Top 50 NHL Goaltending Prospects for 2015-2016
With the amount of amateur and professional scouting available in this modern age of sports, any list of the best prospects will vary depending who is making the list. Based on a collection of those different opinions and scouting work from our staff, InGoal has created a power ranking for the next generation of up-and-coming NHL goaltenders.
Factors like age, talent ceiling, current development situation, reputation, and how close they are to being NHL-ready were all taken under consideration when making this list. It may not be definitive, but it will hopefully offer a decent idea of each organization’s future goaltending situation.
Younger, recently-drafted goalies may not rank as high on the list because are still very early in their development, and it is difficult to compare them to prospects that have already turned pro. Some have very high ceilings and are ranked appropriately, but others may need to develop for a few more years before they begin to climb up the list.
The stipulations to qualify as a “prospect” for the purpose of this list are:
1) Must be 25 years old or younger,
2) Have only played 10 games or less in the NHL, and
3) Must be drafted or signed by a professional club.
If a goaltender is missing from the list, check to make sure they qualify based on those rules. Unfortunately, promising goalies like John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks, Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Petr Mrazek of the Detroit Red Wings do not qualify because they all surpassed the 10 NHL game limit.
Undrafted and unsigned goaltenders (see: Ken Appleby) also do not qualify for this list. When Alex Lyon chooses to leave Yale University, he will likely cause another Matt O’Connor-like bidding war. He would have easily made this list, but since he was not drafted and is currently not under contract by a professional team, he does not qualify.
With those factors in mind, here is the list of the current top 50 NHL goaltending prospects:
1. Connor Hellebuyck
Organization: St. John’s (AHL)
Age: 22 years old
Draft: 5th round, 130th overall (2012)
Unquestionably one of the most polished goaltenders that has yet to play in an NHL game, Connor Hellebuyck is the next big name to look out for. The 6-foot-4 Michigan native made a practically seamless jump from college to the AHL in 2014-2015. After a brief two-year career with UMass-Lowell, the Winnipeg Jets were convinced he was capable of turning pro. Even though the St. John’s IceCaps were a weak team, he maintained excellent statistics as a rookie. His performance earned him the starting job with Team USA at the World Championships, and, not surprisingly, he dominated there as well. He has passed every test that has been thrown his way so far, and it hasn’t even looked difficult. For a fifth-round pick, Hellebuyck’s rise to stardom has been fast and even a bit unexpected.
Hellebuyck is huge in the net, but is not saddled with many of the issues that are commonly associated with large goaltenders. He is a strong skater, and takes advantage of that by being smart about his butterfly usage. He does not sit back and rely on his size do the work. His lateral pushes are explosive, but he stays within himself due to an understanding of the type of positioning that works best for a goalie of his size. It’s very rare to see Hellebuyck scramble out of position, which is a sign of a goaltender that knows his limits and is in complete control. The buzz around the AHL at the beginning of last season was “Who is this guy?” but that quickly turned into “How the heck do you beat this guy?” He’s only a household name in the AHL right now, but the NHL shouldn’t be too far behind.
2. Malcolm Subban
Organization: Providence (AHL)
Age: 21 years old
Draft: 1st round, 24th overall (2012)
With the departure of Niklas Svedberg, it looks as if Malcolm Subban will have a legitimate opportunity for an NHL job next season. Based on his back-to-back .920+ save percentage seasons with Providence of the AHL, he’s ready. He has been publicly lauded as a tremendous athlete, but he is also routinely complimented on his hockey sense by scouts. He is easy to teach and is a very quick learner of new techniques. As another goaltender that started playing the position later in life, his rapid rise to success took many scouts that saw him early in his junior career by surprise. The former first-round pick is fully expected to be a starting goaltender in the NHL with the Bruins one day.
Will playing as Tuukka Rask’s backup be positive for his development, or should he spend another year with Providence? It’s difficult to groom a goaltender for a starting job in the future if he only appears in 15-20 games, even if those games are at the NHL level. Playing against NHL shooters and working with Bob Essensa every day wouldn’t be the worst thing, but if he isn’t seeing regular action – it could actually work against him. His first NHL experience wasn’t a positive one, so the Bruins must be cautious about the next step they take.
