The state of Canada’s goaltending is a concern for anyone who regularly watches the World Juniors. It’s been some time since the last high-end performance by a Canadian goaltender at the tournament (Steve Mason in 2008) and while some of that can be chalked up to the shortness of the tournament, the professional results of those goalies have been only middling as a group.
As First-Year Professionals
The chart above shows how Canada’s goalies from the last 10 tournaments (starting in 2012, since the 2013 goalies have obviously yet to play their first professional hockey) have fared in their debut seasons as pros.
The goaltenders for the last two years stand out for their poor results. Both Olivier Roy and Scott Wedgewood spent most of their time in the ECHL, with the former playing well and the latter putting in the weakest performance of any goalie on this list. Mark Visentin, the Phoenix Coyotes first round pick, was mediocre in the AHL. It isn’t that Roy and Visentin don’t have decent futures; but for them to be the two most prominent Canadian goalies in 2011 and 2012 suggest a weak group of prospects.
Indeed, that is the case. Of drafted Canadian goalies in 2010 (the Visentin/Wedgewood class) only Calvin Pickard, with a 0.918 save percentage in the AHL, had a particularly creditable initiation to the professional ranks. The 2009 class (Olivier Roy’s year) wasn’t much better; only Minnesota Wild-drafted prospects Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper particularly stood out in the AHL as rookies – and both of them were only drafted as overagers.
In other words: some of this may have been on the scouts, but overall the last few years have simply featured a weak crop of prospects to choose from.
Only seven Canadian goalies aged 28 or younger played in at least half their team’s games in the NHL last season; of that group only five (Corey Crawford, James Reimer, Devan Dubnyk, Braden Holtby and Marc-Andre Fleury) managed a better than league-average save percentage.
Those five, plus Carey Price (0.905 save percentage this season), Cam Ward (injured, played only 17 games) and Jonathan Bernier (played only 14 games as a backup) represent the current group of Canadian up-and-comers at the NHL level.
While there is no single dominant goaltender in the group, it really isn’t as bad as recent hand-wringing would suggest, because most other countries don’t have a strong stable of young goalies. The Americans have a credible group, the Finns have Tuukka Rask, the Russians have Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov, the Swedes don’t really have anybody and the Czech hopes (Ondrej Pavelec and Michal Neuvirth) are all iffy.
Even during a down cycle for Canadian goalies, they can easily compete with any other nation in the world in terms of young depth in net and as long as one of those young goalies can really emerge in the next year or two – and there are encouraging signs – they should be just fine. And, as the development of players like Riemer and Holtby demonstrates, just because the guys who played at the World Juniors haven’t impressed of late doesn’t mean the whole group behind them won’t produce quality players.
Recently around the Nation Network
At Flames Nation, Kent Wilson writes a grab-bag piece that touches on a lot of different things but includes this particularly interesting bit at the end:
I mentioned this on twitter the other day, but I looked at a collection of goalies who have recently played in th KHL and NHL with the intention of finding the potential difference (or "translation factor") between the two leagues so we can know what to expect from [likely Flames starter Karri] Ramo this season
Click the link to see what that tranlsation factor is, or alternately feel free check out some of my other pieces here: