The Edmonton Oilers should have close to zero interest in Zachary Fucale

Zachary Fucale is a pretty famous goalie prospect. A second-round pick by Montreal in 2013, he has twice represented Canada at the World Juniors and was projected as a potential NHL starter in his draft year.

According to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, the Canadiens are willing to deal him and the Oilers just might be interested.

The Report

Carey Price 2.26.15

From Matheson’s Hockey World column:

I’m hearing Canadian world junior goalie Zach Fucale could be in play in any trade talks with the Montreal Canadiens in the summer because there is no way Fucale will ever be more than a backup with the team as long as Hart Trophy candidate Carey Price is minding the store. If so, you can bet the Edmonton Oilers would be interested. They wanted Fucale at the 2013 National Hockey League entry draft, picking 37th, but Montreal shocked them by taking the teenager one spot ahead of them. Fucale goalie is playing for the Memorial Cup host Quebec Remparts.

The way Matheson phrases his report is interesting; there is some ambiguity in his wording.. 

The other interesting comment here is the motivation ascribed to Montreal. It’s true that the Canadiens are set for years with Carey Price in net, but Price isn’t a newcomer to the scene; he was in net for the Habs in 2013 when they drafted Fucale. It may be that the Canadiens wanted a little insurance at the time (Price posted a 0.905 save percentage in 2012-13) and are now feeling reassured that they don’t have to worry. It may also be that Fucale’s stock has fallen significantly in their eyes since they drafted him.

Clearly, it’s worth taking a look at how Fucale has fared since draft day.

Counterparts

Goaltending assessment is witchcraft at the best of times, and that’s particularly true below the NHL level. I’m not convinced that QMJHL save percentage is a particularly valid tool for comparing goalies between teams or projecting NHL future. With that said, for players on the same team it gives us a strong point of comparison.
Let’s start with his draft year, 2012-13, where he played for Halifax:

  • 17-year-old Fucale: 45-5-3, 0.909 save percentage
  • 19-year-old Chris Clarke: 13-1-1, 0.880 save percentage

Clarke was never drafted and is now playing for Queens University; with all due respect to the player we can say he’s completely irrelevant from an NHL perspective. Interestingly, he managed a 13-1-1 record, which says how good Halifax is, but he doesn’t tell us much about Fucale, who outperformed him by a mile.

  • 18-year-old Fucale: 36-9-3, 0.907 save percentage
  • 19-year-old Kevin Darveau: 11-9-0, 0.895 save percentage

It’s a little discouraging that Fucale didn’t improve his numbers, but we can’t read into that. Darveau again isn’t helpful as a point of comparison; he was undrafted and has played for three different teams this year in the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League.

  • 19-year-old Eric Brassard: 13-4-2, 0.903 save percentage
  • 17-year-old Callum Booth: 20-12-2, 0.898 save percentage
  • 19-year-old Fucale: 19-14-2, 0.886 save percentage
  • 17-year-old Kevin Resop: 11-13-3, 0.879 save percentage

Fucale has played for two teams this season, Halifax and Quebec, and we have a range of interesting comparables. Resop is draft-eligible but not rated by Central Scouting; his performance is only a touch behind that of Fucale. Booth is also draft-eligible and was ranked second among North American goalies in the midterm rankings, but he’s two years younger than Fucale; there’s no way he should be outperforming a legitimate 19-year-old prospect. Brassard at least is the same age as Fucale, but he has now been passed over twice in the NHL Draft and isn’t a prospect of particular note.

It’s pretty damning. Fucale’s results playing for the same team as players with significant disadvantages in age and draft pedigree stink when compared. For two years he’s posted numbers that weren’t great but were difficult to judge given his competition in net; this year he’s getting lapped by guys who should be well behind him.

His value has fallen precipitously. He might be interesting as a reclamation project, a low-cost sweetener in a trade built on other players, but there’s no way that the Oilers or any other NHL team should be prioritizing his acquisition.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • pkam

    We should really thank Montreal for selecting Fucale with their #36 pick. Otherwise, that #37 pick would not have turned into Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev, Jackson Houck, Kyle Platzer, and Aidan Muir.

      • pkam

        True, and that includes Fucale.

        Yakimov is already in AHL, Slepyshev in KHL, Houck is the best ppg player in Vancouver Giants, Platzer is the best scorer in Owen Sound Attack and top 20 OHL scorer.

        Just ask yourself, will you trade this 5 players for Fucale today? Not a chance if you ask me, not even for just Yakimov and Slepyshev. Anyone of these two looks more promising than Fucale.

