It will be slim pickings from a thin goalie crop during the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo. Here at the 11 best.
The 2016 draft is likely to be remembered for its bounty of highly skilled forwards and swift, playmaking defensemen.
But goalies? Not so much.
"Down year, definitely," one scout told SI.com of this year's draft-eligible netminders. "I can make a very good case for passing on the lot of them."
He's not alone with that opinion. This class of keepers lacks both quality and quantity. An average of 22 goalies are selected every year; the smart money is on the under this time around. "I'm not sure there's anybody we really like," another scout said.
That attitude should lead hopefuls who are planning on attending to skip Friday's first round and rest up for what could be a long wait on Saturday during rounds two through seven. Sure, there's a chance a team might use a very late first-rounder to take one, but it's more likely that this will be the fourth time in the past six drafts that the first goalie didn't come off the board until after the opening round was closed.
That's not to say there's no potential in this class. There definitely is. But blue chippers? Not a chance. Some, like Carter Hart, have a terrific set of tools, but are average sized at a time when the trend is toward behemoths. There are others who have that ideal frame, like Evan Fitzpatrick or Joseph Woll, but lack consistency or mental toughness. And there are others who project well, but come with a heavy risk of washing out.
There's also a heavy risk involved in projecting when these players might be selected. With the field made up the way it is, there's a wide divergence of opinion regarding not just where players are ranked, but whether they belong on this list. There's a fairly clear group of three at the top of the class: Hart, Fitzpatrick and Swedish import Filip Gustavsson. Beyond them, though? It's all personal preference and conjecture. And that's how they're ordered here: not the order in which we think they'll be taken (we'll save that for our mock draft later this week), but one that reflects how we think a pick invested in them might pay off down the road.
Take a look...
1. Carter Hart, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
At 6' 1", 185 pounds, Hart lacks the size that teams are looking for in a goalie, but there's no denying how hard he'll battle to make a stop. He plays a strong technical game, and boasts lightning quick reflexes and an elite glove hand. “He's just an athlete,” one scout said. “He plays with a lot of confidence. He can beat you with his feet or his hands. Appropriately aggressive, I'd say. Good on his angles.” Hart's build suggests he has a long development path ahead of him, but his attitude says don't rule him out.
2. Tyler Parsons, London Knights (OHL)
Early in the season, Parsons' stock suffered from Grant Fuhr Syndrome. He was undervalued in the minds of some scouts because he benefited from playing behind a powerhouse team that scored almost at will. But as the year progressed, his ability to make the big stop at key moments won over the doubters. One scout compared him to Brian Elliott, saying, “There's nothing about his game that really stands out [other than] his poise under pressure [and] his reliability. He just stops pucks.”
3. Filip Gustavsson, Lulea (Sweden)
The top-rated European netminder made his name with an unforgettable 54-save performance in a 6–5 win over Canada in the semis of the U-18s, but scouts were more impressed by his six-game performance in the SHL. Gustavsson went 4-2 with a .910 save percentage and 2.17 GAA with the big club after posting a .893 save percentage and 3.22 GAA in 20 games with his junior club. Seems like he can elevate his game when needed, but that raises questions about consistency. He's closer to ideal size (6' 2", 185) and plays a solid technical game, but there's muted enthusiasm for his potential. “Outside shot at becoming a starter ... way outside,” one scout told SI.com. “Reads the play well and has good quickness,” said another. “He looks like he'll play, but when and how well? He's a project.”
4. Evan Fitzpatrick, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
One of the highest compliments you can pay a goalie is to say he gives his team a chance to win every night ... and it's one thing you never hear about Fitzpatrick. The physical tools are there for him to be a top-tier netminder—check out his 73-save effort against Shawinigan in the QMJHL playoffs—but there are questions about his focus and his commitment. “You can almost see a bad goal rattling around the inside of his head,” one scout said. Still, there might not be a goalie with more upside in this year's class.
5. Colton Point, Carleton Place Canadiens (CCHL)
The book on Point begins with a memorable 107-save performance in a triple-OT playoff win with the Midget AAA North Bay Trappers last spring. He put together a solid rookie season in the CCHL (an Eastern Ontario-based Junior A league that's graduated Hall of Famers like Larry Robinson and Steve Yzerman), leading the circuit in goals-against average (2.16) while guiding the Canadiens to a championship. One scout praised Point's composure and focus, while another noted his bouts of inconsistency. He's likely to slide into the fourth round before a team takes a flyer on him. Point will play for Colgate next season.
6. Joseph Raaymakers, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
He's been the backup in the Soo for the past two seasons, and hasn't put up particularly impressive numbers in either of them (3.61 GAA and .891 save percentage this season). But he was a dominant keeper coming into the OHL, and there are hints of that Jonathan Quick-style game every time he plays. He might be a sleeper.
7. Wouter Peeters, EC Salzburg (Austria)
Speaking of sleepers, there might not be one bigger than Peeters who is angling to become the first Belgian ever to be drafted into the NHL. The 6' 4", 205-pound beast spent last season in Austria, and has signed a deal that will potentially see him play with Finland's Jokerit in the KHL next season. Central Scouting calls him “a diamond in the rough [with] a lot of potential,” with the operative word being rough. With better coaching, and a higher caliber of competition, Peeters could soar next season ... or crash and burn. It wouldn't surprise anyone to see a team take a chance in the third round, or to see him overlooked entirely.
8. Dylan Wells, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Big things were expected this year from Wells, who was coming off a gold-medal performance for Team Canada at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka tournament, where he posted a 0.48 GAA and .971 save percentage. He didn't deliver. Central Scouting noted that “the aggressive, athletic netminder seemed too timid.” Another scout suggested Wells over-committed too often. Both are issues that can be addressed with some intense coaching, but his inability to build on that international success could see him plummet.
9. Zach Sawchenko, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
He got off to a great start, but struggled down the stretch as his GAA ballooned to 3.04 and his save percentage dropped to .916. Not bad numbers considering how routinely the Warriors were outshot, but not the best way to set himself up for the draft, either. At 6' 1", 179 pounds he's not a player who can rely on size to cover the net. Instead, he leans on his athleticism and competitiveness. He doesn't always look in control, but he'll battle hard to make a stop.
10. Joseph Woll, USA NTDP (USHL)
Another top goalie prospect to emerge from the St. Louis Junior Blues program, Woll is a big body (6' 3", 198) with a high skill level but has an aggravating propensity for letting in a bad goal at a backbreaking moment. If a team believes that's only a matter of maturity and values his athleticism, it might grab him in the fourth round.