3. Ilya Samsonov
Organization: Magnitogorsk (MHL)
Age: 18 years old
Draft: 1st round, 22nd overall (2015)
In 2015, Samsonov became the first goaltender selected in the first round at the NHL draft since the Tampa Bay Lightning selected fellow Russian Andrei Vasilevskiy 19th overall in 2012. He also had the “Russian factor” working against him because he is currently signed for three more years in the KHL. In post-draft interviews with Samsonov, he clearly indicated a desire to play in the NHL eventually, but stated that he would like to continue to develop in Russia for the time being. With Braden Holtby manning the crease for now, the Capitals are not in a rush to bring him over any time soon. They’re content with stowing their asset away in hopes that he can be something special down the road when they need him.
By all reports, Samsonov is something special. He provides an interesting mix of a large frame, and an exciting, aggressive style that forces shooters to make the first move. He’s flashy, confident, and looks to have all of the tools needed to become a starting goaltender in the NHL. After spending a year in the MHL, the Capitals are hoping that he plays a large role with Magnitogorsk’s KHL team in 2015-2016 – which would be the best for his development. With Vasilevskiy making a name for himself in North America only three seasons after being drafted, expect Samsonov to follow a similar timetable. Signing him should not be a challenge, contrary to any of the rumours that may be out there.
4. Eric Comrie
Organization: Tri-City (WHL)
Age: 20 years old
Draft: 2nd round, 59th overall (2013)
When the Winnipeg Jets took Eric Comrie with a late pick in the second round at the 2013 draft, it was seen as a bit of a risk at the time. He was a kid with first-round potential, but had his season cut short due to preemptive surgery to repair a hip problem. That perceived gamble has paid off as Comrie is now one of the most exciting goaltending prospects in the league. He returned from surgery with improved flexibility and strength, and finished his junior career with two very strong seasons. Tri-City had a weak roster, but the workload he received only helped his development, and he carried them into a surprise playoff appearance. In his final WHL game, he would make 66 saves in an eventual 5-4 overtime loss.
Head Trajectory pioneer and Tri-City Americans goaltending coach Lyle Mast raves about his time spent with Comrie, who benefited from his work with the coach as much as the action he saw in games. He is not physically the biggest prospect on the list, but he is possibly the best at tracking the puck. Wherever he starts next season, he will have more structure in front of him than he had in junior – which could be a recipe for success. He possesses high-end skill, but he likes to keep the aggressive movements in his back pocket. It’s easy to tell when Comrie is really on. Rebounds are swallowed, the game slows down, and his opponents become more and more frustrated. With the duo of Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie in the system, the Jets will be a scary team to watch.
5. Matt Murray
Organization: W-B/Scranton (AHL)
Age: 21 years old
Draft: 3rd round, 83rd overall (2012)
The 2014-2015 season was a dream beginning to Matt Murray’s professional career. He was voted as the AHL’s rookie of the year, and was a first-team all star – on top of having the top goals-against-average and save percentage in the entire league. The highlight of his year was from February 8th to March 8th when he did not allow a single goal. Four straight shutouts spanning 304:11 minutes of scoreless hockey would give him the record for the longest shutout streak in AHL history. It was a legendary performance that will certainly ramp up the pressure and expectations placed on the 21-year-old. His stock went from “solid prospect” to “outgrown the AHL” in only one season, which is not an easy thing to do.
At first glance, he doesn’t look like he’s an extremely large goalie – but standing 6-foot-4, Murray covers a lot more net than shooters expect. He’s technically sound, seals the ice well, and doesn’t allow the game to speed up around him. He does resort to a type of blocking mindset at times, and had to be bailed out by a strong Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team in front of him on some nights. Many forget that Marc-Andre Fleury is only 30 years old, so competing for an NHL job will still be a challenge. There is a vacant backup spot on the NHL team, but his fast-track development may force Pittsburgh’s management to make a decision before they are fully comfortable.
6. Juuse Saros
Organization: HPK (SM-Liiga)
Age: 20 years old
Draft: 4th round, 99th overall (2013)
The Predators should be extremely pleased that they were able to sign Juuse Saros to an entry-level contract, and he will already begin his North American professional career in 2015 at the age of 20. There really wasn’t much left for him to prove in his native Finland after two solid seasons as a teenager in the SM-Liiga. His development has gone much smoother than expected, and the 99th overall selection in the 2013 draft is starting to look like a steal. Adjusting to the North American game may prove to be difficult for Saros, who only stands at 5-foot-11 – well below the NHL/AHL average of 6-foot-2.
A lot of smaller goaltenders run into problems once they begin to play against NHL-calibre shooters. The Predators are hoping that the transition won’t prove to be too difficult – and Saros doesn’t let it bother him. Playing in the top league in Finland, he has seen a lot of rubber over the last two seasons. He has also had the chance to represent Finland at both the World Juniors and the World Championships in back to back years, performing well. Saros will rely heavily on his world-class speed and cross-crease movements if he plans on having a strong first season with Milwaukee of the AHL. He won’t press for Pekka Rinne’s job immediately, but he stands as an interesting weapon in the Predators’ minor league arsenal.
7. Ville Husso
Organization: HIFK (SM-Liiga)
Age: 20 years old
Draft: 4th round, 94th overall (2014)
Ville Husso was drafted 94th overall by the St. Louis Blues one year after the Nashville Predators took fellow 20-year-old Finn Juuse Saros 99th overall. Their stats over the past two seasons in the SM-Liiga are extremely close as well, but that’s where the similarities end. While the smaller Saros relies on quickness and aggressive play-reading to get by, Husso does not. At 6-foot-3, he isn’t required to play that way – so he chooses a more structured route to success. Scouts believe that there is still some untapped raw ability deep down that he has yet to harness, which has Blues’ management extremely excited to work with him.
Splitting time on the Finland under-20 team with Saros, Husso has been handed a lot of opportunities to develop quickly – and he is finally starting to take advantage. His biggest criticism over the years has been towards his dedication, which was likely the reason that he was passed over in his first draft-eligible season. He has quieted the doubters with his excellent play recently. He is in the final year of his contract with HIFK, and will remain in Finland to play out the rest of that deal. After that, expect Husso to make the jump to North America to begin his ascent up the Blues’ suddenly stacked goaltending depth chart.
8. Zach Fucale
Organization: Quebec/Halifax (QMJHL)
Age: 20 years old
Draft: 2nd round, 36th overall (2013)
Despite his constant appearances in the spotlight at the World Juniors and the Memorial Cup, Zach Fucale remained one of the hardest top prospects for scouts to get a read on. Inconsistent play has marred his reputation, but questionable defensive play in front of him can also be blamed for a good chunk of those struggles. As a 36th overall pick, his ceiling remains high, and he can still be counted on as the guy to bail his team out with big saves on high-danger opportunities. Some top prospects struggle with that, but Fucale definitely isn’t one of them.
One thing that Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin likes to point out is Fucale’s ability to win big games. Regardless of anyone’s opinion, it is a fact. One of his biggest strengths, when he’s on, is his calmness and ability to slow the game down around him. It seems like he has ice in his veins during the biggest moments. It’s impossible to tell if the game is 2-2 in overtime, or 8-2 when Fucale is in net. He is one of the most physically mature prospects on this list, and deserves more credit for his ability to track the puck than most talent evaluators are willing to give him. The Canadiens will assign him to either St. John’s of the AHL or Brampton of the ECHL this upcoming season, and it will be very interesting to see how he fares. There is a high chance that he actually benefits from the more structured games he will play at the professional level.
