2019 NHL Draft

Top 10 Goalies

Steve Kournianos  |  05/25/2019 |  Nashville  |  

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NASHVILLE (The Draft Analyst)— The NHL draft has come a long way since its inception in the 1960’s, when cigar-chomping suits handled their business midweek in a smoke-filled conference room in Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  Today, the draft has evolved into a critical offseason money maker for the league; one that offers fans, not to mention the prospects and their families, an interactive experience over the course of a weekend in one of the NHL’s 31 cities. The idea behind the draft, however — remains unchanged — teams spend a whole year scouting Europe, Canada and the United States in search of the world’s premier teenage talent who one day might change the fortunes of their franchise.

Still, we’ve entered a sort of new era when it comes to draft. Not necessarily for aforementioned changes in marketing, operations or logistics; but more for how teams have started to distance themselves from traditional draft tenets. Whether it’s generational or cyclical, or both, the fact is that today’s prospects — evaluated, ranked and ultimately drafted into NHL organizations — are smaller, quicker, and possibly more skilled than their draft-age counterparts from 15-20 years ago.

One of the biggest changes seen in recent years has been in goal. Teams are no longer willing spend high picks on even the the most elite goaltending prospect in a given draft year, and most seem perfectly content with waiting until the deepest stages of the draft to grab them. Need proof? For starters, take a look at drafting trends for goalies between 1993 — the beginning of the goal-starved “Dead Puck Era” — up until 2006. In those 17 drafts, teams with a top-15 pick selected a netminder 18 times, including two first overall picks. But for whatever reason, only one goalie — Jack Campbell to Dallas in 2010 — was taken as high as the top 15. Of the 177 goalies drafted since 2010, only four went in the first round and none higher than 19th overall.

Part of the reason for this sudden change is the success of current star goalies who were drafted in later rounds. With former third-round pick Jordan Binnington of St. Louis facing Boston’s Tukka Rask — a 2005 first rounder — in this week’s Stanley Cup matchup, it marks only the second time in the last six Finals that at least one of the starting goalies was a first-round selection. Since 2012, 12 of the 16 goalies in the finals were picked outside the first round. The table below reveals the goalie matchups in the Finals since 2003 — the last time both netminders were first rounders.

SCF Goalie Drafted Goalie Drafted
2019 Jordan Binnington 3rd Tukka Rask 1st
2018 Brayden Holtby 4th Marc-Andre Fleury 1st
2017 Matt Murray 3rd Pekka Rinne 7th
2016 Matt Murray 3rd Martin Jones Undrafted
2015 Corey Crawford 2nd Ben Bishop 3rd
2014 Jonathan Quick 3rd Henrik Lundqvist 7th
2013 Corey Crawford 2nd Tukka Rask 1st
2012 Jonathan Quick 3rd Martin Brodeur 1st
2011 Tim Thomas 9th Roberto Luongo 1st
2010 Antti Niemi Undrafted Michael Leighton 6th
2009 Marc-Andre Fleury 1st Chris Osgood 3rd
2008 Chris Osgood 3rd Marc-Andre Fleury 1st
2007 J.S. Giguere 1st Ray Emery 4th
2006 Cam Ward 1st Dwayne Roloson Undrafted
2004 Nikolai Khabibulin 9th Miikka Kiprusoff 6th
2003 Martin Brodeur 1st J.S. Giguere 1st

This year’s draft crop — still years away from proving themselves at the NHL level — still is one of the strongest in several years. Not only is there depth in goal from both the European and North American pools, but there is one prospect — Team USA’s Spencer Knight — who has been labeled as the best goaltending prospect since Montreal’s Carey Price went fifth overall in 2005. Knight, unlike the top-rated goalies from the last 10 or so drafts, is expected to go high in the first round, and may very well be in the top 10 on most internal team draft boards. The question is whether or not one team is willing to buck the trend and take Knight in the top half of the first round.

1. Spencer Knight

39gp, 32-4-0, 2.36 GAA, 913 SV% | 6’3, 192| 4/19/01 | Catches Left | Darien, Connecticut

Easily the most heralded North American goalie prospect since Carey Price some 14 years prior, Knight is looking to buck the draft trend of teams taking goalies no earlier than the late first round. Blessed with size, quickness and an intense desire to succeed, the Connecticut-born backstop who grew up idolizing Jonathan Quick is more stylistically similar to Price and Henrik Lundqvist – cool and calm with noticeable confidence as he makes difficult saves look routine. Knight has strong wrists and is an incredible puck handler, possibly more advanced than Ron Hextall during his draft year and easily more active than Martin Brodeur in 1990.