  • Young Oil

    “His value has fallen precipitously. He might be interesting as a reclamation project, a low-cost sweetener in a trade built on other players, but there’s no way that the Oilers or any other NHL team should be prioritizing his acquisition. ”

    Sooooo what your saying is expect MacT to make a hard play to acquire Fucale? And Bozak. speaking of… has anybody heard of a “good” trade rumour involving the Oilers? I don’t like anything i’ve heard yet. Sure would be nice to hear somebody’s interested in Nikitin, or Ference, or Schultz?? Lol what am i thinkin? There’s only one team that thinks like that! 🙁

  • Young Oil

    Interesting article. Fucale would be a decent prospect for any team trying to bolster their goaltending. IMO if we don’t acquire a proven number 1, then guys like Fucale would increase our odds of developing one. I really like the way MacT and co have created competition for spots at the pro level. Brossoit is sharp and could very well be a NHLer in the future but his only competition is an aging AHL veteran. Even without Fucale I believe the Oil could use one more young goalie to create some competition at the spot.

  • Rdubb

    In this readers opinion Matheson’s article’s have been getting worse over the years and he has gone from “facts” to “myths”. Since the Oilers glory days and all his in’s within the Oilers organization have gone by the wayside, Jim has lost most of his potent insiders. Now days he is left speculating without looking @ numbers and such and his article above is just another instance into this.
    Yes, Fucale was indeed convicted by Edm two years ago, but as Willis points out his numbers have actually gotten worse instead of better as he has aged. And, I don’t even think he should have been on the WJ team as we have a great young tender playing for the Oil Kings who has out performed Fuclae at every turn these past seasons but was passed even on an invite, why? Mainly because he was from the west and the coaching staff was all from the east.
    How can a tender who won the memorial cup, was a top league goalie, memorial cup #1 goalie, has (had) some of the best numbers among all #1 goalies in juniors get passed over? POLITICS!!! It’s sad to see that politics plays such a major part in junior hockey, but it does. But i guess a coach will opt for a goalie who he see’s far more often compared to a goalie that me may only see live once or twice a yr…
    It is a good thing that our Canadian Juniors had those returning vets at this past WJHT because our goalies sure didn’t steal the show like they were supposed to.
    It still baffle’s my mind how a coaching staff can go with 2 goalie’s right off the bat without even inviting another one to see how he does. Maybe next yr they’ll only invite 12 forwards, 6 defence and 2 goalies to the group, and then take a few as spares to watch from the press box?

  • Young Oil

    You Oilers fans make me laugh.

    You had a goalie in Dubnyk but for a multitude of reasons (such as incompetent management group, lack of NHL talented Dmen & other minor ineptitudes) he was tarred & feathered out of Deadmonton. You reap your crop.

    But now that the Coilers are at .500 under Todd, it’s all sunshine and butterflies in ON…..

    GO HABS!!!! A real NHL winner.

    • camdog

      Fun fact the incompetent Oilers have been to more Stanley Cup Final then the Habs have been in the last 10 years. If you want to call your team a winner, cheer for the Kings, Hawks or Bruins, you know a team that has actually won something in the last 20 years…

    • pkam

      The most exciting thing for Oilers fans this year has to be sweeping the Habs. They don’t even dare to start Price against us and hoping a Priceless Habs will give them a little better chance.

      Priceless? yes, priceless.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Jonathan…
    I only have dim memories of Fucale at the WJC and I’ve never seen him play a game of major-junior so, yeah, I guess I have to take his statistics at face value.

    And, um, I’m not sure how much “value” there is on the face, Jonathan. You normally make pretty good use of statistics in your articles – I’m not sure if you’ve made much of a convincing case.

    What I’m see is a microscopic dip in save percentages between his draft year and draft+1, and then a bit more of a dropoff in draft+2. Other than that, his draft year and draft+1 seasons were outstanding, wins-wise, and draft+2 doesn’t look all that bad considering he’s been traded.

    But the numbers have all kinds of unanswered questions that you don’t address. Is there any indication of what the teams are like? How much turnover did they have? How old are the defencemen on his team? How many shots is he seeing a game? Better yet, what are coaches, scouts and/or media in the Q saying about how he’s playing? I know you generally eschew the “saw-him-good” method of scouting, but is there anything anecdotal to back up a suggestion of “zero-interest?”

