WHO IS THE BEST GOALIE IN THE 2015 DRAFT?

What we don’t know about goalies is a lot. When scouts talk about forwards or defensemen, or we read an online scouting report, we come away with some idea about the player. He’s fast and small, or big and slow, etc. Goalies? Who would play you in the movie? It’s difficult to figure out what scouts look for and the verbal we get from scouting services is either so technical it’s impossible to understand or it sounds like what we might say when asked the same questions.  The entire idea of projecting goalies is voodoo. What’s a fan to do?

For me, as a fan of the game for over 40 years, the scouting report for goaltenders is something I usually skim over. Why? Once I’ve read the height and weight, nothing else really rings true. “He plays his angles well” sounds like something you could say about any goalie and “tends to be inconsistent” can be said about any teenager ever born.

What then, can a fan look at with an eye to future success? Not much, really. I like to look at a goalie’s save percentage and even that tends to be a moving target.

Take Zach Fucale as an example. If you recall, he’s the guy Edmonton wanted badly in 2013 and then traded out when he was taken by the Montreal Canadiens. Fucale’s pre-draft fame (or a lot of it) came from Craig Button, who was a very successful scout and is an excellent source of information for draft fans.

Fucale’s success since draft day has not come, if we use save percentage.

  • 2012-13 55GP, .909SP (this was the draft year)
  • 2013-14 50GP, .907SP (draft +1)
  • 2014-15 41GP, .885SP (draft +2)

Now a few things: The QMJHL has been fertile ground for goalies going back exactly forever. There were five goalies this season with a SP over .900 (among starters) and young Fucale could recover and go on a 10-year run with percentages in the .920’s. He didn’t stop as many pucks this season as the last two years and that could be for all kinds of reasons.

Goalies. We simply don’t know. 

WHO ARE THE BEST GOALIES IN THE 2015 DRAFT?

As we continue the least informative post in the history of ON, you’ll be shocked to find out I don’t know. I can tell you there are some impressive goalies based on save percentage:

  1. Daniel Vladar (Cze2) 8GP, .933
  2. Matej Tomek (NAHL) 33GP, .928
  3. Evan Smith (NAHL) 15GP, .923
  4. Adin Hill (WHL) 46GP, .921
  5. Ilya Samsonov (MHL) 18GP, .918
  6. Veini Vehvilanen (SML-JR) 17GP, .918
  7. Denis Godla (Slovakia U20) 16GP, .915
  8. Michael McNiven (OHL) 24GP, .914
  9. Ryan Bednard (NAHL) 37GP, .913
  10. Jordan Papirny (WHL) 59GP, .910
  11. Chris Birdsall (USHL) 30GP, .910
  12. Felix sandstrom (Swe Super Elite) 14GP, .907
  13. MacKenzie Blackwood (OHL) 51GP, .906
  14. Ryan Toth (WHL) 56GP, .904
  15. Callum Booth (QMJHL) 41GP, .900
  16. Luke Opilka (USHL) 14GP, .900
  17. Samuel Montembeault (QMJHL) 52GP, .891

Now, what can we tell from this list? And don’t say “find out who Nashville likes and take that guy!” because everyone has probably tried and failed. First, the NAHL either has crappy shooters or a flock of great goalies. My sense is the answer is probably somewhere in between.

Who would I take? I like the sounds of Vladar, Tomek, Samsonov and Adin Hill. I’ve seen Papirny good. After that? No idea. I can say that Blackwood—ranked No. 1 mid-term by Central Scouting—doesn’t look especially good.

That’s where it gets complicated for me. Remember when we discussed the NAHL’s shooters? Well, that’s kind of the problem for NHL scouts. If Blackwood is facing Connor McDavid and this Tomek fellow is facing less impressive players, how do we suss out the difference and apply it to the goalies?

No idea at all. I think my list would be:

  1. Vladar
  2. Tomek
  3. Hill
  4. Samsonov

because they all played a lot (or enough) and their save percentages are among the best in the league. However, if the Oilers draft MacKenzie Blackwood, are they wrong?

