Future Watch: Goalies of the 2017 NHL Draft
Even though the 2016 NHL draft just occurred, it’s never too early to begin looking at the next season’s future draft class. From a goaltender perspective, it doesn’t look to be an extremely deep group, but there will be some very high-end names available – almost the complete opposite of the 2016 class.
Some interesting names were left undrafted in 2016. Drafting second-year eligible goaltenders is becoming a more common strategy, and if certain goaltenders continue to play well into their age-19 season, it’s very likely that they will be taken next year. First, let’s take a look at who will be available for the first time in 2017:
First-year eligible goaltenders
Stuart Skinner – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
6′ 3″ – 209 lbs
2015-16 stats: 44 GP – 2.73 GAA – .920 SV%
Most people first heard of Stuart Skinner when he scored a goal near the end of the WHL season, but he brings a lot more to the table than just his scoring touch. Skinner is one of the most exciting goaltending prospects to come out of the WHL since Carey Price was picked in 2005. He already has two full seasons under his belt as the starting goaltender for the Lethbridge Hurricanes – increasing his save percentage from .909 as a 16-year-old to .920 in 2015-16. That .920 save percentage was the fifth-best in the WHL, slotting him ahead of big names like Carter Hart and Adin Hill.
Even a somewhat disappointing appearance at the U18s (3 GP – 2.82 GAA, .860 SV%) couldn’t slow his momentum down. There is almost no doubt that Skinner will be drafted in 2017, even if he falters in 2016-17. He has the mix of size and mobility that all scouts crave, and is a definite name to watch heading into next season.
Jake Oettinger – US National Team Development Program
6′ 4″ – 201 lbs
2015-16 stats: 15 GP – 2.24 GAA – .919 SV%
A product of the US National Team Development Program, Oettinger is committed to Boston University in 2016-17. He started more games this past season than his teammate and Toronto Maple Leafs’ third-round pick Joseph Woll, and he should go higher in the 2017 draft. He’s bigger, faster, and will be starting college before he is even eligible to be drafted. With Sean Maguire signing a pro contract, the door is wide open for him to start for BU. It is the perfect storm for creating an exceptionally desirable prospect.
He won a bronze medal for the Americans at the U18s, posting very solid numbers (4 GP – 1.50 .934) to make an even stronger case as the top goaltending prospect in his draft class. Not to place any added expectations on him, but the last goaltender that can boast a starting job for a division I NCAA team before the age of 18 has developed into quite the goaltender. Does the name Thatcher Demko ring a bell?
Michael DiPietro – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
6′ 0″ – 190 lbs
2015-16 stats: 29 GP – 2.45 GAA – .912 SV%
DiPietro surprised many by finishing the season as the goaltender with the most games played for the Windsor Spitfires in 2015-16. While he wasn’t the unanimous starter, splitting time in the playoffs with the older Mario Culina, that didn’t stop him from showing scouts his future potential. His breakout performance came at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, where he led the Canada Red squad with a 3-1-1 record in 5 games, while posting a 1.75 GAA and .929 SV%.
Culina will likely be back to split time with DiPietro in Windsor next season, but don’t be surprised if DiPietro quickly snags the full-time starting job. If he can repeat the season he had in 2015-16, expect DiPietro’s name to be at the top of many draft lists.
Maxim Zhukov – Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (U17)
6′ 3″ – 181 lbs
2015-16 stats: 28 GP – 1.50 GAA – N/A SV%
To say that 2015-16 was an interesting season for Maxim Zhukov would be a giant understatement. There were highs, like finishing as the runner up with Russia at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, while posting a .910 save percentage in 6 games. Then there were the lows, like when the U17 team was sent to the U18s as a replacement squad due to the Meldonium scandal. He was promptly dismantled by the older teams in the two games that he saw action, finishing with a goals-against-average of over 8.
His numbers at home in Russia were very good, causing him to receive plenty of interest from overseas. He was selected 40th overall by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 2016 USHL draft. Jumping to North America would be great for his draft stock, especially if he does well in the USHL. Even if he continues along in the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv system, expect to hear his name mentioned a lot next year.
Keith Petruzzelli – Selects Hockey Academy U18 (USPHL)
6′ 5″ – 181 lbs
2015-16 stats: 22 GP – 1.13 GAA – .936 SV%
As one of the largest goaltending prospects that will be available in the 2017 draft, Petruzzelli is already drawing a considerable amount of interest. He is set to join the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL next season, where he will be tested at the highest level of his career. He is already committed to playing for Quinnipiac University in 2016-17. The Bobcats are, of course, coming off their second frozen four championship in four years, and will need Petruzzelli to develop in order to continue that success.
