Over the next couple months, we’re going to be focusing a lot on the Oilers crease.
Let’s start with the draft which has historically been a crapshoot when it comes to goaltenders. The unpredictability of the position coupled with varying psychological factors and a later development curve makes forecasting the future floor and ceiling of an 18 or 19-year-old netminder a daunting task, to say the least.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was the last first-rounder to really make an impact, and it still took the 19th overall pick in 2012 four seasons before he became a full-time NHLer. Some early picks used on goaltenders have worked out well in the past, Like Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price, while others, — Rick DiPietro and Pascal Leclaire, among others — weren’t quite “busts,” but they didn’t turn into anything near what many forecasters thought they would.
Because of this track-record of uncertainty, teams have really shied away from taking tendies in the early rounds of the draft despite how important, even crucial, it is for clubs to stock their system with quality netminders. Big-name free agent goalies rarely, if ever, hit the market, and acquiring a No. 1 through trade is nearly impossible — so hedging your bets at the draft and stocking the cupboards while hoping one of them pans out as your future starter is still the prominent route when it comes to acquiring crease talent.
Despite no clear-cut top choice, the Oilers will have a number of solid options to take a swing at this weekend in Dallas, and several have the potential to join the likes of Stuart Skinner and Dylan Wells as part of the next draft-acquired wave of goaltenders to join the team’s prospect ranks.
Here are a few of the best options available in goal this year, in no particular order:
Olivier Rodrigue, Drummondville, QMJHL — NHL Central Scouting No. 1 (North American goalies)
NHL Central Scouting Says: Rodrigue (6-foot-1, 159 pounds) can read the play well, offers controlled movements and his positional play is exceptional, according to Al Jensen of NHL Central Scouting. Though not a huge goalie, he plays bigger than his size and has great instincts. He went 31-16-2 with a 2.54 goals-against average, .903 save percentage and three shutouts in 53 games.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic Says: You never see him break out of his stance and always seems to be in control moving around the crease. He’s a very smart goalie who always seems to find a way to square up pucks and tracks pucks quite well. His quickness is ok, more average than above-average, as he’s a goalie who relies on his brain to make stops. You’d like to see him be a bigger goalie for his style of play, but he’s gotten the job done at the junior level.
Dobber Prospects Says: He’s an aggressive netminder who will dart out of the crease to defend shots from anywhere within his own end, and he’s proven to safely steer high-danger shots either into the corners or far from the low slot. Rodrigue’s stick is very active and times his poke checks very well, plus his ability to lock in on pucks throughout an entire cycle helps him interdict cross-crease passes from either corner. His glove hand and its positioning are a work in progress, which when coupled with a low silhouette makes him susceptible to get beaten upstairs, especially on the short side.
Lukas Dostal, Trebic, CZREP-2 — NHL Central Scouting No. 1 (International goalies)
NHL Central Scouting Says: He had a 1.40 GAA and .959 save percentage in seven playoff games for Czech Republic junior champion, Brno Under-20. Dostal (6-1, 158), who had a 3.34 GAA and .905 save percentage in five games for Czech Republic at the 2018 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, plays a smart game and has great athleticism and quickness. He describes himself as being calm and mentally focused.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic Says: He’s not a goalie who blows you away with highlight reel saves, but he’s very smart and technically sound. Dostal has this awareness to his game where he sees plays developing and can stop tough chances by making proper reads. I’ve seen more than one occasion where he stops a cross crease pass and made it seem simple. He can react fine to tough saves and battles when pucks get close to him, but I don’t find he’s able to get to pucks far away from his body. Dostal is also quite light, barely weighing 160 at the moment so he needs to bulk up quite a bit.
Dobber Prospects Says: Add Dostal to the list of “smaller” goalies whose quickness is a tremendous part of his overall ability to stop pucks. Dostal stays quite low in his butterfly and is willing to leave a good chunk of the net open when challenging shooters on the power play or during odd-man rushes. This tactic seems to lull forwards into thinking the young goalie is over-committing and susceptible to a backdoor or cross-crease pass, which gives off the impression that he causes more forced passes than medium or high-danger shots against.
Amir Miftakhov, Irbis Kazan, RUS-JR. — NHL Central Scouting No. 3 (International goalies)
NHL Central Scouting Says: Miftakhov (6-0, 158) likes to challenge shooters and plays a solid, aggressive style. He went 15-9-2 in 26 games in the Russian junior league with a 1.91 GAA, two shutouts, and a .934 save percentage. He also represented Russia at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic Says: He moves really quick in the net, has a great glove hand and can make the tough stops. While he has the dynamic athletic elements, Miftakhov also gets praise from goalie scouts for how smart he is and how sound his positional play is. His main issue is his size. He’s slightly on the short side for a goalie and isn’t that bulky. He gets beat high a little too much as a result, but you do see him try to read high shots so he can make saves standing up.
Dobber Prospects Says: The quickness of his pads, when combined with the positioning of both his blocker and glove hands, fools shooters into thinking they have a chance at beating him in conventional net targets. There a lot of Michael DiPietro to his game, meaning there’s a controlled violence about the way he not only stops pucks, but resets or recovers from initial chances around the net.
Kevin Mandolese, Cape Breton, QMJHL — NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 (North American goalies)
NHL Central Scouting Says: Mandolese (6-4, 180) is patient, poised and fundamentally sound. He has a huge presence in net and allows few holes. Mandolese was 15-13-2 with a 3.46 GAA and .884 save percentage in 37 games for Cape Breton (32-28-8).
Corey Pronman of The Athletic Says: Mandolese has a very safe feel to him as a prospect. He never wows you, but he’s 6-foot-4, smart and makes the stops he needs to kind of goalie. He’s calm in net, does a good job of squaring up shooters and not giving them much to shoot at. I think he does have a little explosiveness in his game. You see the odd great glove he makes going across his crease or away from his body but those tools grade out as average.
Dobber Prospects Says: Mandolese is a promising netminder with the misfortune playing behind a pathetic defense, who subjective to third and fourth chances with regularity. His athleticism and aggressiveness play against him at times, especially when the slot is habitually left uncovered and he’s doubling the efforts of a goalie with a good defense corps protecting him. Still, his initial post-save recovery is excellent and both his blocker and glove hand are very quick.
Jakub Skarek, Jihlava, CZREP — NHL Central Scouting: No. 2 (International goalies)
NHL Central Scouting Says: Skarek (6-3, 196) played five games for the Czech Republic, which finished fourth at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. He was the starter for Jihlava and finished 9-12-1 with a 2.42 GAA and .912 save percentage in 21 games in the Czech league. Skarek, who will likely play in Finland next season, is an athletic-style butterfly goaltender.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic Says: He’s shown enough intelligence in his game to be able to make a seamless transition to the pro game as a 17-year-old. He can be a little over-aggressive and his positioning will be off as a result, I’ve also talked to some goalie coaches who feel he’s a little too suspect on his glove hand, but the raw tools are there and I’d prefer my goalies to be too aggressive rather than no enough.
Dobber Prospects Says: He’s a classic butterfly goalie who handles the puck well and quickly challenges shooters above the crease. One thing that has impressed me is his glove-hand positioning in either the V/H (Vertical/ Horizontal) or RVH (Reverse Vertical/Horizontal) — Skarek keeps the glove directly above his pad to cover the upper half of the short side.
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