Knight is a classic butterfly goalie who covers the lower corners exceptionally well. His Reverse-VH is textbook, and although he occasionally leaves gaps (like all goalies), you see him physically try to keep his extended arm tight to the post, leaving only a small opening near-post high. Knight in the RVH also seems to favor tucking his skate inside the post or dug into it as opposed to overlapping. His stick is very active, and in the RVH he positions it to break up centering feeds back into the strong side instead of putting them in the low slot. Knight’s overall rebound control is impeccable – if he sees the shot, it’s getting steered into the corner or gobbled up by his glove. He rarely puts a low or medium-danger shot back into a prime scoring area, and if he does, he pounces on them like a cat.

Knight is not overly aggressive but will challenge shooters from above the blue paint. His blocker-hand quickness is excellent, yet he can be beaten glove-side with frequency from in between the dots. It appears to be more timing and positioning technique rather than a lack of quickness or miscalculation. Knight makes up for this, however, with advanced tracking and anticipation, plus his net awareness helps him cut down angles. His lower-body muscle strength is incredible, as pivots and pushes simultaneously before stopping on a dime to prevent overcommitting.

2. Mads Sogaard (Medicine Hat, WHL)

37gp, 19-8-2, 2.64 GAA, .921 SV% | 6’7, 196 | 12/13/00 | Catches Left | Aalborg, Denmark

An imposing import with quickness rarely seen in a 6-foot-7 frame, Sogaard was resilient through the peaks and valleys of a teenage goaltender’s draft year, finishing fourth in save percentage (.921) among those who appeared in 30 or more games and being named to the WHL’s Second All-Star Team. He bounced back from a nightmarish 11-goal drubbing to Canada to finish strong at the under-20 world junior championship, then recovered from a hip injury in January to carry Medicine Hat to the playoffs, where he performed heroically under intense pressure in an opening-round loss to Edmonton.

Size notwithstanding, the most important aspect of Sogaard’s netminding is his quickness. His initial push is explosive, even if it carries him well across the crease. Luckily for Sogaard, he wields a massive, rapier-like pad to cover the lower half in the event he overcommits. His initial-save recovery also is swift, although he might lose the net more than he’d probably like to. Sogaard’s size helps him cover gaps he may not know exist, and he can track movement and shot release above crease traffic rather than fighting around bodies. He likes to stay hunched and low to the ground when challenging shooters, usually from inside the blue paint, thus revealing the sizable five-hole. Sogaard’s reads, anticipation, stick positioning and pad quickness all combine to plug that gap immediately, either by going post-to-post or facing a chance in close. He doesn’t seem to have a preference in pad, arm or stick positioning when in the VH or RVH, nor do his pads stay perpendicular for long. Sogaard likes to stay on his feet and remain active in the crease, plus he’s comfortable handling the puck behind the net for clean handovers after dump-ins.

3. Hugo Alnefelt (HV71 J20, Superelit)

24gp, 2.59 GAA, .905 SVPCT | 6’2, 177 | 6/4/01 | Catches Left | Danderyd, Sweden

Atypical Swedish butterfly netminder with ideal size and quickness, Alnefelt was Sweden’s No. 1 for the under-18 Ivan Hlinka and world championship tournaments, where he led them to a silver and gold medal, respectively, including his 35-save performance in the U18 title game against Russia. He also put on a strong performance at the 2018 Junior Club World Cup in Russia, where he carried HV71’s undermanned U20 squad to the title match against host Lokomotiv.

Alnefelt has good length and seems comfortable in an upright stance. He is not an aggressive goalie, as he spends most of his time inside the blue paint and rarely challenges shooters above it. The only downside is he is susceptible to getting beat with deflections, yet his overall ability to block most of the net is a testament to his sound positioning and net awareness. Additionally, Alnefelt plays with confidence, appearing more as the one who influences shooters to change their angle rather than the other way around. Alnefelt’s lateral quickness is advanced, even if he opts for smaller steps rather than one big push. This prevents him from overcommitting and keeps him on his feet. If necessary, Alnefelt gets that far-post pad flush with the ice to blanket the lower half. He doesn’t use the RVH often, but he also isn’t necessarily married to the VH for post-side coverage. His rebound control is above-average, but his control of the blocker and ability to turn pucks into the corner without exposing the six-hole is as good as it gets for a teenage netminder. He also isn’t much of a puck handler and rarely goes behind the net to assist with dump-ins.

