Weak Goaltending and the World Juniors Go Hand-in-Hand

The last several years have seen strong Canadian entries at the World Juniors. When it comes to the talent of their forwards and defensemen, Team Canada has access to riches unparalleled in any other country in the world.

The situation is a little different in net, where the uncertain tandem of Mark Visentin and Scott Wedgewood will backstop this year’s team.

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In fact, since the 2007 tournament – where Canadian goaltender Carey Price posted a 0.961 SV% and allowed just three even-strength goals against in six games – Canada has been without a star goaltending prospect between the pipes. Five goaltenders have played at least three games for Canada over that span; they are as follows:

Year Team Player GP SV% Draft
2011 CAN Mark Visentin 4 0.923 27th overall, 2010
2011 CAN Olivier Roy 3 0.875 133rd overall, 2009
2010 CAN Jake Allen 5 0.902 34th overall, 2008
2009 CAN Dustin Tokarski 4 0.906 122nd overall, 2008
2008 CAN Steve Mason 5 0.951 69th overall, 2006

Of that group, just Steve Mason had a strong tournament – Visentin looked good early after replacing Olivier Roy but then bore much of the blame for the Canadians’ collapse in the gold medal game. There’s no sure-fire stars in this group, no Price’s or Fleury’s or Luongo’s, just a bunch of maybes.

Yet, this is hardly an area where Canada alone has struggled. Among other teams at the tournament, only two – the United States and Sweden – have always employed NHL-drafted goalies between the pipes. Outside of Visentin, only three first round picks have represented one of the big six countries (Canada, the USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic): Riku Helenius, Thomas McCollum and Jack Campbell. No guaranteed stars in that group – even Campbell, who went 11th overall in 2010, is only now starting to emerge from a disastrous 2010-11 season in Windsor.

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The Czechs have had Michal Neuvirth as their only decent goalie in the last four years – not only was he the only one drafted, but he’s also the only one to crack the lofty 0.900 SV% mark at the tournament. The Finns have run hot and cold – twice seeing goalies exceed the 0.930 SV% mark, three times seeing them fall below 0.880 SV%. The Russians have had strong performances by mostly undrafted players – only one of whom, Sergei Bobrovsky, has since played in the NHL. The Swedish and American entries both boast talent, but in both of their teams combined they’ve only had two really exceptional goaltending performances in the last four years – Jacob Markstrom for Sweden and Jack Campbell for the U.S.

It’s a far cry from the 2007 tournament, the last time we saw a really strong crop of NHL goalies. Carey Price represented Canada, Semyon Varlamov tended net for Russia, Tuukka Rask played for Finland and Ondrej Pavelec rounded out a strong quartet for the Czech Republic.

For whatever reason, the goaltending crop has been weak pretty much across the board over the last four seasons.

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  • Big Perm

    Just a matter of time until Canada sees another star goalie – Bunz hopefully could be the fist in some time. Indications are he’s quite the competitor.

  • The Farmer

    Very disappointed that Bunz was not selected. Why would you not take the best goalie in the country over the past 10 months just because he didn’t have a good camp.
    This will likely be the undoing of our team once again I’m afraid.

  • xis10ce

    the wife managed to win the option to buy a few games this year via work so I’ll have a gander at a few teams and let you know what I see. She was able to get Sweden/Slovakia and the 3pm Semi Final game, sadly if Team Can makes it, will be guarenteed not to be in that Semi final.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Hey Jonathan, great article!

    I’m curious about the metric between Jr and WJC performance and the transition to the NHL. Because Goaltending is the hardest and longest development road (D probably fights for that title but loses slightly) is projection more of a crapshoot?

    That’s my guess. But I’m wondering if you have any numbers to suggest the seemingly random blossoming of players late in their career and the seemingly random demise of once highly touted jr. Goalies is just in my imagination.

    (does that make sense?). thanks.