That’s the issue I have with drafting goalies. I think the best plan is probably taking one every year in the third round and trying to sign college goalies to fill out the depth chart and maybe catch lightning in a bottle.

Thoughts?

    • bwar

      If I remember correctly Godla was impressive at the world juniors. Beyond that no clue whatsoever when it comes to goalie’s. I think that makes me about as qualified as your average Oiler’s scout.

    • Serious Gord

      Drafting for a number one goalie is an option that only teams with an established number one already can afford – it gets them in line for a replacement to the current number one.

      All other teams – those looking for a number one – should try and aquire a passable number one from a team that has one and another goalie of number one ability or potential and (hopefully) cap troubles.

    • Spurzey

      Remember pogge he was pretty good at his juniors as well…remember he isn’t the first prospect that didnt pan out but I don’t think he even played one game in the NHL. Goalies are a crap shoot

    • The Soup Fascist

      Drafting a goaltender in the first two rounds is, for the most part a fools game. If you look over the last 15 or so years of NHL drafts there are typically 4 to 6 goalies taken in the first two rounds. For every Carey Price there are five guys named Blackburn, Montoya, Chet Pickard, Irving and Leclaire.

      These kids take so long to develop that even if you do “choose wisely” they often have been moved to other teams by the time they develop into solid pros – Rask (Toronto), Bishop (St. Louis) or Varlamov (Washington).

      Even look at a guy that did work out – sort of – M. A. Fleury was a first overall. He has been a starter for several years and did win a cup. So he is a success. But it sure seems like he wore the goat horns a number of years in playoffs. I hate when people play the “hindcast the draft” game but there were a TON of great players in that draft. Would the Pens have won more Stanley Cups taking an Eric Staal, Ryan Suter, Brent Seabrook or Ryan Getzlaf and taking Corey Crawford (the 2nd goalie drafted in 2003) in the 2nd round?

      Because of the youth of these kids and the mental demands of the position drafting a goalie early is buying a pig in a poke. In answer to your question, “who is the best goalie in the 2015 draft?” The answer is – it doesn’t matter. The odds are great it won’t be the one who is best in five years when it matters.

    • freelancer

      Not as familiar with the Czech leagues so excuse my ignorance, but Vladar’s save percentage seems very skewed because of the small sample size. What about him is so enticing?

    • Serious Gord

      8 games played in the Czech league? Is that really enough to evaluate someone? I agree its a crap shoot when it comes to goalies, but consistency is so important so I would think it critical to have at least 40 games to properly evaluate.

      I think the NHL draft age is too young anyway. Especially for goalies. Virtually impossible to scout them at such a young age.

    • vetinari

      What we need is a goalie equivalency for each league like we have for skaters. That may help…throw in a little voodoo and I’m sure you could come up with some good goalie draft picks!

      • Gordie Wayne

        Whoever solves that riddle will have a solid career ahead of him (or her). There are too many “other”-influence variables to be able to put up the same metrics that you can with skaters (the equivalencies of which are also far from predictive).

        Here’s the thing – there are so many goalies in the world and so few starter jobs that nobody can say with any certainty what is required. Except for the most extreme outliers you are trying to draft 18 year-olds who will not be a regular starter until they are 25 or 26. That is an incredible period of development – unlike any other in sport.

        Someone put up the Nashville list and maybe we can quantify Chet Pickard as a bust, but can we say any of those picks were bad picks? None of them were going to start as long as Mason or Rinne held the reins. I think their strategy is the right one – get as many lottery tickets as you can, as cheaply as you can, and then hire the best damn goalie coach you can find to develop them in that elephant-like gestation period.

    • vetinari

      Goalies are tough but I do agree that it would be a good strategy to use a second to fifth round pick on at least one goalie a year and let them mature a bit in the lower leagues before signing them.

      My draft list would likely be Vladar, Hill, Tomek, Samsonov, and Smith. I would be prepared to burn a second rounder on Vladar (can’t beat his size and compete level) but everyone else, a late third rounder at best if not the fourth round.