4. Hunter Jones (Peterborough Petes, OHL)

28 gp, 24-4, 3.31 GAA, .902 SV% | 6’4, 194 | 9/21/00 | Catches Left | Brantford, ON

A big, athletic butterfly netminder, Jones had an excellent first half before succumbing to the pressure of having a porous defense before him. He saw a ton of rubber in his first full year in the league, placing third in shots faced and posting a 10-7-3 record in games where he saw 35 or more. Jones has outstanding reflexes and reacts quickly to cover the far corners, and his razor-sharp focus helps him not only track pucks right into his crest, but also anticipate weak-side threats. His stick positioning, coverage and technique in the VH for such a young goalie at times looks textbook, but later in the year he showed a tendency to crouch lower and expose a sizeable chuck of the near-post top corner, especially during Peterborough’s quick first-round playoff exit. Still, you can count on Jones to stop the significant majority of shots he sees — if he gets beat from the circles, it usually takes the best shot a shooter can make. Knowing he’s going to get pelted on a nightly basis keeps him sharp from whistle to whistle, and his cat-like quickness makes his post-save recovery look as sharp as his initial set. Jones rarely ventures outside the crease to challenge shooters and does not use poke checks once pucks are within arm’s length. His rebound control for medium-danger shots is excellent, and he usually keeps rebounds from high-danger chances within stick reach.

5. Dustin Wolf (Everett Silvertips, WHL)

61gp, 41-15-4, 1.69 GAA, .936 SVPCT | 6’0, 156 | 4/16/01 | Catches Left | Tustin, CA

Wolf had big shoes to fill in Everett after assuming No. 1 duties from Carter Hart at the beginning of last season, and the native Californian made the transition seamless. Of course, it helped having the Silvertips’ tight-checking style before him, but Wolf proved he is anything but a system goalie. In addition to being named the CHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year, Wolf tied or led the WHL in games played (61), goals-against average (1.65), save percentage (.936), and wins (41). With all due respect to Prince Albert’s Ian Scott, Wolf did not have the benefit of an offense scoring an average of five goals a game, which played a role in Scott beating him out for the WHL’s Goalie of the Year Award. To put some context into his season, Wolf surrendered four goals or more in only six of his 61 appearance but faced less than 30 shots in 48 starts.

The most noticeable aspect of Wolf’s game is his calmness. His paddle and blocker consistently steer high-danger chances into the corner and facing a shooter in a danger area with an open lane keeps him deep in the crease and low to the ground. Staying crouched in the butterfly exposes sizable chunks of the upper half, but in the end, it’s all part of a deception scheme, as Wolf’s glove-hand quickness is rapier like. This tactic makes shooters alter their approach as the game progresses and attempts aimed at the lower half begin to pile up, albeit unsuccessfully. Wolf never loses the net, and his VH positioning with his skate and toe over the goal line works best for him. Unfortunately, there’s also so much post for a 6’0 goalie to cover, and he is susceptible to getting beat over the shoulder from below the circles. Wolf’s puck handling is above average, and he is willing to leave the net to attempt stretch passes, especially on the power play.

6. Lukas Parik (Liberec U20, ELJ)

32gp, 15-17-0, 2.85 GAA, .917 SVPCT | 6’4, 185 | 3/15/01 | Catches Left | Neratovice, Czech Rep.

One of the most active goalies in this draft class, Parik is an energetic butterfly-style netminder who served as the Czechs’ primary starter for all but one of their major under-18 events. Outside of a few clunkers in international tournaments, Parik has an impressive pre-draft resume that includes split duty between Extraliga Juniors and the adult-age Chance Liga. He has shown the ability to handle a high-volume workload, even though the action near his crease always seems chaotic. Parik manages to control the madness, mostly by using quick reflexes and dedication towards maintaining total awareness of his net and the puck before (or behind) him. He’ll put his share of rebounds right into the thick of things, but the key for Parik is actually stopping the puck, and you rarely see him out of position from falling asleep or guessing incorrectly.

Another consideration when dealing with Parik’s rebound control is his willingness to fight hard through screens while staying upright and covering the upper half with proper glove and blocker positioning. Parik uses the VH frequently, mostly because he stays on his pads once the puck moves below the circles. His reads during odd-man rushes are generally sound, and it’s the only situation when he will venture well beyond the top of the crease to play the shot from either circle. Parik also is an excellent stickhandler who is confident with the puck and is good for a stretch pass or two per game.

7. Isiah Saville (Tri-City Storm, USHL)

34gp, 25-4-3, 1.90 GAA, .925 SVPCT | 6’1, 193 | 9/21/00 | Catches Right | Anchorage, AK

The USHL’s Goalie of the Year and the very reason Team USA won gold at the World Jr. “A” Challenge, Saville is a poised netminder committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Far too often, Saville was a young man on a island, yet time and again he stood tall in the face of relentless pressure to backstop his team to victory. Saville is on par with Spencer Knight and Dustin Wolf in terms of consistency in technique and poise — he simply never gets rattled no matter how intense or chaotic the situation is to his immediate front. Although he has size and length, Saville is a butterfly goalie who likes to keep low to the ground and as deep in the crease as often as possible.

Saville’s footwork is phenomenal, beyond the typical post-to-post quickness. He stays on the balls of his feet and pushes/stops with the proper foot, and he combines multiple sharp movements without giving away positioning or structure. Saville on occasion will explode from inside his net to the top of the crease to challenge a high-danger shot attempt. His head-on-puck remains consistent with or without close-quarter screens, and you can see Saville fight feverishly to stay locked in on shooters. This prevents falling for slap or pump fakes, and you rarely see him overcommitting or guessing wrong.  Saville favors the RVH with a insignificant gap between his helmet and the post. He simply doesn’t get beaten with low-percentage shots and frequently uses his stick to break up centering feeds.

8. Colten Ellis (Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL)

46gp, 27-15-0, 2.47 GAA, .910 SVPCT | 6’1, 182 | 10/5/00 | Catches Left | Whycocomagh, NS

One of the QMJHL’s more successful goalies, Ellis was the critical piece in Rimouski’s stingy defenses. Mature and eager to improve, Ellis plays calm and poised in the crease. He is one of the more technically-sound butterfly goalies produced by the QMJHL in recent years, mostly because he mostly has a strong idea where the net is no matter the situation. In times of obvious desperation, Ellis remains in control and ensures every gap is plugged, even on second-chance attempts from in close. He too spends most of his matches inside the crease, with his fade back into the blue paint methodical.

Ellis uses the VH for play below the circles, but he should use the RVH more often since he looks to have mastered it the few times he uses it. Ellis has excellent rebound control, specifically when facing high-danger shots towards the upper half from straight away. This is part of his solid anticipation skills, confidence in his glove and blocker hands, and a willingness to prepare before games — if he gets beaten high early, he rarely gets beaten a second time.

9. Pyotr Kotchetkov (Ryazan, VHL)

18gp, 8-7-3, 2.13 GAA, .930 SVPCT | 6’3, 205 | 6/25/99 | Catches Left | Penza, Russia

An athletic double-overage goaltender who made a name for himself by producing two stellar performances on Canadian soil at the CHL-Russia Series in November and the under-20 world juniors in Vancouver last December. It was his play in the adult-age VHL. however, that may have solidified him as one of the top teenage goaltending prospects in the world. Despite being only 19, Kochetkov was Ryazan’s No. 1 during their playoff series with the heavily-favored Rubin, and he opened the postseason with a sparkling 56-save effort in an overtime loss.

Kochetkov is an active goalie who in the butterfly stays low to the shooter and consistently keeps his shoulders square. He stays deep in the crease on most occasions, peering out only to fight above screens. Kochetkov has quick feet as expected, but his shot-push technique is advanced for a young goalie. If he’s down after an initial save, rather than T-push from an upright position in response to cross-crease passes, Kochetkov looks and pivots simultaneously while dragging his pad to cover the lower half and seal gaps in the event a one-timer is labeled for the far post. This technique came in handy against the Canadian-trained CHL all stars who looked to beat him off the pass without success, and when they connected, pucks were gobbled up easily. His pad saves are powerful, so if he can’t steer a shot into the corner, he’ll blast it hard enough through the slot to prevent an easy lay-up for an opponent. Kochetkov tends to stay on his feet when pucks travel below the circles or behind the net, usually in the VH or a post lean with his stick positioned to block centering feeds. From a puckhandling standpoint, Kochetkov’s wrists are strong enough to deliver lengthy stretch passes, and he is not averse to going behind the net to try and break up hard rims.

10. Cameron Rowe (U.S. U18, NTDP)

35gp, 16-10-1, 3.40 GAA, .875 SVPCT | 6’2, 203 | 6/2/01 | Catches Left | Wilmette, IL

A big-bodied goalie with the unenviable position of being a backup to one of the game’s premier prospects, Rowe proved to be a worthy option to replace Spencer Knight as early as last year, when he led the then-U17 NTDP to a playoff series win over Chicago. His draft year has been a bit of a roller coaster, but keep in kind that most of his lackluster performances were either against superior NCAA competition or matches with a significant amount of garbage time. The good news is that Rowe is still a pup and incredibly raw. He has the ideal size and maintains his focus after his initial save, plus does a good job of battling through screens; obviously aided by his length and ability to track over or around smaller bodies near his crease.

Rowe’s butterfly technique shows consistencies, such as sealing up gaps in the blocking position, and denying as much room as possible in the reactive. Rowe looks good in the VH, covering as much as possible and tucking his toe and skate behind the near post. His tracking methods and hand-eye coordination are strong, as he follows the puck both into and out of his body with a keen eye for post-save dangers. Rowe, who is committed to North Dakota, is an aggressive puck handler with strong wrists who gambles quite often. He seems to struggle with the fine line between setting the puck up for a retreating defenseman and moving it up ice. This can cause confusion with handoffs, and several times Rowe’s overhandling of the puck got him into trouble.