Red Line raves about his down low coverage but criticizes both his tendency to play deep in the net rather than challenge aggressively as well as the fact that he “goes down in butterfly on every shot.”

If one of Vasilevksi or Subban were still around when the Oilers picked, I would find it difficult to criticize the selection – especially if the pick was Vasilevski. Both players managed outrageous totals over the course of the season and while I like Vasilevski better (bias of having seen him play live and in person, his size) I like the potential of both at the NHL level. I’m less bullish on Dansk.

With that said, the Oilers could land a pretty good goaltending prospect much later in the draft, the way they did with both Olivier Roy (133rd overall, 2009) and Tyler Bunz (121st overall, 2010) – goaltenders both tracking very well today. There are a ridiculous number of draft-eligible goalies available later on that could have careers in the NHL; I’d just as soon see the Oilers spend the prime picks on forwards and defense and pick up one of the following later on:

  • Patrik Bartosak – 6’1”, 181lbs, 0.915 SV% (WHL) – In his first year in North America, over-age Czech was Red Deer’s best goalie.
  • Corbin Boes – 6’3”, 216lbs, 0.916 SV% (WHL) – Over-age player won more than twice as many games as he lost; team had a losing record without him
  • Francois Brassard – 6’1”, 154lbs, 0.905 SV% (QMJHL) – Played well as the backup for Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts.
  • Jon Gillies – 6’5”, 203lbs, 0.915 SV% (USHL) – Huge goalie is college-bound, giving him a few years to work out the kinks.
  • Michael Houser – 6’2”, 192lbs, 0.925 SV% (OHL) – Over-ager was the OHL’s most outstanding player and the CHL goalie of the year.
  • Joonas Korpisalo – 6’2”, 163lbs, 0.920 SV% (Fin. U20) – Very similar numbers to Samu Perhonen last year; more likely to be a late-round flyer.
  • Marek Langhamer – 6’2”, 177lbs, 0.909 SV% (Cze. U20) – His numbers actually dipped a bit from last year’s very good Czech junior showing.
  • Andrei Makarov – 6’1”, 178 lbs, 0.913 SV% (WHL) – Overage goalie was very impressive at the World Juniors; RLR likes him as a second-round pick but he’s likely to go much lower.
  • Anthony Stolarz – 6’5”, 200lbs, 0.920 SV% (NAHL) – Big goalie crushed second-tier opponents.
  • Brandon Whitney – 6’5”, 191lbs, 0.896 SV% (QMJHL) – Went 22-4-4 on a high-octane Victoriaville team; co-goalie was a 3rd-round pick last year and posted 0.885 SV%.
  • Roman Will – 6’1”, 188lbs, 0.913 SV% (QMJHL) – Over-ager crushed Czech junior league for years without getting drafted, was a first-team QMJHL all-star this year. Has the coolest name in the history of the universe.

Goaltending projection is witchcraft, and the Oilers recent habit of adding a goalie late every year via the draft is, in my opinion, exactly the right way to go about addressing the position. Unless Vasilevski somehow falls to the second round.

This week by Jonathan Willis

  • If Samuelsson is available I would have a hard time passing him up unless you are confident the goalie you pick will be at very least a quality backup in the NHL in 2-3 years which is a pretty big gamble.

    With the 2nd round pick I want size, grit, and skill. Obviously, if a big, gritty, skilled player is available in the second round there are questions or holes in his current game.

  • Pronger's Wife

    We use that 1st pick in 2nd round to take more D. Still think Tyler Bunz is our goalie of the future though.

    Really wish we had a young guy backing up Dubnyk for next season instead of Khabibulin taking up space on the bench – or even worse, playing. Of course, it’s still up in the air as to whether Dubnyk can carry the load as a starter also.

  • G Money

    @JW:

    Completely with you – as good as Vasilevski, Subban and Dansk look now, history clearly indicates that translating that to NHL success is a crapshoot at best.

    In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t just a matter of ‘witchcraft’ projection, but an actual development effect.

    Here’s my theory:

    If a goalie is drafted in the first round, there is immense pressure on them (fair or not) to become an NHL-player early. So they never get as much chance to develop their skills and experience before being tossed in the NHL frying pan. Facing NHL shooters without matured skills or experience, they get lit up. Confidence drops. Development regresses. A promising career derails.

    On the other hand, a late drafted goalie (like Bunz or Roy) has no such pressure. They can stay in junior as long as allowed. They move from junior to the ECHL (or the SEL, or wherever). Then, if/when they excel at that level, they move into a backup role in the AHL. Then into a starters role. And if they excel there, into a backup role in the NHL. And then lo and behold, suddenly your 26-year old goalie, in his second year but with 8 years of development, is a starter, and maybe a star.

    I haven’t done the analysis to see if there’s truth to this, but anecdotally I can think of distinct examples of both the former (e.g. Montoya) and the latter (e.g. Kipper).

    If this is the case, maybe the issue isn’t one of where the goalie is drafted or how they are projected, but whether they are given the time – as in *years* – to properly develop their game to a pro level.

    Thoughts?