13. Mads Søgaard (Reader Rank: 13, Last Year: 17)
When the Ottawa Senators used their 37th overall selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft on Mads Søgaard, it was understood that it would almost certainly be several years before he ever made an impact in the league. Firstly, it’s extremely rare for goalies to grab a foothold in the NHL without first spending time in the minors. But in Søgaard’s case, there were also some concerns about his positioning at the time of his drafting. It wouldn’t have been unfair to label him something of a project.
At the same time, it doesn’t take a goalie whisperer to see the potential in Søgaard: he’s 6’7 and an exceptional athlete. Sens fans would be forgiven for day dreaming about the second coming of Ben Bishop; except Ottawa doesn’t trade him this time. The Sens have shown a willingness to be patient with the big man because the potential pay-off could be great.
Three years after being drafted, Søgaard has mostly delivered against expectations. His 2019-20 season with the Medicine Hat Tigers was a solid, if not totally exceptional, performance. As some of you may be aware, there was a little thing called COVID that put a lot of pro hockey on hold for a while, and as a result Søgaard has played just 42 AHL games across the last two seasons. He’s posted a .910 SV% in those games for a sometimes middling Belleville Senators team — a perfectly respectable, encouraging mark. With all of the injury trouble last season, and the Sens falling totally out of the play-off hunt before January, Søgaard even found his way into a couple of NHL games. Here are some highlights of his first start, a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings:
The typical scouting reporting on Søgaard raves about his ability to track pucks and his lateral movement, while also noting how much of the bottom of the net he can cover while down in the butterfly. When he’s set to a shot, he covers angles well and his sheer size makes it difficult to beat him directly. At the same time, a recurring negative theme is that he doesn’t always seem to be fully in control, and that his rebound control could use a bit of work. A lot of the pieces are there, but there’s still some polish required.
With Pierre Dorion trading Filip Gustavsson for Cam Talbot earlier this summer, Søgaard’s role in the organization is clear: he will start the season as the #1 goalie in Belleville. Beyond that, where he ends up will be up to him. Anton Forsberg’s new contract likely ensures he will be a part of the picture for the next three years, but Talbot’s deal expires after this seasons and he’s already 35. It would be surprising if he figured in Ottawa’s long-term plans. If Søgaard delivers a strong performance in Belleville this year, the chance to at least back up Forsberg in the years ahead should be on the table. The aforementioned pay-off the Sens were willing to wait for when they first drafted him could be arriving as early as the 2022-23 season then. Either way, we’re going to know a lot more by this time next year.