Jordan Hollett in 2017; Kevin Mandolese in 2018; Mads Søgaard in 2019.
In the last three drafts, the Ottawa Senators have added a netminder to their prospect pool. Most often, it’s with a later-round pick — like we’ve seen with Hollett and Mandolese — but sometimes, the scouting staff will like a player so much that they’ll trade up to get him, like they did with Søgaard in the second-round this time last year.
Outside of the previously profiled Yaroslav Askarov, this year’s goalie group is more scarce than years past. That being said, every league and country still has their top talent, and in this post, you’ll see players profiled across Finland, Sweden, Ontario, the Czech Republic, Russia, and the U.S. Goaltenders are notoriously tricky to evaluate, and neither of us feel overly confident analyzing these players in the same in-depth way we usually do.
After all, a theme of this series has been: we’re not scouts, but we read a lot of them. Here’s what we could find on some of the netminders available in 2020 that stand out to us.
|Team||League||Height||Weight||Expected Range||NHL Rank|
|Kärpät U20||U20 SM-sarja||6'1"||205 lbs||47 - 85||#3 (Euro goalies)|
Finland has been an elite producer of NHL goaltenders per capita, with stars like Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask still playing regular minutes and names like Antti Raanta, Juuse Saros, and Joonas Korpisalo are ready to take the reins. Kärpät’s Joel Blomqvist is trying to be next in line as the top-ranked Finnish netminder for 2020, and a likely top-100 pick on draft day.
One of the main factors I weigh heavily when evaluating goalie prospects is their track record: do they have a history of stopping pucks for a long time? Blomqvist has done that, and is coming off of his best season to date.
As a 15-year-old, Blomqvist was just one of four starting goaltenders in Finland’s top U18 league and sported a respectable 0.912 save-percentage in 35 starts for the Vaasan Sport club. That caught the attention of Kärpät, who made 16-year-old Blomqvist their starter at the U18 level and watched him put up a league-leading 0.935 save-percentage in 19 starts — 0.10 points above the next competitor. That number improved in the 11 starts he saw that year at the U20 level, where Blomqvist’s incredible 0.938% helped Kärpät win their league. This past year, 17-year-old Blomqvist was Kärpät’s undisputed number one goalie, winning 26 of his 34 games en route to a 0.931 save-percentage, a “Best Goalie” award, and another regular season championship.
Among his age group, Blomqvist has been Finland’s starter at the U17s in 2018-19 and at the Hlinka Gretzky this past year. While his numbers internationally aren’t at the same level as they are domestically, what matters is his place among his compatriots. Only one goalie gets to be the go-to starter for their team internationally.
Marco Bombino of Finnish Junior Hockey interviewed Blomqvist, and the young netminder shared this about his strengths and weaknesses:
How would you describe yourself as a player? What are your biggest strengths?
I would describe myself as a calm and mobile goalie. I try to be as calm as possible in net, yet also quick when the situation demands it. I consider skating technique and play reading my strengths.
Which area do you think requires most improvement?
Of course I want to improve in everything, but I think that especially my positioning and stance require improvement.
The reports that I read concur with Blomqvist’s self-assessment. Unlike the acrobatic and athletic Askarov, Blomqvist plays a quiet, decisive game, with little wasted movement and smooth play tracking. Against his age group, he recovers from rebounds well and often doesn’t have to do a lot of over-correction or over-rely on his athleticism — he’s well-situated in his crease.
Against international opponents, reports noted that his decision-making ability was just a tad slow, and will have to speed up against faster opponents, especially when he makes the transition over to North America. If you have EliteProspects Premium, their draft guide featured an informative paragraph on Finnish goaltenders that’s instructive when thinking about this “style of play” difference as netminders navigate different ice surfaces:
Finnish goaltenders tend to develop by playing a depth management system that puts them at the top of the crease and watches them move inwards in the wake of oncoming offensive opportunities. This ‘outside-in’ style works well on larger rinks in Europe, where there’s more time for skaters and shooters to consider passing options and more space for plays to get set up; it gives the goaltender extra time to utilize the extra space. But in North America, some of these more ‘aggressive’ goaltenders have gotten burned in recent years, spawning a shift back to a more conservative style of depth management that pushes out from a starting point along the goal line. Blomqvist thrives in Finland right now, but would need to showcase better conservation with his depth if and when he does make it over to North America.
