InGoal Future Watch 2016: Eastern Conference
NHL teams take very different approaches when it comes to filling their depth chart with goaltending talent. Some teams devote a lot of resources into it and prefer to “stockpile” goalies, in the hopes that one of them will turn into a regular NHLer. Others do not pay as much attention to it, for various reasons.
Teams like the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens know that they are set between the pipes thanks to the goaltender that they currently employ. They rightfully do not spend as much time drafting and developing goaltenders – but that doesn’t mean they should ignore it completely. Goaltender performance is still unpredictable, and in the era of modern free agency, it pays to have a well-stocked depth chart behind your current starting goalie.
Using our knowledge of the goaltenders that are currently owned by NHL teams, we have broken down each teams’ individual situation. The ranking provided is based on two main factors: depth and the overall talent ceiling of the goaltenders that are currently in their possession.
We start with the Eastern Conference rankings:
(Click here to view the western conference rankings)
|Rank||Grade||Team||Goalie of the Future|
|1.||A+||Tampa Bay Lightning||Andrei Vasilevskiy|
|2.||A||Boston Bruins||Malcolm Subban|
|3.||A||Washington Capitals||Ilya Samsonov|
|4.||A-||Pittsburgh Penguins||Matt Murray|
|5.||B+||New York Islanders||Linus Soderstrom|
|6.||B+||Carolina Hurricanes||Alex Nedeljkovic|
|7.||B+||Columbus Blue Jackets||Joonas Korpisalo|
|8.||B||Detroit Red Wings||Petr Mrazek|
|9.||B||Philadelphia Flyers||Anthony Stolarz|
|10.||B-||Buffalo Sabres||Robin Lehner|
|11.||C+||New York Rangers||Brandon Halverson|
|12.||C+||Florida Panthers||Samuel Montembeault|
|13.||C||Montreal Canadiens||Zach Fucale|
|14.||C||New Jersey Devils||Mackenzie Blackwood|
|15.||D||Toronto Maple Leafs||Garret Sparks|
*NOTE: Goaltenders with an InGoal logo beside their name were ranked in our pre-season Top 50 NHL Goaltending Prospects list.
Boston Bruins (A)
In the System: With Tuukka Rask firmly planted in the Bruins’ crease for the foreseeable future, there is no panic to restock the shelves in Boston. Despite that, they have done an incredible job of acquiring assets to develop in the minors. Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre are two premier talents that are taking the slow-but-sure route to the NHL. Both of them struggled at the beginning of the year in Providence, but have turned it around nicely as the season has gone on. The Bruins also selected lanky 6-foot-5 Daniel Vladar at last year’s draft, who is having a tremendous year in the USHL, and could end up being a steal.
Conclusion: Even though there is no immediate need to have a stacked system of goaltenders waiting in wings behind Rask, the Bruins have done a stellar job of collecting assets that they can choose to either trade or develop.
Goalie of the Future: Malcolm Subban
Buffalo Sabres (B-)
In the System: If you ask Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray, they acquired their goaltender of the future when they brought in Robin Lehner from the Ottawa Senators. The rest of the Sabres system is filled with a bevy of mid-level prospects that have moderate chances to become successful. Nathan Lieuwen and Andrey Makarov provide adequate depth in their system, but the real prize is Linus Ullmark. After two polar opposite seasons with MODO, he’s proving that he’s a legit NHL talent in his first season in North America. Cal Petersen, Jason Kasdorf, and Jonas Johansson fill out the rest of their goaltending depth chart, and all have average potential to become legitimate pros.
Conclusion: The Sabres have certainly collected their share of prospects to fill their system, and they’ve found a few keepers along the way. They’ve invested in Robin Lehner, who should be the man in their crease as they look to rebuild their franchise.