Petruzzelli will begin next season as one of the more unknown names in the draft class. That could change very quickly, depending how he fares in his first (and likely only) season in the USHL. He certainly has the right type of frame to have success, but he’ll need to develop into a more complete goaltender if he wishes to hear his name called at next year’s NHL draft.
Cayden Primeau – Philadelphia Revolution (EHL)
6′ 2″ – 179 lbs
2015-16 stats: 21 GP – 1.86 GAA – .951 SV%
One of the more recognizable names in this draft class is that of Cayden Primeau – son of former NHL power forward Keith Primeau. Primeau, a dual citizen, is committed to play for Northeastern University, but not until 2017-18. In 2015-16, he was named as the EHL goalie of the year after leading the league in both save percentage and goals-against-average as a 16-year-old. He may be a son of a former NHLer, but the hype surrounding him heading into next year’s draft is legitimate. He’s put up some incredible numbers.
He was selected in both the USHL draft and OHL draft in 2015, 17th and 89th overall respectively, but his likely destination is Lincoln of the USHL due to his college commitment. Like Keith Petruzzelli, the planned scenario is to play there for a season before moving on to college, to achieve bigger and better things. Before that happens, he’ll be up for the 2017 NHL draft.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen – HPK U20 (Finland)
6′ 3″ – 196 lbs
2015-16 stats: 15 GP – 1.98 GAA – .924 SV%
Not a single Finnish netminder was selected in the 2016 NHL draft, which came as a shock to a lot of people. That will not likely happen in 2017, as Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is a very good looking prospect that should be picked. He passed every single test that was thrown his way in 2015-16 – with flying colours. He was very good with the HPK U18 team, earning a promotion to the U20 team where he performed even better. Then came the U18s, where he won a gold medal with Finland, posting a 2.00 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage in the 3 games that he appeared in. In the 8 playoff games that he went on to appear in for the HPK U20 team? Only a 1.94 GAA and .920 save percentage. The kid was on fire, playing at a level above where he should have been playing.
Luukkonen has a few options for next season, but he will most likely be joining HPK’s men’s program. He signed a three-year contract earlier this year, and looks to be staying in his home country. If he does decide to leave, however, he was selected 122nd overall in the 2016 KHL draft by Severstal Cherepovets. That is a far less likely scenario, but worth mentioning. Whichever option he chooses, he will garner plenty of interest heading into the 2017 draft.
Other names to watch
There are always a few goaltenders that go on to have incredible seasons, and will unexpectedly jump up the draft rankings. Here are a five very good candidates to keep an eye on:
Daniil Tarasov – Tolpar Ufa (MHL)
Wonderful performance at the U18s (5 GP – 2.11 GAA, .921 SV%) has made him all the rage in some scouting circles.
Ian Scott – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Played 4 games for Canada White at World U-17 Hockey Challenge, 2.78 GAA .900 SV%
Olle Eriksson-Ek – Farjestad BK U18 (Sweden)
Brother of Joel Eriksson-Ek, Minnesota’s 1st-round pick in 2015. Won silver medal at U18s, bronze at U-17.
David Otter – Leksands IF (Allsvenskan)
Missed cutoff for 2016 draft by 10 days. Had a great Allsvenskan playoff performance (5 GP – 1.41 GAA, .944 SV%).
Alex D’Orio – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Was the 9th overall pick in the 2015 QMJHL draft, and should get his first taste of game action in 2016-17.
Jordan Hollett – Regina Pats (WHL)
Was the 13th overall pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. Appeared in 23 games last year, with a .887 SV%.
Second-year eligible goaltenders
Only 18 goaltenders were selected in the 2016 NHL draft, which is the lowest total since 1986. Some surprising talent should be available at next year’s draft as a result, if they choose to re-enter. These goaltenders could also choose to sign entry-level contracts and skip the draft entirely.
Zach Sawchenko – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
6th-ranked North American goalie was passed over due to size, despite having a SV% .002 lower than Carter Hart.
Griffen Outhouse – Victoria Royals (WHL)
Came out of obscurity to the lead the entire CHL with a .937 SV% in 27 games. Should start for Victoria in 2016-17.
Daniel Marmenlind – Orebro HK (Sweden)
2nd-ranked European goaltender was passed over for similar reasons as Sawchenko. Had very good junior numbers.
Evan Sarthou – Tri-City Americans (WHL)
The heir to Eric Comrie’s starting job in Tri-City struggled to carry his team. Played 60 games and saw a lot of rubber.
Cody Porter – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Stumbled out of the block with the Vancouver Giants, but began to turn some heads as the starter in Calgary.
Joseph Raaymakers – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
9th-ranked North American goaltender has posted average numbers in two OHL seasons, but has outrageous skill.