    • monsterbater

      For Fucale, losing MacKinnon his draft +1 year most likely did not help and his +2 year also losing Drouin probably didn’t help… Not that one player makes a team but players that good make a difference. Fucales draft year they were a powerhouse team by his +2 they weren’t anymore. So does this mean that Fucale was overrated right off the hop? (Look at fleury, a bit over rated but on a good club puts up good stats)

    • Spoils

      MacT seems to believe that 2 decent backups is the same as having one starting goaltender.

      Can we please go out and sign or trade for an established starting goaltender?

      and yes, we should have a strategy to evaluate and draft goalies and develop goalies…

    • monsterbater

      The big thing with goalies I believe is that since they are voodoo there is no reason to waste a higher pick on them when the likelihood of success is about even no matter where they are drafted. Taking goalies heading to college and in Europe seems the most beneficial since they can play for several years before you have to decide on giving them an ELC. You lose some control with playing time this way, but you get that with junior goalies too until they turn pro.

      The point of analytics is to take advantage of market inefficiencies, which is hard to do with goalies. That said I think taking a goalie in the top 3 rounds is foolish. Take the BPA and create competition at all levels of organization development. goalie prospects can be had fairly easily since all seem to have at least one year of drop off. Exploit that and hope to hit on one every few years or hit on one of your later drafted goalies.

      I am rambling now but I hope my point is clear

    • Armchair_Gm

      I like vladar and samsonov. If the shooters are better dependig on the quality of the league than we can assume the défenses also vary from league to league.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Here are my thoughts. First, changing out the piece between the pipes won’t matter until actual defencemen play for the oil. Second, when scouts talk about small, fast players everyone listens. When they talk about big, slow players only MacT listens(Draisaitl). The rest of the league has players as fast as Eberle and 25% larger. This isn’t the ’80s when Denis Savard could skate laps around Brad Marsh. Modern big men have to be able to scoot.

    • oiler_head

      Well I am not much of a critique on anything hockey – just a big fan. Living here in Portland, lets me watch and meet the Winterhawks.

      I’ve met Adin Hill (billeting with friends). He is a great kid for the brief interactions I’ve had with him.

      In net, he took over the #1 job this season from Brendan Burke, allowing the Winterhawks to trade Burke. In fact, it was evident last playoffs, how good Adin is. He took over the #1 job during the playoffs last year for the Hawks. He played great then and is playing great now. Was at the Winterhawks game last night and he was solid, posting a shutout (albeit, the T-birds weren’t shooting a whole hell of a lot).

      He is tall and lanky. He moves well in the net and plays conservatively. The best thing is the confidence he has in the net and the confidence he gives his team and us, the fans. After watching the Hawks for a few seasons, I haven’t really been concerned about weak goals or poor plays with Hill. Both Burke and Mac Carruth, before, were prone to big mental lapses (though Carruth had stronger teams in front of him to bail him out).

      I know nothing about rating goalies (let alone any hockey players), but the Oilers couldn’t hurt themselves getting Hill (plus I can get him to sign some jerseys…)

    • From an Oilers fan!

      I dont know who has him if anyone but that Massa in goal for Nebraska-Omaha in NCAA tourney is impressive. Thought the Norrish twins on defence for RIT were impressive as well.

    • Gordie Wayne

      @Lowetide said:

      “And don’t say “find out who Nashville likes and take that guy!” because everyone has probably tried and failed.”

      It is a bit of a misconception that Nashville knows what they are doing when drafting goalies.

      They hit a home run with Pekka Rinne selecting him 258th overall in the 8th round.

      Since 1999 they have selected 19 goalies and Pekka Rinne is obviously the best (the next 2 closest are Anders Lindback and Marek Mazanec and the jury is still out on them). There were even 5 years in there where they did not even select a goalie.

      I would never waste a first or second rounder on a goalie, as you said, it is just too much “voodoo” trying to project a goalie’s future.