Goalie of the Future: Robin Lehner
Carolina Hurricanes (B+)
In the System: It isn’t a well-known fact, but the Carolina Hurricanes have an extremely strong group of goaltending prospects in their system. Alex Nedeljkovic has steadily proven himself to be one of the most exciting young goaltenders in junior hockey today. Callum Booth’s stock had recently fallen before last year’s draft, and the Hurricanes made a shrewd move to grab him later than he should have been drafted. Daniel Altshuller has developed into an intriguing AHL talent, and is still only 22 years old. Rasmus Tirronen is continuing to adjusting as a first-year pro, but is an incredibly hard worker, and provides even more depth in their system.
Conclusion: The Hurricanes have created an underrated stockpile of young, talented goaltenders that should give them plenty of options in the future.
Goalie of the Future: Alex Nedeljkovic
Columbus Blue Jackets (B+)
In the System: The original plan for the Columbus Blue Jackets was to groom former 31st overall pick Oscar Dansk into their goaltender of the future, but his development has been a bumpy road that eventually led back to Europe. Attention was then turned to Anton Forsberg, who has excelled in the minor leagues, but cannot seem to pull it together in his short stints at the NHL level. Surprisingly, Joonas Korpisalo has taken the reigns in the absence of Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney for most of the 2015-2016 season due to multiple injuries. His surge up the depth chart, combined with the promising Elvis Merzlikins excelling for Lugano in Switzerland, gives the Blue Jackets noteworthy depth at the position.
Conclusion: The Blue Jackets drafted a number of raw, “high ceiling” type goaltenders, and it looks like that game plan will pay off with Korpisalo.
Goalie of the Future: Joonas Korpisalo
Detroit Red Wings (B)
In the System: The Red Wings have hit the jackpot with Petr Mrazek, who has successfully usurped the starter’s job from Jimmy Howard, and looks like their goaltender of the future. Tom McCollum and Jared Coreau are both older than Mrazek, but have had their share of success at the AHL level. Coreau has especially turned heads, and could be an NHL option in the near future. Jake Paterson, a first-year pro out of the OHL, is enjoying moderate success in the ECHL. He’s a longer-term project, but his ceiling remains high. The Detroit system also contains two wildcard youngsters in Chase Perry and Joren van Pottelberghe. Perry is a BCHL grad and RPI commit, while van Pottelberghe held his own at the World Juniors for Switzerland, and will be playing for powerhouse HC Davos in 2016-2017.
Conclusion: Aside from Mrazek, none of the Red Wings goaltenders really jump off the page at you. Even with a lack of high-end talent, their system is well-stocked with goaltenders that are safe bets for the future.
Goalie of the Future: Petr Mrazek
Florida Panthers (C+)
In the System: With the top of their depth chart filled with reliable veterans (Luongo, Montoya, McKenna) work is being done to bring in the next wave of young Panthers goalies. Sam Brittain and Colin Stevens have flown under the radar, and have proven that they can compete at the professional level. Evan Cowley stands out on a strong University of Denver team, but has been forced to split time this season, hurting his development. They also have Hugo Fagerblom, a 20-year-old six-foot-six behemoth in Sweden, who is still quite raw. Last year’s third round pick Samuel Montembeault could emerge as the front runner in the system. He’s had a fantastic year in the QMJHL, and received a surprise invitation to Canada’s World Junior team as a result.
Conclusion: The Panthers are still searching and trying to develop that one big-name goaltending prospect. Thankfully, they have some options, depth, and possible diamonds in the rough coming down the pipe.
Goalie of the Future: Samuel Montembeault
Montreal Canadiens (C)
In the System: The Habs may have Carey Price, but they weren’t shy about their future plans when they drafted Zach Fucale in 2013. They will take their time with him, and hope that he can eventually challenge for Price’s job. His issues with inconsistent play have carried over to the AHL, so he is very much still a work in progress. Mike Condon surprisingly won the backup job at the start of this year. With Price’s injury, he has battled his way through a tough season, but has shown that he has an NHL future. Hayden Hawkey (one of the best prospect names out there) has looked great in limited action as a freshman for Providence College. Michael McNiven is the starting goaltender for the Owen Sound Attack who went undrafted, but the Canadiens decided to sign him to an entry level contract.