9. Zane McIntyre
Organization: U. of North Dakota (NCHC, NCAA)
Age: 22 years old
Draft: 6th round, 165th overall (2010)
The Boston Bruins deserve a lot of credit for their ability to draft and develop goaltenders. Zane McIntyre (formerly Gothberg) is just another name to add to the list, as they may have found a gem with this sixth round selection. With two years in the USHL, and three at the University of North Dakota under his belt – McIntyre has been a model of consistency. His save percentage steadily rose from .920 as a freshman, to .926 as a sophomore, and finally hitting a career-high .929 as a junior. For his efforts, McIntyre was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award, and received the Mike Richter award for being the top collegiate goaltender in 2014-2015.
Still only 22 years of age, McIntyre is deserving of elite prospect status. Every part of his game has been developed; He is a very well-rounded goaltender. Even his puckhandling skills are above-average, although he does get caught being headstrong at times. The Bruins already have Malcolm Subban and Tuukka Rask at the NHL level, so they will continue to be stacked in the minors if McIntyre handles most of the load with Providence in the AHL. If they sign a veteran to back up Rask, or go with Jeremy Smith out of camp, an AHL duo of Subban and McIntyre would be incredible to watch. The only thing that can be questioned about McIntyre is his ability to track a pro-level shot. A slow-and-steady approach to his development should give him plenty of time to figure it out, even if he struggles at first.
10. Jon Gillies
Organization: Providence College (Hockey East, NCAA)
Age: 21 years old
Draft: 3rd round, 75th overall (2012)
The Calgary Flames boast one of the most exciting and intriguing goaltending situations heading into the 2015-2016 season. With top pick Mason McDonald set to play another year in junior, that leaves four goaltenders with pro contracts. Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, and Joni Ortio are all on one-way deals, but Ortio will likely begin the year with Stockton of the AHL alongside Jon Gillies, who will be making his pro debut. The combination of Ortio and Gillies at the AHL level gives the Flames two very young, high-end options between the pipes. As stated before, college goaltenders usually take a while to adjust to the professional game, so splitting time with Ortio may actually be a blessing in disguise.
If Gillies is able to continue the success he had with Providence College, the Flames may have a logjam situation on their hands. He is a 6-foot-5 monster, and plays an intimidating style – giving shooters very little time and space. While he still has room to improve his footwork and overall skating ability, he manages to seal the ice well for a big guy. He has developed a proper understanding of how to utilize his large frame on plays down low, and uses an effective mix of traditional-VH and reverse-VH post integration techniques. He may have to make some tweaks when he starts to face better shooters at the AHL level, but all reports show that he is a guy that is willing to learn – and is capable of learning very quickly.
11. Pheonix Copley
Undrafted – 23 years old
26 GP, 2.17 GAA, .925 SV%, 17-4-3 (Hershey – AHL)
The Michigan Tech graduate took tremendous strides in 2013-2014, becoming one of the AHL’s top goaltenders while playing for the Hershey Bears. He is tall and lanky, but is a pure athlete that has displayed elite puck tracking ability. He was shipped from the Washington Capitals to the St. Louis Blues in the T.J. Oshie trade – a deal that may not have happened if Copley wasn’t included, by some reports. Capitals’ goaltending coach Mitch Korn will be sad to see him go, but it is a wonderful opportunity for Copley to join a new organization and continue to prove that he is ready to step into an NHL role.
12. Thatcher Demko
2nd round, 36th overall in 2014 – 19 years old
35 GP, 2.19 GAA, .925 SV%, 19-13-3 (Boston College – Hockey East, NCAA)
Even with limited rotation in his hip, Demko was able to put up some solid numbers with Boston College in 2014-2015 and at the World Juniors. The issues in his hip are not seen as serious, but it was enough to cause him discomfort all year long. All eyes will be on him to see how much he improves this upcoming season now that he has had surgery and is completely healthy. The Canucks do not plan on rushing him along, so fans can hold off setting a date for his NHL arrival. For a raw-but-talented goaltender like that, taking the slow route is clearly the best idea. His work with Canucks’ goaltending consultant Dan Cloutier is already paying dividends for his technical game.
