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.
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.
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.