When you think of Joseph Woll, what do you know of him?
Some look at his 2017 World Junior Championship with USA, where he had two wins, a .934 save percentage and a gold medal. Others may dive deeper into his three seasons with Boston College, and the way he played there. But if you go back more recently, there’s his two seasons with the Toronto Marlies where Woll struggled to get his save percentage above .900.
However, this past season for him looked a little bit different, and I believe the numbers are telling a totally different story.
Drafted: #62 Overall in the 2016 NHL Draft by Toronto Maple Leafs
2020-21 Team: Toronto Marlies, AHL
2020 Prospect Ranking: #11
The 23-year-old spent last season moving up and down between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies. It wasn’t because he was ready to be in the NHL, but mainly protection in case of any injuries (and the Leafs needed three goalies).
Woll eventually went back down to the Marlies, where again, he struggled to find a lot of playing time. As a whole, the Marlies iced eight goaltenders last season
— some being prospects, one being @Frederik Andersen, and then a few others before Woll’s arrival to the team.
One of the positives he took away from being in the NHL was having the mentorship from players like Andersen, @Jack Campbell, and @Michael Hutchinson. When back with the Marlies, the 23-year-old raved about how much that helped him become a better goaltender in the AHL.
While you look at his 2021 numbers with the Marlies, which is a 7-7-0 record with a .892 save percentage, remember that this next season is the biggest of his career. And that’s where you really evaluate him.
If I had to discuss one game from last season, I think of May 4th when he made 57 saves in a 4-3 win against the Laval Rocket. That night, Woll set a new Marlies record for most saves in a game.
“It’s games like that where you’ve seen how much he’s grown in a year.” Said Greg Moore after the game.
One of the best attributes of Woll’s game is his ability to stay calm within the net. If he allows a bad goal or if something else goes wrong, the 23-year-old stays composed. His ability to make desperation saves is another positive. Obviously you don’t want that to be a regularity, but if Woll needs to make a big save, he’s there.
The 23-year-old always seems like he’s in the right spot too. His positioning has come a long way and it’s a part of his game that has improved a large amount.
If there’s one aspect of his game that should be improved — right away I think of puck tracking. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s a place where he gets beaten a lot. Whether it’s a screened goal or a clear shot at some points, Woll struggles to save the puck as it comes to him.
Now, it’s not something that happens regularly, but it’s a part of his game where it happens enough to say that he needs to be better at it.
As you may already know, goalies are voodoo. They can become good at, really, anytime. I believe Woll has turned a corner in his career as a goaltender though. The numbers don’t show it, but the 23-year-old has shown that he can be reliable when called upon with the Marlies.
The next season is vitally important, though. It’s really a make-or-break season for him and becoming the goaltender of the future for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s old enough now where if he has a strong season in the AHL, he could be up in the NHL for the 2022-23 season.
What I know about this season, though, is that the Marlies’ starter role is likely his. Greg Moore discussed last season that their goal is to get Woll considerable minutes. As of right now, the Marlies don’t have many goaltenders on their team. With Ian Scott likely going to Newfoundland, there’s only @Michael Hutchinson (who could be the Leafs third string), and possibly Erik Källgren who was recently signed.
Like I said, the expectation is that Woll starts a considerable amount of games. He’s earned the opportunity to show the Leafs organization what he can do with a full-time gig.
And when you have the Head Coach saying this about you, really, anything is possible. I believe this is a big season for him, and his career. He’ll either prove to everyone that he has all of the attributes to be an NHL goaltender, or he could put up similar numbers to his last few seasons in Toronto.
Everything is in his control now, and we’ll have to wait and see what he does with it.