Kaskisuo is a good start, but Leafs still have long way to go in rebuilding their goalie depth

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As you’ve likely heard, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed 22-year old netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo to a two-year entry-level contract yesterday. The 6’3 Finnish backstopper recently wrapped up his NCAA career with the University of Minnesota Duluth and will join the Toronto Marlies on an amateur tryout contract before his actual contract kicks in at the beginning of next season.

While Kaskisuo’s numbers aren’t earth shattering, while he went undrafted four years ago and while he isn’t even considered the top free agent goaltending prospect coming out of the college hockey ranks this year, it’s still a good addition for a Leafs organization that is greatly lacking in goaltending depth. That said, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Let’s take a moment and take stock of the goaltenders in the system that are actually Leafs property (because I don’t really or truly care about which minor-leaguers are signed to AHL deals with the Marlies). First, there’s Jonathan Bernier, who might be an average NHL starter but certainly hasn’t played like one this year. Then there’s Garret Sparks, who I happen to like quite a bit, but carries a sub-.900 save percentage through the first 13 games of his career. Next, we have Antoine Bibeau, who has shown some flashes at the AHL level, but has proven to be largely inconsistent so far in his young career. Finally, you have Kaskisuo, who has been a Leaf for exactly one day.

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Listen, there isn’t much there. You can shout from the mountaintops that goaltenders develop slowly and hit their peak much later in their careers, but if all of your hopes are pinned on Sparks (22), Bibeau (21) and Kaskisuo (22), that’s awfully dangerous. It’s not about pedigree or draft position or anything like that; it’s just that each of these players are borderline NHL prospects. With no true number one ahead of them, and no youngsters behind them, it’s thin pickings.

I’ve beaten this drum for years now at TLN, harping on the Leafs to build a proper goaltending pipeline; a collection of netminders spread out across leagues, continents and, most importantly, age brackets. Toronto doesn’t even have a goaltender of the present, let alone a goaltender of the future. 

A great example of such a pipeline is found in the Washington Capitals organization. It starts with Braden Holtby at the top, a fourth-round pick back in 2008 that developed into one of the top players at his position. Backing Holtby up is Philipp Grubauer, also a fourth round pick, but drafted two years later in 2010. At the AHL level, it’s a bit of a different story; veteran backstoppers Dan Ellis and Justin Peters compete for starts there, and while you’d rather have younger goaltenders developing their game at that level, it’s not so bad considering Holtby’s and Grubauer’s relative youth. Deeper down the pipeline, though, you find much more impressive talent. Vitek Vanecek, 20, is a 2014 second-round pick that is currently progressing nicely with ECHL South Carolina, and Ilya Samsanov, 19, a 2015 first-rounder, was one of the KHL’s top young goaltenders this year in Magnitogorsk.

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That’s pretty ideal depth right there. Ignore for a moment that Holtby is lights out good, and consider that Washington has solid goaltending prospects that range nicely in age and aren’t packed onto one minor league team and eating into eachothers’ workloads. If Holtby falters or runs into injury problems or maybe just decides to retire at 28 and spend the rest of his life quilting, there’s a succession of goaltenders at different stages in their career, able to move up one-by-one and support the netminder at the top of the chain.

This brings us back to the Leafs, who did well in adding additional depth at the position in Kaskisuo, but hold the rights to exactly zero junior-aged goalers and who have every one of their goaltending prospects situated in the city of Toronto, beating eachother up for AHL starts or splitting time in the NHL. I’m not saying that none of Sparks or Bibeau or Kaskisuo will succeed in become regular NHL goaltenders, but there is literally nothing behind them. There’s no fallback.

Toronto needs more goalies. Most glaringly, they need an actual #1 in time for next season, but they need many more beyond that to fill in the rest of the pipeline. They’d be wise to use at least one of their many draft picks this season on a netminder, preferably without straying too far from the ‘BPA’ drafting philosophy. Drafting another goaltender next season could help as well. If they come up through different junior or college or European leagues, all the better. Toronto should also continue to work the free agent market for depth as well, but you’ll never find 18 or 19-year old goaltenders there, so it’s important to try and leverage the draft to some degree in that regard.

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The Leafs have done an incredible job at building a talented prospect pool over the past several years, but while it’s definitely a forward-heavy group, even Toronto’s young blueline depth isn’t quite as shallow as it appeared to be just a few months ago. Goaltending though it the obvious weak spot at this point in the rebuild, and while they made one good move in the right direction yesterday evening, the Leafs will have every opportunity to really establish that goaltending pipeline this coming offseason with one or two savvy draft selections, signings or trades.

