#AfterAuston: Analyzing the 2016 Entry Draft Goalie Class

This draft season brings a lot of questions for the Maple Leafs. With 12 draft selections at their disposal currently, and the potential to add more, there are a plethora of options for them at this draft.

It’s widely noted that one of the organization’s biggest areas of weakness is goaltending, both in terms of roster positions and in prospect depth. Our own Ryan Fancey wrote this piece on Carter Hart last week, and I thought it would be best to go a little deeper into the potential goaltender draftees. Scouring the CHL, Europe, Russia, and College hockey leagues, I’ve come up with several names that the Leafs might look at to bolster their prospect depth at goaltender.

TYLER PARSONS

The above-pictured Tyler Parsons kicks off this list. Parsons backstopped the London Knights to the Memorial Cup (undoubtedly with a fair amount of scoring help thanks to Mitch Marner and Co.). However, the final game between the Knights and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies was quite the goaltender battle between Parsons and the Huskies’ netminder Chase Marchand.

Parsons led the OHL in save percentage this past season, in all of the regular season, playoffs and Memorial Cup. The biggest knock on him is the Zac Fucale argument, where it seems that the team carried the goalie. I don’t believe this is the case for Parsons. He regularly is a contributor and a compliment to the incredibly talented London Knights team, as opposed to a guy riding the coattails.

The additional fact that Parsons was able to put up a 90.7% save percentage in his rookie year leads me to believe Parsons is a legitimately exciting goalie for the Leafs to purse.

Plus, yanno, the whole Mark Hunter thing.

FILIP GUSTAVSSON

Coming out of Sweden and playing for the SHL’s Lulea (and their junior affiliate), Gustavsson is a pretty exciting prospect to follow. While Swedish goaltenders named Gustavsson certainly give Leafs fans PTSD-esque flashbacks, there’s no reason to believe that Filip will follow anything close to the path that Jonas did. 

Gustavsson stands tall but not freakishly so at 6’2″. He won Best Goaltender at the most recent U18 World Junior Championships. He also posted 91% save percentage in his 6 game stint in the SHL, which while being a small sample size is a pretty impressive sample for an 18 year old goalie. The majority of his season was spent with Lulea’s J20 affiliate, playing 20 games with only an 89.8% save percentage. 

Gustavsson’s performances on bigger stages are certainly promising, but they can’t take precedent over regular season performance. It’s important to balance the two, and Gustavsson’s J20 performance left a bit to be desired. Of the goalies available, Gustavsson would probably land 4th or 5th. If he’s available somewhere in the 4th round, and guys like Parsons and Hart are gone, I would certainly give him some consideration.

EVAN FITZPATRICK

This is going to be a fun case where the stats and the eye test don’t line up with each other. NHL Central Scouting has Fitzpatrick listed as the #1 goalie in North America. Greg Balloch of In Goal Magazine posted his review of the 2016 draft class where he has Fitzpatrick ranked second after Carter Hart. 

However, when you dig into his numbers you see he only had 89.6% save percentage in the regular season for the Sherbrooke Phoenix. His playoff performance was good overall, with a 92% in 5 games, but wasn’t enough to help his team surmount the eventual “silver medal” (lost in the championship game) Shawinigan Cataractes. He even got shelled for 7 goals against on 33 shots in Game 3 of that series. Not pretty.

Fitzpatrick is a big frame and has that “calm” play style that people seem to appreciate. It certainly seems a better approach to the game than Jonathon Quick-ing your way around the crease (but, then again, Dominik Hasek). 

Overall I’m certain FItzpatrick is a talented goaltender, and most of the time save percentage isn’t repeatable (especially so when graduating leagues) so I wouldn’t be too concerned. However, the numbers concern me enough to say I’d be more inclined to take Parsons, and I’d definitely be more inclined to take Hart.

COLTON POINT

Now we head to Junior A to check out the Carleton Place Canadiens’ netminder Colton Point. Point stands at 6’4″, similar to Fitzpatrick, and is one of the top goaltenders in the Central Canadian Hockey League (go Bears!).

I had the chance to see Point live (just for one game) during the World Junior A Championship hosted in my hometown of Cobourg. He played for a pretty disappointing Canada East team and had a pretty moderate performance. However, his stats in the CCHL are much more intriguing. with a 91.5% save percentage in his 33 appearances for Carleton Place. 

The CCHL is a hard league to judge, as there have only ever been a handful or two of goalies to graduate from this league to the NHL (some notables include Yann Danis, Jimmy Howard, Robert Esche, Darren Pang, Fred Brathwaite and others). The majority of these players will go to college and play in the NCAA (you aren’t allowed to play in the NCAA if you play in the CHL as it’s considered a professional league), and that’s the path I expect for Point. From that perspective, I’m more intrigued by Point because you can have him developing in college for up to 4 years after you draft him, so he wouldn’t take up space in the Maple Leafs’ depth chart for the spots in Orlando and on the Marlies.

