You might have noticed recently on The Leafs Nation that we’ve
had a lot of draft coverage. You might have also noticed recently that the
Leafs really need to start doing an incredible job of drafting in order to turn
their franchise around. That has led us to looking into as many skaters in the
draft as we possibly can. The one area we’ve ignored has been goaltenders, with
the exception of Justin
Fisher’s plea to consider drafting one again this year.
While I’m not ready to use the 24th overall pick
on adding Ilya Samsonov to the organization, I agree that it never hurts to add
at this position, and a goaltender selected from the CHL would likely be able
to slide into a starting ECHL role by the time their junior career ends as the
Leafs goaltending depth chart isn’t so crowded that we wouldn’t expect to see
one of Gibson, Bibeau, or Sparks move on or be promoted over the course of the
next couple of years.
Besides the CHL goaltenders there are plenty of European and
NCAA options which give the Leafs the chance to develop additional goaltenders
without having them take time away from each other.
Here are five goaltenders worth looking at.
It makes sense to start with the goaltender that one most
commonly spoken of as a potential first round pick, and most notably cracked
the top 20 of Bob McKenzie’s rankings. Strong international showings put Ilya
on the radar of many of us, but Ilya also benefits from having the size and
style of the prototypical NHL goaltender. While he’s been good when he has
played, I’ve certainly got concerns about how little he has played, as Elite Prospects
only shows him playing in 29 games in the past year. While that might not be enough
reason to dismiss what has been seen, it doesn’t leave me with the impression
that Samsonov is worth spending a first round pick on.
When I’d take him: If
Samsonov is available when the Leafs pick at 65 he’d be worth getting excited
over. Though if rankings are any indication, Ilya will be gone well within the
Moving away from a goaltender I don’t think the Leafs will
pursue to one that might be worth looking at, here’s a goaltender that played
in 41 games, had a save percentage north of .900 (good in the CHL). Booth’s
stock didn’t get a fair chance to rise in the second half of the season as
Quebec brought in the wildly overrated Zach Fucale to take over their number
one role. Fucale was never able to replicate the numbers of Booth, and Fucale
was hilariously lit up in the Memorial Cup while Booth was forced to watch from
the bench. The concerns with Booth are that he may be benefiting for being a
good and defensively sound team. Booth is identical in size to Samsonov, and
plays the butterfly style that every QMJHL goaltender has played since Patrick
Roy. Given that every goaltender is a project, Booth seems to be one worth taking
on, and has at least proven that he can handle a heavy workload.
When I’d take him: With
two picks in the 4th round this year I certainly wouldn’t mind
seeing the Leafs use one on Booth. Both McKenzie and Future Considerations
rankings would suggest he’d be gone by then, but besides those two rankings,
Booth was questionably absent from the top 100.
When drafting players I generally like to choose ones that
sound like they may be a transformer, but the question is, can Felix Sandstrom be
transformed into a professional goaltender? (Totally nailed that lede). Similar to Samsonov, Sandstrom doesn’t have a
huge number of games under his belt this season, but he was solid when he did
play. Felix got a small taste of the SHL this season which is a significant
vote of confidence for a developing goaltender, and a strong sign that he’ll
see time with them in the near future. This experience might be what sets apart
from some of the other goaltending options available, although it’s worth
noting the Leafs struggles with Swedish goaltending prospects.
When I’d take him: Sandstrom
is a guy I like, but not one I’m rushing out to get. If he’s there in the fifth
or sixth round I think you have to have discussions about him.
In their draft guide Future Considerations names Larkin as
the most athletic goaltender in the draft. The cool thing about Larkin is that
he comes with a long learning curve that has little impact on the organization’s
depth chart. Ryan has another year in the USHL (which isn’t so much a good
thing) but then will be attending the University of Miami (Ohio). Essentially
you’ve got up to five years to develop your goaltender external to your
organization, so no SPCs and no fighting for starts with your other goaltender
prospects. In a league that has high variance of Sv% based on both talent of
the goaltenders and the talent of the teams, Larkin is on the great side of the
curve with a .919 Sv%.
The real selling point on Larkin for me is that he plays an
exciting acrobatic style not the boring ol’ butterfly. Some Hasek/Thomas style
craziness sounds appealing to me, and this seems like a dare to be great kind
When I’d take him: Larkin
is easily my favourite on this list, but I still don’t think I’d go before the
fourth round on him. He seems to be off the radar, so why reach for him? He’s
the lowest risk, and highest reward of this group and that’s usually the best
way to approach drafting goaltenders.
While I have strong moral objections to drafting anyone
named Mackenzie, it seems necessary to include the goaltender ranked top North
American Goaltender by NHL Central Scouting. Blackwood has done well on some
very good Barrie teams, and has had some very good defensemen in front of him.
Blackwood and Booth are fairly similar to me, but Blackwood has a small size
advantage and didn’t have to suffer the indignity of Zach Fucale stealing his
starts. Blackwood also has performed well in big games and that means a lot
because decision makers watch big games. A strong playoffs and great Super
Series performance mean he’ll go fairly early on day two of the draft.
When I’d take him: I
have a slight preference of Booth over Blackwood, and I’m probably more
intrigued by Sandstrom than Blackwood that I’d rather wait in the draft and
take him. None of this matters because someone is going to take Mackenzie in
the second or third round.
1. Ilya Samsonov
2. Ryan Larkin
3. Callum Booth
4. Felix Sandstrom
5. Mackenzie Blackwood
Daniel Vladar became popular through international tournament play and
being the largest goaltender available. He’s certainly not a bad option, but
not thrilled about developing someone in the Czech League.
Matej Tomek is a NAHL goaltender bound for the University of North Dakota next
season. He made McKenzie’s list, but I’m not going to pretend I’ve seen a NAHL
The moral of the story here is that Justin Fisher was right
to suggest the Leafs look at a goaltender, but certainly not on the first day
of the draft. In a thirty team league, and likely 10 strong goaltending
prospects it seems reasonable to play the waiting game and start considering
addressing the position in no earlier than the fourth round.