Belleville Senators fans should notice an organizational comparison here with Filip Gustavsson and his struggles with navigating faster opponents and new ice surfaces.
|Team||League||Height||Weight||Expected Range||NHL Rank|
|Guelph Storm||OHL||6'4"||203 lbs||69 - 101||#1 (NA goalies)|
In what’s considered a relative down year for goaltenders in North America, overager Nico Daws took home the #1 spot on NHL Central Scouting’s list, and for good reason. After going undrafted in 2019, he completely transformed his conditioning and overall play to get to high level where he currently sits.
A dual citizen of Canada and Germany, Daws single-handedly transformed the expectations of the Guelph Storm’s future in one season, dragging what was supposed to be a rebuilding team to a strong record. His 45.0 goals saved above average (GSAA) ranked second in the OHL behind Kings prospect Jacob Ingham, vaulting into first place on a per-minute rate (1.20 GSAA/60). It’s a far cry from the 0.18 GSAA/60 he posted the previous season as a below-average backup goaltender, once again highlighting just how far his work from the past year has brought him.
His play was rewarded by receiving the Jim Rutherford Trophy as the OHL’s top goaltender, won by Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Michael DiPietro the two previous seasons. He also suited up for Team Canada for the first time at the World Junior Championships, although a save percentage of 84.0% in less than two games wasn’t the result he was hoping for. Regardless, it’s just two games of a new and high-pressure environment to take into account in the much larger sample of the entire season.
I’m no goalie scout, but I know a tall goaltender when I see one, and Daws’ 6’4” height has certainly helped propel him in the conversation for being the second goalie off the board this year. But from what I’ve gathered reading reports from goalie scouts, Daws excels at two things: play-tracking and efficient movement. Those were the two most commonly mentioned positive traits apart from his size, as Daws has good vision to see plays develop while not falling into the movement pitfalls of many tall goaltenders.
Where Daws falls short for some is his lack of quickness in the crease — although he has good lateral ability, he isn’t an explosive goalie, preventing his ability to jaunt out more from his crease and cover space. Instead he works well in the middle ground, with excellent ability to transition between standing and the butterfly while following the play. He doesn’t need to be the fastest goalie because he can still position himself really well, and the extra height helps him out too.
Others have pointed out that he’ll need to work significantly on his hip movement, although a) I’m not even going to pretend like I know what that entails (maybe any goalies reading this can chime in), and b) micro-tracking goalie traits often ends up being futile in the grand scheme of netminders just being volatile creatures. Especially for Daws, who doesn’t have much of a track record by way of this being his first above-average season, it becomes extremely tricky to project how he’ll fare moving forward. If he continues his upward trajectory then things will start to look good for his NHL future. Is he a one-hit wonder, or is this the start of a successful career?
Anyone who’s been following my writing probably knows by know how averse I am to drafting goaltenders — even someone as elite as Yaroslav Askarov I wouldn’t touch in the range he’s expected to be drafted. Not only do teams have a history of betting on the wrong skills, but there’s inherently a cap on how high a goalie’s ceiling can be compared to a skater with high-end tools. Daws isn’t an exception to that rule, but he’s been a fantastic story to follow this year en route to his current status as one of the draft’s top netminders.
|Team||League||Height||Weight||Expected Range||NHL Rank|
|U.S. National U18 Team||USDP||6'2"||181 lbs||57 - 95||#2 (NA goalies)|
The top U.S.-born netminder for this year’s draft, Boston’s Drew Commesso was the unheralded netminder of the USNTDP this season and certainly has his fans within the industry.