Point’s performance in the CCHL itslef is noteworthy, with a 91.5% save percentage, but it’s hard to find a measuring stick that will compare it with the performances from other players in other leagues.

VEINI VEHVILAINEN

Vehvilainen is an interesting case. He is a 19 year old that was passed over in last year’s draft, so he’s a little further along the development path. This can be advantageous when drafting goalies, as they’ll have had a larger sample to analyze.

He comes out of the Liiga playing for JYP (the men’s league, not the junior leagues). He started 28 games for them and had a 92.5% save percentage. This puts him in the top 5 in the league (92.5% isn’t necessarily elite in the Liiga as it’s a high-volume shooting and low scoring league, which is why someone like Laine becomes so impressive). He becomes a legitimate option, considering he’s already played against men and has performed admirably.

He’s ranked 3rd in NHL Central Scouting for European goalies behind the above-mentioned Gustavsson and Daniel Marmalade Marmenlind. I’d be pretty confidently placing him second myself, and I would even put him in contention to take Gustavsson’s spot. He’ll certainly be someone to look out for with a 5th or 6th round pick.

WHAT SHOULD THE LEAFS BE LOOKING AT?

If I were the Leafs, I would pass on Fitzpatrick and Gustavsson as I believe they’ll be drafted significantly higher than the others in this list. I might take a look at Carter Hart with a 2nd round pick but otherwise, I’m just going to be seeing what I can get my hands on in the 4th and 5th round.

It’s been proposed that the Leafs may never draft a goalie and choose to acquire them once they’re 23 and we know enough about them to properly project their development path. I believe this is a poor plan, as I believe it’s better to take chances with the draft eligible players and hope you develop something special, rather than hope someone shows up as a diamond in the rough later on. 

Personally, I’m hoping we can acquire Vehvilainen and Point, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

  • Gary Empey

    @ Ryan Hobart

    How are the new rules for goalie equipment going to affect all these goalies? Are they not looking for those 6’4” goalies to actually make some saves, instead of simply standing in the crease (looking like an inflatable Gumby) blocking out the net?

  • silentbob

    thanks for the article, and good selection of goalies to describe.
    a note to all writers: I’ve noticed that you are using ‘compliment’, as in ‘I like your new tie’, instead of ‘complement’, as in ‘peanut butter and strawberry jam go together’.
    Like the writer, I would begin my short list of goalies with scout rankings, results [wins] and statistics, [height, GA, sv %], and rule out small agile goalies [bernier], and tall awkward goalies.
    plus, what about M Berdin, 6’2, 9.30 sv %, 2.00 GA, controls rebounds, combines stand-up and splits, skates post-to-post, good sense of position/angle.

    • Good catch, I did get the wrong compliment/complement!

      As for Berdin, if there were an “honourable mentions” section he definitely would have gone in there. I didn’t want to bombard people with goalie options.

    • Good catch, I did get the wrong compliment/complement!

      As for Berdin, if there were an “honourable mentions” section he definitely would have gone in there. I didn’t want to bombard people with goalie options.

  • silentbob

    Why do you seem set on waiting for a later round and taking whoever is left? Why not plan on using the 30-31 or 58 pick on Hart, Fitzpatrick or Gustavsson? (depending on who’s available and who the Leafs like of course) and being more aggressive/proactive in going after a better goalie prospect?

    • Primarily because of the sheer randomness that seems to come from goalie scouting. There are exactly zero predictable or repeatable metrics to judge goalies with. Being good in their respective development leagues has very little correlation to success in the NHL. I have some theories on why that is but they’re purely theories.

      Because of that, I think it’s better to use your high picks on players with whom you have a much stronger indication of how good they’ll be at the NHL level. Leave the later picks for taking the albeit lower pedigree goalies, who have basically just as good a chance at being NHL capable as the guys ranked above them.

  • Capt.Jay

    personally i’d shoot for carter hart and colton point. point, because of the likelihood that he goes to the NCAA where the leafs have 4 years to sign him. hart, because he was named the goalie of the year as a 17-year-old. while it’s true that it’s easier to evaluate older goalies because they’re farther along in their development and there’s a larger sample size, i think it’s absolutely worth a gamble to draft a guy whose birthday is a mere month before the draft cut-off date. if that player was also one of the top players at his position, then you’re looking at a potential high-reward player.

    yes, drafting a goalie is always a risk, and it’s true that some of the league’s best goalies have been late-round picks or even undrafted signees, but sometimes to get the best goalie in the league you have to draft him in the first round.

    the leafs have lots of draft picks this year, and they had lots of picks last year. they can afford to use a couple high-to-mid-range picks on goalies.