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2019 Leafs Prospect Rankings- The Long Shots: Zach Bouthillier

Position: Goaltender
2018 TLN Top 20 Rank: Not Ranked
How Acquired: 2018 7th Round (209th Overall)

Why Bouthillier’s in this tier?

We might have been a little kind to Bouthillier by putting him in the long shot tier instead of the longest shots, given that he hasn’t exactly been a statistical darling over his time in the QMJHL. He hasn’t broken the .900 save percentage in any of his seasons, and at best has been a platooning starter, not fully taking the starter gig outright.

Some of that could change in this up coming season, as Bouthillier is part of what was an absolutely dreadful Saint John Sea Dogs team to close out the year. His numbers certainly suffered from that fate, but he finely had the starter role outright, and should get a chance to run with that in advance of the Leafs making decisions on his future at the end of the year.

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Bouthillier has the size you want in a professional hockey goaltender, as he’s 6’2, but not overly bulky at just 190 lbs. With Kaskisuo’s contract up at the end of the season, it’s entirely possible that Bouthillier could be brought in to see how he can develop as part of the Newfound Growlers, but even that may be premature at this point. With strong prospects like Joseph Woll and Ian Scott ahead of him on the depth the Leafs might not to be too worried about what else they have in the goaltending pipeline.

All of that being said, there is never any shortage of available goaltenders in the draft, and the Leafs goaltending staff would have certainly had a say on Bouthillier and like his skill set enough to give him a chance. Given that the vast majority of people struggle with predicting goalies, Bouthiller’s worth a look.

Analyzing Bouthillier

via eliteprospects.com

As mentioned above, the numbers on Bouthillier are pretty ugly. It doesn’t matter that goals against average is terrible stat, there is still something terrifying about seeing a GAA that starts with a 5.

By looking at those very basic numbers above, it appears that the Leafs likely put a lot of stock in what they saw during the 2018 QMJHL playoffs, and honestly, if there’s something that us non-goaltending folk can hang our hats on, it’s that he can certainly string together some good games.

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It’s worth noting that Bouthillier had 16 games last season with a save percentage north of .900. It’s also worth noting that Bouthillier saw more than 30 shots in 21 of the 31 games that he played at least 40 minutes of. This guy saw a ton of puck. Ten of those games he had over 40 shots against, and at one point in the season he had two games in a row where he faced 60 shots or more. To say that Bouthillier’s been working in some unique situations is probably an understatement.

Rookie tournament be damned, I am smitten with a Leafs goaltender who can play a 2 on 0 like that. And I know what you’re going to say, pretty much every goaltender in the junior ranks has some saves like that on their highlight reel, and you’d be right, but given the numbers on Bouthillier he deserves to have a positive clip in here.

Best Case Career Outcomes

Well, Bouthillier’s going to be the workhorse for Saint John this season, and that’s probably a good thing. He’ll see a lot of puck and he’ll get more than his fair share of starts, and as long as we don’t get too focused on the stats and instead appreciate the work being put in, he might get an offer from the Leafs to come on board and start his career with the Growlers next season.

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It’s hard to imagine any kind of quick path to the NHL for Bouthillier, and frankly even putting NHL on the map seems like an incredible stretch. To reach that goal, he’s going to need to pass two more highly regarded prospects. The career path probably looks like he’ll require a good season with the Sea Dogs, followed by a strong platoon season with the Growlers that could lead to the Growlers starting job in 2021-22. Assuming that goes well he could be brought into the Marlies fold and have to fight his way into the position where he could be a reasonable NHL callup. Expecting beyond that seems like an absolute stretch, but for any of this to work Bouthillier is going to have to defy what has been seen so far.

And the Worst Case Scenario?

Well, it’s probably also the likely one. Bouthillier will play out this season with the Sea Dogs and the Leafs will let their draft pick rights expire on him. He might get an ECHL contract for a further look, but moving on from Bouthillier seems like the most likely outcome.

Bouthillier was a seventh round swing for the fences pick in a draft that didn’t have much in the way of high tier goaltending prospects. At the time the Leafs didn’t know what they had in Scott and Woll, and perhaps Bouthillier was a way to hedge their bets on maintaining a goaltending pipeline.

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That said, goaltending is voodoo and he’ll end up being the Leafs starter in three years to spite me.


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