13. Anton Forsberg
7th round, 188th overall in 2011 – 22 years old
30 GP, 2.01 GAA, .927 SV%, 20-8-1 (Springfield – AHL)
It was a tale of two seasons for Forsberg. He was an all-star in the AHL, but when Sergei Bobrovsky was injured and he was recalled, his first NHL experience turned into a struggle. It could have just been nerves, but in five NHL appearances he was 0-4-0, with a GAA close to 5.00 and a save percentage of just .866. The good thing is that he is only 22 years old, and still has plenty of time left to develop into an NHL goaltender. The Blue Jackets are not in a rush to bring him along, and a healthy competition within the system alongside Elvis Merzlikins and Oscar Dansk should help keep him on his toes in the AHL. He’s not an overly huge netminder, but he has extremely smooth movements and transitions in and out of reverse-VH better than any other goaltender on this list. He needs to improve his ability to read and understand certain quick-developing plays, but the timetable that he is on will allow him to develop slowly.
14. Stephon Williams
4th round, 106th overall in 2013 – 22 years old
35 GP, 1.65 GAA, .925 SV%, 25-6-3 (Minnesota State University – WCHA, NCAA)
One year after Williams was drafted, his progression took a funny turn. He went from the WCHA’s top goaltender of the year, to losing his starter’s job with Minnesota State to Cole Huggins. He made up for that in a big way in 2014-2015. He wrestled the starting role back, posted sparkling numbers, and recaptured his title as the top goaltender in his division. After finishing at college, Williams was immediately assigned to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and went 3-1-0 in five appearances, with a 2.12 GAA and .936 save percentage. He is athletic, and still relatively young by college goaltender standards – which has Islanders’ brass buzzing about the type of goalie they have on their hands. Even though he had some success with Bridgeport, expect him to spend all of next season feeling out the transition process to the professional game.
15. Mason McDonald
2nd round, 34th overall in 2014 – 19 years old
56 GP, 3.06 GAA, .906 SV%, 28-22-4 (Charlottetown – QMJHL)
The days of drafting a goaltender simply for their size seems to have passed, but McDonald may still fall under that category. He has displayed above-average puck tracking abilities, and is one of the most athletic goaltenders in the QMJHL right now. Knowing all that, his size is still his greatest asset. At 6-foot-4, he is huge, but not to the point where he opens up a ton of holes when he is forced to move. The Flames fell in love with his combination of skills and drafted him 34th overall in 2014, even though he is still a bit of a project. The technical glitches in his game are seen as fixable, but that will take time. Expect him to simmer in the minors for a few years after he graduates from junior hockey.
16. Mackenzie Blackwood
2nd round, 42nd overall in 2015 – 18 years old
51 GP, 3.09 GAA, .906 SV%, 33-14-2 (Barrie – OHL)
As the consensus top ranked North American goaltender heading into the 2015 draft, the New Jersey Devils were somehow able to snag Blackwood with the 42nd overall selection. That seems a bit low for a high-end prospect, but it was a very deep draft year – and the expectations for Blackwood remain high. His calm demeanor is the first thing a lot of talent evaluators notice, and that is because he exudes confidence in each of his save selections. At 6-foot-4, he towers over shooters and is a terrifying figure to shoot at. It doesn’t seem like he makes a lot of flashy saves, but that’s only because his positioning is extremely polished for an 18-year-old that only started playing goal at age 12. His ability to read plays also sets him apart from other prospects, and it will be very exciting to watch him develop into his 20s.
17. Anthony Stolarz
2nd round, 45th overall in 2012 – 21 years old
31 GP, 3.28 GAA, .905 SV%, 9-13-4 (Lehigh Valley – AHL)
Flyers’ GM Ron Hextall and the rest of their management staff do not plan on altering their high expectations for Stolarz, despite a poor first season as a pro. Hextall sees a lot of himself in the top prospect, because, well – it’s hard not to. His massive 6-foot-6 frame and noteworthy temper have led to a lot of comparisons, but the truth is that Stolarz has been working at controlling himself. He would rather be known for his ability to return from a scary skate laceration than as “the next Hextall.” Similar to the Canucks’ Jacob Markstrom, a lot of his problems stem from opening up and reaching due to a positional reliance on his quick hands and athleticism. If he can figure out how to use his size efficiently, he could be a scary presence in the Flyers’ net in the future.