      For reference, here are Nashville’s underwhelming selections since 1999:

      1999: Brian Finley 6th overall – 4 games played, Jan Lasak 65th overall 6 games played, Kyle Kettles 205th overall

      2000: Jure Penko 203rd overall

      2001: None

      2002: Mike McKenna 172nd overall – 22 games played, Matthew Davis 264th overall

      2003: Teemu Lassila 117th overall, Miroslav Hanuljak 213th overall

      2004: Kyle Moir 139th overall, Pekka Rinne 258th overall – 321 games played

      2005: None

      2006: Mark Dekanich 146th overall – 1 game played

      2007: Jeremy Smith 54th overall, Atte Engren 204th overall

      2008: Chet Pickard 18th overall, Anders Lindback 207th overall – 92 games played

      2009: None

      2010: None

      2011: Magnus Hellberg 38th overall – 1 game played

      2012: Marek Mazanec 179th overall – 25 games played

      2013: Juuse Saros 99th overall, Janne Juvonen 203rd overall

      2014: None

    • CDNinATL

      The defense in front of a goalie has a major impact on his numbers. You could put Carie Price in front of our porous defense and he’d look like crap.

      I know from watching my son play (he plays goal on a single A peewee team), that what you think happens is wrong. I video tape most of his games and take a look at them with him to see what really happened. When his defense isn’t playing properly, he will just get hammered. But when they’re on top of their game, his job is a lot easier.

      As for who to take, grab a goalie in 3+ round. And maybe that goalie from Boston U. He’s been looking good and Edmonton is on his final list.

    • Gordie Wayne

      Another note, the Edmonton Oilers selected 13 goalies from 1999-2014, while the Predators selected 19 goalies. Maybe the Oilers just have to spend a few more lottery tickets on goalies (rounds 4-7), so they too can try and hit a Pekka Rinne type home run.

      Again, goalies = voodoo!

    • TKB2677

      Here is a question.

      Every time someone talks about goalies, there is always talk about them being “different breeds, different cat’s” or goaltending can be a bit of a mystery or not an exact science. It almost seems like unless you draft a goalie ridiculously high and they are a can’t miss (which rarely happens), it almost seems like a team wins the lottery if they draft a guy and he actually pans out. So if drafting a goalie and having him work out is basically a shot in the dark, why draft one?

      Is a team not better off to use the draft pick on a forward or defenceman then sign a free agent that doesn’t get drafted? (example Martin Jones). OR Trade for a prospect goalie from a team that either has an established longer term starter or maybe thinks a prospect is stalling out?

      The Oilers top prospect right now – Broisoit- was drafted by Calgary and they traded for.

      The Oilers are taking abuse over Dubnyk and his miraculous arrival FINALLy. He’s 28 yrs old. The Oilers drafted him 14th overall in 2004. They put 10 YEARS of development into the guy. Now there are all kinds of potential reasons why he didn’t totally pan out for Edmonton. Some are on the player, some on the team but regardless, they invested 10 yrs into him before saying enough was enough. If Dubnyk was a forward or a Dman, would any team invest 10 yrs into developing a player? Not a chance, they would have cut him years earlier.

      So is it worth drafting a goalie knowing that most likely they won’t be ready until they are at least 24-25 (so 7 yrs)or do you not use a draft pick on a goalie and get goalie prospects other ways?

    • BlazingSaitls

      Drafting a goalie every year is wise, but it doesn’t help the Oilers current situation. With the UFA goalie market less than impressive, there’s maybe a trade possibility out there: Mrazek, Grubauer, Talbot, Markstrom, Gudlevskis or Jones?

    • BlazingSaitls

      Just pick the top Finnish G prospect

      They take pride in developing goalies

      ……kinda like Venezuela’s claim to fame and Beaty pageant contestants …look it up…GRRRRRR

      • CDNinATL

        That’s because the Fins actually have minor league coaches know a thing or 2 about coaching goalies. Them and the Swedes actually do it right.

        Hockey USA does nothing. That actually pisses me off because I live in the US and my son is a peewee goalie. We have to pay extra just give my son the proper coaching he needs and deserves.

        Hockey Canada is modeling their goalie training after what Finland does but it doesn’t take effect until next season. And we won’t see the results of that for years.

    • BlazingSaitls

      The organization straight up admitted it has no idea how to scout goaltenders when it informed us that Chabot was the main man behind the curtain scouting and recommending goaltenders to management since he was hired.

      Yikes.