Playing behind what some would call an all-star team, it’s hard for a goaltender to get credit for his puck-stopping ability. How should we look at Commesso’s 0.917 save-percentage? Compared to USHL netminders, it looks good: second league-wide for the July-born netminder who played the entire year at 17. Compared to his former USDP teammates? Also good; better than first-rounder Spencer Knight’s 0.913, Dylan St. Cyr’s 0.900, and Adam Scheel’s 0.875. Why the lack of hype, especially compared to Knight? Some of it could be circumstance, as Commesso only got to play in the U17s while Knight really turned heads at the U18s in his draft year. A Boston University commit, he’ll have a lot of chances to face Knight in the Beanpot.
What does Commesso do well? Like Joel Blomqvist, reports liked how Commesso moved with a purpose. From DobberProspects’ Tony Ferrari:
“He rarely looks like he’s scrambling in his net even when the puck is in a bit of traffic in front of his crease. He plays with a calmness and composure to his game which allows his team to take some chance as they know he is more than capable as their last line of defense. His ability to read the opposition and recognize all of the dangerous options on the ice for the opposition allows him to be square to the puck when he makes his saves.”
Ferrari and others noted that Commesso could work on his rebound control, and in particular, placing those rebounds in good areas of the ice for his team to transition the puck. That flaw was duly noted on this year’s more-structured USNTDP squad, as Spencer Knight was often left to stop breakaways and make highlight reel stops compared to Commesso playing behind a more put-together defensive group.
Jan Bednar & Nick Malik
|Player||Team||League||Height||Weight||Expected Range||NHL Rank|
|Jan Bednar||HC Banik Sokolov||Czech2||6'4"||196 lbs||85 - 156||#2 (Euro goalies)|
|Nick Malik||HC Frydek-Mistek||Czech2||6'1"||176 lbs||91 - 177||#10 (NA goalies)|
Combining two goalies into one segment, we feel it’d be best to compare and contrast the games of Jan Bednar and Nick Malik, two Czech goalies expected to be selected in the mid-to-late rounds. Bednar is valued slightly higher in the public sphere, but with the chaotic tendencies of the draft past the first few dozen picks, they’re placed in the same widespread tier.
Bednar spent most of the season playing in the second-tier Czech pro league with HC Banik Sokolov, but was also given a shot in the top league with HC Energie Karlovy Vary where he played thirteen games. His save percentage was oddly higher playing in the top league, at 88.4% compared to 87.3% in tier two. Neither of the teams in front of him were very good, but it’s commendable to be playing in the top league at all for a player his age — Jakub Skarek in 2017-18 is the only other draft-eligible goalie to suit up for at least ten games since 2003-04. He even played 10 games in the top league the season prior, with a much more successful 91.7% save percentage despite a 2-8 record. But the statline this past season tells a different story, dropping a lot of the value he was expected to have coming into the season.
On the flipside we have Malik, son of famed shootout scorer Marek Malik, who spent 24 games in the second tier with a much higher 92.7% save percentage, good for fifth in the league (minimum 10 GP) and the highest for any goalie under the age of 21. He had a much shorter call-up to the top league for only two games, but instead of finishing the season with his home country he decided to make the jump to North America in January to play with the Soo Greyhounds. His 88.6% save percentage was far from spectacular in his new role, but having to quickly adjust to a new ice surface behind a very unspectacular team was no easy task.
The two netminders have made completely opposite decisions on what to do for the 2020-21 season — Malik cut his losses with the Soo and is headed back to the Czech Republic, while Bednar was selected 2nd in the CHL Import Draft by the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan, and is expected to play there having signed a contract in August.
Internationally, the goalies have been side-by-side for their careers to date, with Malik generally getting the edge to play against competition a year older. For example, Malik was the Czech Republic’s backup goalie at the U20 World Juniors this past year, while Bednar got most of the starts at the U18 events. It’s been very mixed results for both, as it’s hard to stand out when their team is often on the weaker end of the tournament.
