Physical: 6’4″, 203 pounds
2018 TLN Prospect Ranking: #7
Draft Info: 3rd round, 62nd overall in 2016
If it feels like it’s been a decade since the Toronto Maple Leafs had a goaltending prospect pan out, you aren’t far off.
Garret Sparks is with the Vegas Golden Knights right now, where may very well start off the year with their AHL affiliate. Antoine Bibeau? Currently starting for the San Jose Barracuda. The Leafs didn’t draft a single goaltender between Sparks in 2011 and Grant Rollheiser (!! I know !!) in 2008, and that pick yielded a four-year ECHL career that fizzled out in 2016.
Their last goaltending draft pick to log significant mileage in Toronto as an NHLer was James Reimer, whom they selected 13 years ago in 2006.
That makes Joseph Woll both legitimately exciting and a prospect fans are understandably skittish to get hyped on. If he manages to crank out an NHL starting career, he’ll be just the third goalie drafted by the Leafs since 1990 to do so — and only one of the other two, Felix Potvin, actually did it with Toronto themselves.
It’s been a rough go.
Still, putting aside the hard-to-blame terror borne by Leafs fans, who cheer for a team that’s been chronically inept at drafting in-net talent, Woll has potential to be the next big thing in Leafs goaltending – and if the team plays their cards right, he’ll do so in just enough time to finally give Frederik Andersen a bit of a break.
Why He’s In This Tier
Woll had a less-than-stellar statistical showing at the 2018 U20 World Juniors, although it’s always worth taking a glance at the defence in front and the shots allowed (not all that many) when criticizing a bronze medalist for putting up underwhelming numbers.
His overall data set in college, which has been the true test for the 21-year-old Missouri native, is much prettier to look at. His numbers have been solid – but more importantly, they’ve been consistent, even with a reasonably heavy workload for a kid who spent time playing for the World Juniors teams two years out of three as well.
If he’s able to translate that kind of consistency to the AHL next year, the Leafs could finally see the solution to getting back the elite goaltending that they’ve been missing since the rest of the league stopped letting them sneak NHL-caliber backups through waivers.
Pros/Cons of his Game
The real reassurance with a goaltending prospect is, of course, in the eye test.
Woll played for a Boston College roster that seemed almost resolutely allergic to playing well against non-conference opponents. During a trip through Tempe, Arizona last winter, BC let Woll get absolutely shelled by an enthusiastic (but conference-less) ASU Sun Devils lineup, struggling to score against Senators prospect Joey Daccord and leaving Woll both lacking reinforcements and without any kind of a score-buffer to provide relief.
He stood on his head, but lost those games — something that defined his out-of-conference appearances for the Eagles all season long.
Woll’s play each night was exactly what you’d want from a goaltender who didn’t always know whether or not he was going to get any kind of help in front, though. He stayed poised and focused on where rebounds and redirects were headed, but didn’t let himself get so locked into his technical game that he flubbed plays that could only be stopped with desperation saves.
Leafs prospect Joseph Woll having himself a night
— Mike Grinnell (@MikeGrinnell_) February 12, 2019
Woll played with a combination of good technical prowess and fast decision making, which is a fantastic double threat for a goaltender. It shows both that hard-to-define “high hockey IQ” and a good physical toolkit, which should serve him well as he adapts to the pace of the AHL game.
At this point, it’s too early to tell where Woll will end up. It was clear after last season, though, that his game was mature enough to make a likely smooth transition to the pros, so there’s high hope that he’ll be at the very least ready for NHL action with a few years of AHL practice.