Conclusion: The Habs clearly don’t have to rush a new goaltender through the system, but have a handful of pieces in place. Fucale is their high-end hopeful, and won’t be ready for at least a few more seasons.
Goalie of the Future: Zach Fucale
New Jersey Devils (C)
In the System: The New Jersey Devils do not have the deepest, strongest group of goaltending prospects, but have done a good job adding two major prospects behind Cory Schneider. Drafting Mackenzie Blackwood, who was the top-ranked North American goaltender, was crucial. It gives them a legitimate high-end goaltending prospect, which is something they have not had since Martin Brodeur’s early days with the organization. The signing of Ken Appleby was another good move, grabbing the undrafted Memorial Cup-winner to help stockpile some talent. Scott Wedgewood is still as athletic as ever, and seems to be improving under the watch of veteran Yann Danis at the AHL level. Keith Kinkaid should be an NHL-capable backup for a number of years.
Conclusion: The Devils have added depth, and high-end prospect Mackenzie Blackwood, but a lot of work still needs to be done before they can safely say that they have a plan in place behind Cory Schneider.
Goalie of the Future: Mackenzie Blackwood
New York Islanders (B+)
In the System: While there is some uncertainty at the top with the battle between Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss, the New York Islanders have a well-balanced system beneath that. The Isles managed to claim J-F Berube, although it’s unclear what their long-term plan is for him. Christopher Gibson was acquired from Toronto in an early-season deal, and has been solid for Bridgeport, splitting time with first-year pro Stephon Williams. Three major prospects in their system have had fantastic seasons to date. 2013 third-round pick Eamon McAdam is enjoying a breakout season for Penn State University, 2014 third-round pick Ilya Sorokin is at the top of practically every major stat category in the KHL, and 2014 fourth-round pick Linus Soderstrom was named as the top goaltender at the World Juniors.
Conclusion: The Islanders have an appealing mix of prospects that are making an impact now, and a bevy of youngsters on their way to give them plenty of options later.
Goalie of the Future: Linus Soderstrom
New York Rangers (C+)
In the System: Despite having Henrik Lundqvist as a luxury, the New York Rangers acquired Antti Raanta in the offseason to back him up. It’s very possible that Raanta could develop into an NHL regular, but the Rangers have not stopped there. Mackenzie Skapski played well in two NHL games last season, but his development has slowed down after undergoing hip surgery. They found a spot in the AHL for Magnus Hellberg, and he has turned in yet another solid season, but remains a fringe NHL goaltender. Brandon Halverson was the backup to Alex Nedeljkovic for Team USA at the World Juniors, and has looked quite good in the OHL. Igor Shestyorkin was a standout at last year’s World Juniors, and his season has been nothing short of fantastic. Adam Huska, a Slovakian netminder that they drafted in the seventh round last year, is currently dominating in the USHL.
Conclusion: The Rangers aren’t replacing Lundqvist yet, but their system is sprinkled with a handful of goalies who could eventually fit the bill.
Goalie of the Future: Brandon Halverson
Ottawa Senators (D)
In the System: One of the biggest splashes made last year was the Ottawa Senators signing of Matt O’Connor out of Boston University to a two-year contract. At the time, it seemed like it was a slam-dunk move. O’Connor has struggled mightily in the AHL this year, battling injuries and inconsistent play. That’s devastating for the Sens, because the rest of their depth chart is quite thin. Chris Dreidger’s solid play has been a welcome surprise, but he projects more as a future backup goaltender. Marcus Hogberg is 21 years old, and will be ready to graduate from the Swedish Elite League very soon. Joel Daccord is the only other goaltender in their system. He is committed to Arizona State, and is a long way from turning pro.
Conclusion: Matt O’Connor will have one more season to prove himself to the Senators organization. If he can’t turn his game around, dark horse Marcus Hogberg is their only hope.
Goalie of the Future: ????