Taking a look at how each of them play, the immediate difference starts with the height, where Bednar’s 6’4” frame eclipses Malik at 6’1”. But in terms of their style of play, what I’ve conveniently read about the two seems to be pretty similar, albeit with some small differences.
Bednar is billed as one of the draft’s most exciting-to-watch goaltenders, with fantastic athleticism that he uses to get pucks away from the back of the net in whatever contortion he needs to come up with. The issue with that is... well... he needs to do that way too often for anyone’s liking, with shortcomings in both his puck-tracking and technical positioning. He has a heck of a highlight reel, but his coaches (and defencemen and fans) may be going grey as a result.
Using that style of play as a comparison, Malik comes off as a sort of Bednar-lite. He too excels at being a top notch athletic goaltender, just not with the same explosiveness as Bednar. He’s also more sound positionally, although that’s still a significant area where he’ll need improvement. While Bednar certainly jumps out more with his flash, there’s a bit more composure to Malik’s style of play by comparison. In both cases the drafting team will be betting on raw athletic tools with the future project of working out their overall stability.
Even with all their shortcomings, both goaltenders are expected to be swings in the later rounds anyways, so why not take a shot at some high-end athleticism? The pro experience is a plus for both players too, with lots of time as a starting goaltender in the cards for their next few seasons of development. Young goalies are hard to evaluate, let alone project for the future. But in terms of pure intrigue, Bednar & Malik are both near the top of the list.
|Player||Team||League||Height||Weight||Expected Range||NHL Rank|
|Calle Clang||Rögle BK J20||SuperElit||6'2"||176 lbs||86 - 179||#4 (Euro goalies)|
|Jesper Myrenberg||Västerås IK||Allsvenskan||6'2"||187 lbs||NR||NR|
|Vsevolod Skotnikov||Krasnaya Armiya Moskva||MHL||6'0"||176 lbs||88 - 173||NR|
|Devon Levi||Carleton Place Canadians||CCHL||6'0"||185 lbs||109 - 200||#8 (NA goalies)|
- A regular for Sweden at the international level, Calle Clang has been listed as a top netminder among his peers for a while now in Rögle’s system. His 0.913 save-percentage was second among draft-eligible goalies in the SuperElit and his compete level supplemented by his power and athleticism make him an intriguing option. He’ll be playing pro hockey this season in the Allsvenskan.
- A double-overager, all Jesper Myrenberg has done is stop pucks. In his draft year, he had a 0.922 save-percentage in the SuperElit; the year after he was named the league’s best goaltender; and last season, Myrenberg spotted a 0.919 save-percentage against men in the Allsvenskan with Västerås. There’s a chance you could just sign him without using a pick after the draft, but he could be a potential late-round option if a team wanted to call “dibs”.
- There’s a handful of Russian goalies this year not named Askarov who may be worth a flyer late in the draft (Miftakhov, Akhtyamov), although I’m most interested in Vsevolod Skotnikov, an older September birthday who was one of the top goalies in the MHL last season with a 93.8% save percentage (keep in mind that MHL save percentages tend to be way higher than most leagues). He was also near the top in 2018-19, and at the time of writing is off to a hot start in the KHL. He’s 6’0” which immediately crosses him off some teams’ lists — note that he’s unranked by NHL Central Scouting. But if I’m looking for a goalie who stops pucks, then Skotnikov would be on my radar.
- Finishing off this post with a local guy, Devon Levi played last season for the CCHL’s Carleton Place Canadians and is committed to Northeastern University. Take a look at is his resume of awards: CCHL Best Goaltender, CCHL Top Prospect, CCHL MVP, CJHL Top Goaltender, CJHL Rookie of the Year, CJHL MVP... he had an incredible season, to say the least. He carried his team to the top with a 94.1% save percentage, the highest ever for a goalie with more than ten games played. He’s quick, fluid and reads the ice well, but will he be able to do that against non-CCHL competition? He’ll likely be the only player drafted from the weak league this year, but he’s certainly earned to have his name called./