Not since the days of Justin Pogge have the Leafs been so sure they have a top goaltending prospect in the organization.
Does that scare you a little? Good. Goaltenders are scary. They might not be voodoo, but they are a little scary and for most of us it’s a little difficult to fully understand what the Leafs have, but the fact that Woll may be a potential NHL starter someday is enough to have him comfortably in the top ten of our prospect rankings.
Jon Steitzer: 4
Adam Laskaris /// Ryan Fancey: 6
Brayden Engel /// Shawn Reis /// Hayley Hendren: 7
Evan Presement /// Bobby Cappuccino: 8
Ryan Hobart /// Megan Kim /// Scott Maxwell /// Dylan Fremlin: 9
It’s safe to say the Leafs are in the “size matters” camp when it comes to goaltenders, and as such having a 6’3, 203 lb goaltender is right up their alley. Woll is a product of the US National Team Development Program, which is also nice since America has been the goaltending factory of late. The fact that as a 18 year old freshman Woll grabbed the starter role at Boston College and made a strong showing as a member of the gold medal World Junior team builds a lot of excitement for what he’ll do as a 19 year old.
So yeah, there’s a lot to like there in the little available information. Getting 34 games as a freshman is just as impressive as the save percentage he put up in those games. He also really seems to like international tournament play and/or USA Hockey has put together some great teams of late.
So there’s a bit more context here. First, Woll was working with another freshman goaltender, so getting starter minutes is less surprising. Additionally this was a team that was ranked 16th in the country, far from the most elite group that has been put together at BC, and that explains the record a little. Woll had the 30th best save percentage in the NCAA last year out of goaltenders who played 10 games or more (out of 89 goaltenders total.)
That being said, Woll was definitely the heavy lifter getting over 80% of the ice time, and putting up solid numbers against tougher opponents. The conference save percentage shows the Woll difference nicely.
The Eye Test
I’ve reached out to TLN’s resident goaltender whisperer and InGoal magazine writer Cat Silverman to tell us more about Joey…
His biggest strength with his style is, in my opinion, that he doesn’t seem overly aggressive outside of the posts. there’s not a ton of overlap there; he knows he takes up a ton of net as it is and his post coverage looks to be skates-in and reliant on using his frame inside the blue paint to make the stop, rather than eliminating space from outside the posts and intercepting things.
He seems to wait for the puck to come to him, and i’m not 100% sure how much of that is him still working on his tracking (he seems good but not amazing in that aspect, because he doesn’t seem to predict as many moves as I’d like). From a calm standpoint though, he doesn’t seem to overreact as much as a goaltender is age is something wont to do. Can easily see his Brick Wall nickname coming from his lack of desperation saves. He definitely stays in a position that makes it easier to transition to a new save more often than not.
That being said, I think his size works to his advantage with all that, and his overall positioning isn’t sound enough that he could get away with it if he were any smaller. No idea how much of that will be cleaned up as he gets older, of course, but no guarantees that he’ll ever be the most technically precise goaltender in the system.
I’m still hesitant to blindly sing his praises at this point in his career, but there are certainly guys that I’m far more wary of out there. Even if he never hits the NHL full-time, he’s got a very solid foundation and he’ll look good as a prospect at the very least, and there’s potential for more growth.
That certainly is better than my observations of “he’s big” and “he stops the puck a lot”.
As Seen on TV
A standout showing at the World Juniors has to be thing that most people are looking for out of Woll this season. Other than that he’s going to keep on keeping on at Boston College. Maybe a few more games, maybe some improvement in his save percentage, but for the most part it’s growth in the areas that Cat spoke of not necessarily significant improvement in his numbers that the Leafs will be looking for, though it should go without saying that a step back would be alarming.
I ranked Woll as the 4th best prospect in the system largely because of the importance of his position, and the significance that a future number one goalie has for an organization. I believe that Woll is capable of being that, but I can’t pretend I have the slightest clue whether he’ll be a #1 goaltender the way that Cory Schneider is a #1 or whether it will be the way that James Reimer was a number #1 goaltender. What we know at this point is that Woll has been solid at every level he’s been at so far, and fits the bill of what the Leafs are looking for as a goaltender.
As I touched on in the beginning, there was a lot of confidence and excitement around Justin Pogge at one time too. Before him, Mikael Tellqvist was the goaltender of the future, not everyone pans out. Given the Leafs commitment to having a certain type of goaltender, and having a goaltending coach familiar with developing that style, and a team defense familiar with playing in front of that style, there is a greater potential for success for Woll over banking on a guy who did well in the World Juniors.
Previously, on TLN Top 20 Prospect Rankings 2017
#8 Andreas Johnsson
#9 Yegor Korshkov
#10 Eemeli Rasanen
#11 Dmytro Timashov
#12 Andreas Borgman
#13 Calle Rosen
#14 Miro Aaltonen
#15 Trevor Moore
#16 JD Greenway
#17 Justin Holl
#18 Jesper Lindgren
#19 Vladimir Bobylyov
#20 Nikolai Chebykin