Philadelphia Flyers (B)
In the System: There isn’t a pressing need to replace Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth yet, but when it is time, Anthony Stolarz will be ready and waiting. He is beginning to live up to the hype of his 45th overall selection in 2012. Matej Tomek is a North Dakota commit, but has been sidelined with injuries, delaying his NCAA debut. The Flyers made Felix Sandstrom a third-round pick last season, and while his ceiling is high, they plan on letting him season overseas for a few years before making any decisions. Merrick Madsen stepped into the starter’s role for Harvard this year, and has thrived. Ivan Fedotov, a massive six-foot-six Russian that they selected in the seventh round last year, is developing in the KHL’s junior league.
Conclusion: Even though Stolarz is firmly in place as the future of the franchise, the Flyers have continued to draft raw, talented goaltenders. Their lack of depth at the position could be quickly rectified.
Goalie of the Future: Anthony Stolarz
Pittsburgh Penguins (A-)
In the System: It’s difficult to believe that Marc-Andre Fleury is already 31 years old. He hasn’t necessarily shown any signs of slowing down, but the Penguins have already developed a possible replacement, just in case. Matt Murray made his name known in his rookie season as a professional last year by breaking the record for the longest AHL shutout streak. He impressed so much in his NHL games this year, that he has reduced Jeff Zatkoff to a third stringer. Tristan Jarry was a second-round pick in 2014, and is perfectly following in Murray’s footsteps down in Wilkes-Barre. Sean Maguire missed all of last season due to a terrible concussion, but thankfully has returned in full health to take the reigns from Matt O’Connor at Boston University.
Conclusion: Even if the Penguins want to stick with Fleury and trade Murray, they have two more solid prospects in Jarry and Maguire coming through the system.
Goalie of the Future: Matt Murray
Tampa Bay Lightning (A+)
In the System: The most talented future starting netminder in the NHL could very well be Andrei Vasilevskiy. He has amazing flexibility, and processes the game at another level compared to other goaltenders his age. If you’re looking to build a team around a young goaltender, he should top the list. The Lightning are lucky to not only have him on their roster, but also have a battle in the AHL between Kristers Gudlevskis and first-year pro Adam Wilcox. Both goalies have had up and down seasons, but their futures remain bright. Their crop of prospects doesn’t end there. Kris Oldham, a sixth-round selection last year, is set to join the University of Nebraska-Omaha next season.
Conclusion: The Lightning possess one of the best young goaltenders in the game with Vasilevskiy. Combined with Wilcox and Gudlevskis seasoning in the AHL, and Oldham heading to NCAA – they have an extremely solid system from top to bottom.
Goalie of the Future: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Toronto Maple Leafs (D)
In the System: The emergence of Garret Sparks is the only thing that saved the Maple Leafs goaltending system from being an unmitigated disaster in 2015-2016. The year began poorly, by moving Christopher Gibson to the New York Islanders. Although the move did free up a spot for Sparks to thrive, Gibson was one of the only other prospects that they owned with a future between the pipes. Antoine Bibeau continues to win with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, but hasn’t inspired a lot of faith with his play. Beyond that, the Leafs do not own the rights to any other goaltending prospect. It’s barren. Look for the new regime to fix this problem in the offseason.
Conclusion: Garret Sparks has been a pleasant surprise for a team that has one of the emptiest and weakest goaltending systems in the entire NHL.
Goalie of the Future: Garret Sparks
Washington Capitals (A)
In the System: With Philipp Grubauer making the jump to the NHL, the Capitals decided to go with a pair of veterans to lead their AHL team. Justin Peters and Dan Ellis splitting time with Hershey in the AHL has allowed Vitek Vanecek to develop in the ECHL with South Carolina. Vanecek has benefited greatly from that move, steadily improving as his first season in North America has worn on. The Caps also used their first pick in last year’s draft to select Ilya Samsonov out of the KHL. Samsonov, an electrifying prospect, has continued to develop in Russia, and probably won’t look to make the jump to North America for at least a few more seasons.
Conclusion: The Caps have immediate stability in goal with Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, while prospects Samsonov and Vanecek give them something to look forward to in the future.
Goalie of the Future: Ilya Samsonov