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  • SEER

    The problem with drafting goalies is it’s so hard to predict how a 17-18 year old goalie is going to pan out. Remember Justin Pogge and Tukka rask? Not only did the Leafs think Pogge was the better goalie, so did Boston! That’s who they originally wanted.

    If teams can only protect 1 goalie in the upcoming expansion draft (assuming there is one) and if teams have to use a protection slot on players with no move clauses, then Boston, Tampa Bay, Anahiem and Pittsburgh all have awesome goalie prospects that they have to trade or risk loosing for nothing.

    Moreover there is no point in those teams trading for players who aren’t protected by ELCs. The leafs will have an overabundance of players on ELCs that they won’t be able to fit on their roster that they could use in combination to land one of: M. Subban, Vasilevski, F. Anderson or Murray.

      • That’s not what I’m saying at all! And It’s not one or the other. We can do both!

        Of course draft a goalie if he’s the best player available, conditioned however, on the uncertainty inherent in forecasting goalies.
        What that means is if you’re going to use a high pick on a goalie he better have a really, really high ceiling. If you’re talking about using a late round pick however, then the requirement isn’t as high.

        But if we could nab one of Subban, Vasilevski, of Murray for a couple of mid level prospects due to a market inefficiency that few teams will be able to capitalize on, do it! And in doing so we could be set in goal for a decade potentially.

        Use late round picks as goal tending lottery tickets like we did with Reimer.

  • I think Justin is right in the sense that we will eventually need a goalie pipeline. Right now, though, I don’t really even want to address it. We want to be near the bottom of the league and bad goal tending helps that out. As MST says above, we could land a good goalie through a team who is forced to trade one before expansion, but for now keep stock piling talent at forward and defense. Look at New Jersey. They traded for Schneider who is an exceptional goalie, but now they will have trouble building through the draft because they are too good to bottom out but not good enough to make the playoffs. I’d rather not have that problem. Lamoriello knows this problem personally now. He won’t make the same mistake again.

      • Yeah, fair enough. I agree that they need to start drafting goalies now so that they have options in a few years. In the article, you said “Most glaringly, they need an actual #1 in time for next season”. That was the part my comment was targeted at. I don’t think they should address #1 goal tending over the summer when the possibility of expansion looms in the next summer. Finish low at least one more year.

    • Gary Empey

      The Leafs should have two goalies in junior, Solar Bears, Marlies, and the Leafs.

      Your plan is short-sighted. It is part of the reason the Oilers will end up at the bottom of the league once again.

      If you build your team to lose then you end up with a culture of losers that in the end, will have to be replaced by players who play to win every game.

      To say say Lamoriello made a mistake in trading for Schneider is ludicrous. Lamoriello knows only too well that having an elite goalie is key to success in the NHL for many years to come. He is famous for always having one.

      The Leafs would not of paid Babcock 50 million to have him coach to lose. They could have done that for a lot cheaper and then hire a good coach.

  • Round 2 this summer is where I’d start. As early as the Leafs own pick in the 2nd round, which should be anywhere between 31 and 35 they should really strongly consider taking Carter Hart. He’s by far the best undrafted goalie in hockey right now.

    If they decide to pass on him I like Tyler Parsons (London), Zachary Sawchenko (Moose Jaw), and Griffin Outhouse (Victoria) as later round options.

  • SEER

    It was a bit of a treasure hunt, to search out all these clips of him, but well worth it…! I did intend for the song “Kashmir” to be the background track, but that didn’t work out.., unfortunately…

    Some spectacular saves in here…and most Leafs fans will like his stats, below… Note the NINE shut-outs, in just 32 games, in 2013-14… and FIVE more, in the 2015-16 Bulldogs season… : )

    Kasimir Kaskisuo/ Goalie/ Born Oct 2 1993/ Vantaa, Finland/
    22 yrs. ago/ Height 6.03/ Weight 201


    2013-14 Minnesota Wilderness – NAHL
    32 Games… 21 Wins… 6 Losses… 5 Ties… *9 S/O’s…..
    .944 SV % …… 1.48 GAA…..
    2014-15 University Of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs – NCHC
    36 Games… 18 Wins… 14 Losses… 3 Ties… 1 S/O…..
    .917 SV % …… 2.30 GAA…..
    2015 PLAYOFFS
    5 Games… .943 SV %….. 1.75 GAA…..
    2015-16 University Of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) Bulldogs – NCHC
    39 Games… 19 Wins… 15 Losses… 5 Ties… *5 S/O’s…..
    .923 SV % …… 1.92 GAA…..

    Kas Is Here: Kasimir Kaskisuo 2012-2016 Goalie Highlights – TML

    —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4M_PNdaMYo