    To me, if you’re going to shoo a team away from a goaltending prospect, you need to come up with something better than a dip of 21 save-percentage points in his fourth season of major junior. My guess is the kid’s probably got a bit of the case of “junior blues.” He’s about to turn pro and is essentially playing out the string.

    And that brings me to my next point. Fucale’s still got a pro career ahead of him.

    They say that good baseball players aren’t born, they’re manufactured. They get drafted and they’re put in the minors for years and years and built into a professional.

    If there’s any position in hockey that’s remotely similar to that adage, it’s that of the goaltender.

    There’s still lots of opportunity for Fucale to learn, develop and become a professional goalie. There’s “zero indication” that he’s a draft bust or a declining prospect. If a professional goalie can be made out of Devan Dubnyk, surely the system can produce one from Fucale.

    • pkam

      What are you talking about? JW is using the other goalies in Quebec and Halifax as comparison. So these 3 other goalies are playing behind the same team as Fucale. How can you get better comparison than this?

      19-year-old Eric Brassard is the best candidate for comparison as he is traded from Quebec to Halifax for Fucale.

      Quebec:
      Brassard – 3.52 GAA and 0.899 SV% in 17G,
      Fucale – 3.03 GAA and 0.878 SV% in 12G

      Halifax:
      Brassard – 2.40 GAA and 0.912 SV% in 7G,
      Fucale – 3.20 GAA and 0.890 SV% in 24G

      • Spaceman Spiff

        Right, yes, I got that … but what I’m talking about is this: Those numbers don’t tell an entire story.

        What kind of starts was Fucale getting? Was he playing against better/worst competition? How much did the trade affect him? How much does he miss his girlfriend in Halifax?

        By the looks of it, the Remparts have a pretty decent record this year, so maybe that’s all that really matters.

        Again … I have no idea what kind of pro career that Fucale will have, nor do I have any good feelings about the Oilers ability to develop a goalie in the minors (which might be a future story-angle should MacT trade for this guy).

        But I do know that it’s perhaps a tad premature to write off a guy who was drafted in the second round less than two years ago … who’s played in two WJCs … and who’s still in junior.

        “Zero interest” implies that there’s a complete bust of a prospect in Fucale and, I’m sorry, at this point, I disagree.

        • pkam

          “How much did the trade affect him? How much does he miss his girlfriend in Halifax?”

          Are you serious? You want a player who can’t get over this kind of stress? If this stuff can affect his game, I don’t want any of him.

          And JW didn’t say ‘Zero interest’, he said ‘Close to zero interest’. So JW didn’t imply he is a complete bust, just close to.

          And please read the last paragraph, which is JW’s conclusion. And I can’t agree more with that conclusion.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    Knowing what a goalie will do as a pro is a bit like nailing jello to a wall. It is the one position that is an absolute crapshoot at best. So much of playing the position is mental (especially in today’s game), knowing tendencies, proper positioning etc.

    Kind of a shame. I grew up when goalies had flair & style. Dryden, Esposito, Parent, Cheevers, Vachon. Then Grant Fuhr & his unreal athleticism and aggressive style. Today it’s all about size & positioning.

  • A-Mc

    Brassard is undrafted? If the Oilers want another goalie prospect, why aren’t they grabbing him for free?

    Performance is performance and right now it looks like he’s performing better than some fairly high profile goalie picks of years passed.

  • Sal-Sational

    So why isn’t anyone talking about MacT Being fired…. His Inability to put up a NHL caliber team at the beginning of the year provided us with yet another year of disappointment should be held against him. We were playing with 2 NHL ready Centers, 2 NHL D-men, 2 Back up goalies, an AHL Coach, not to mention giving Petry’s money to Nikitin, burning a year of Leon Draisaitl ELC.
    He should not be allowed to make any further decision in regards to player personal for this team.

  • pkam

    I’ve watched Fucale for a few years in Halifax and I see him as a big game goalie. His save percentage may not be spectacular but he seems to make the big save when it’s needed the most. We’ll see how he translates to the NHL but he looks like a pretty good goalie. Will he push out Price in Montreal? NO! But might be good for Edmonton’s prospect pool.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I say take a chance on him. Goalies do not develop in a straight line. He was the best goalie Canada had in his age group for a couple years at least.

    The fact he has had an off year should do nothing to make us disinterested. Instead he is now available and should be much much cheaper.

    And talking about Carey Price; it wasn’t so long ago people were wondering if he was going to play his way out of his funk. I don’t agree with everything Bob Stauffer says but one thing he is right about… the only time you get a crack at a highly rated goalie is when he’s struggling!