18. Alex Nedeljkovic
2nd round, 37th overall in 2014 – 19 years old
55 GP, 3.13 GAA, .916 SV%, 20-28-7 (Plymouth – OHL)
As one of the most physically gifted goaltending prospects out there, Nedeljkovic is worth keeping an eye on as a possible candidate to rocket up the Hurricanes’ depth chart. One thing that he is not blessed with, however, is sheer size. Topping out at 6 feet tall (or slightly under), he is not physically imposing to most shooters – until they see him move. His flexibility and aggressive style will have fans on the edge of their seat, but sometimes in a bad way. Harnessing that aggressiveness and learning to play against professional shooters as a smaller-than-average netminder will be his biggest obstacle before reaching the NHL.
19. Vitek Vanecek
2nd round, 39th overall in 2014 – 19 years old
20 GP, 2.24 GAA, .925 SV%, N/A (HC Benatky – Czech2)
The Capitals went somewhat off the board at the 2014 draft when they took Vanecek 39th overall, but it’s clear why they see such high potential in him. Physically he does everything quite well – he’s a strong, effective skater that doesn’t struggle with the mental side of the game like a lot of young goaltenders. The downside is on the technical side of things. He is still very inexperienced, and he struggles with understanding which situations he wants to use certain save selections. Working with Mitch Korn should help him figure out the direction he wants to go in. Korn will have a closer eye on Vanecek this upcoming season as he is slated to begin the year at the ECHL level. At 5-foot-11, he’s not a big, hulking goaltender by any stretch – but any goalie that can combine the ability to track the puck with great athleticism should have success at the NHL level.
20. Tristan Jarry
2nd round, 44th overall in 2013 – 20 years old
55 GP, 2.74 GAA, .907 SV%, 23-26-6 (Edmonton – WHL)
After posting fantastic numbers during his 2012-2013 campaign with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Jarry carried a ton of momentum into the 2013 draft. His numbers have seen a drop off since being picked 44th overall, but he has continued to mature into a consistent and reliable goaltender. Goalies like that are still hard to find in junior hockey, so the Penguins remain excited for him to embark on his professional career – likely as the back up in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Delta, BC native will have his work cut out for him, being stuck behind Matt Murray and a 30-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury on the depth chart, but a bit of rivalry may be a good thing for him after two straight years of little-to-no competition for his job.
21. Steve Michalek
6th round, 161st overall in 2011 – 21 years old
37 GP, 2.28 GAA, .924 SV%, 21-13-3 (Harvard University – ECAC, NCAA)
Two fantastic seasons in a row with Harvard University earned Michalek a two-year entry level contract with the Wild, who drafted him 161st overall in 2011. The late-draft hunch paid off for the Wild, who are receiving a fierce competitor who is more than capable of stealing a game for his team. That fact was highlighted this past season when Harvard fell 4-3 in double-overtime to Matt O’Connor’s Boston University in the semi-final at the Beanpot tournament. Michalek made an incredible 63 saves in the eventual loss. A very low stance allows him to battle for every shot, and he tracks the puck well – giving him an above-average glove hand and legs that are always prepared for lateral movement. His 6-foot-3 frame means he can get away with the low stance without giving up too much space above his shoulders. He will have a fantastic opportunity to start with the Iowa Wild this upcoming season.
22. Matt O’Connor
Undrafted – 23 years old
35 GP, 2.18 GAA, .927 SV%, 25-4-4 (Boston University – Hockey East, NCAA)
While a lot of talent evaluators in the goaltending community are split when it comes to Matt O’Connor, two things are a fact: He had a fantastic NCAA career (especially this past season), and he is one of the largest goaltenders in the professional game right now. A prototypical late bloomer, he scuffled through a mediocre Junior ‘A’ career before finally learning to play into his 6-foot-6 frame while at Boston University. Collegiate goaltenders usually take the longest to adjust to the professional game, but the Senators are hoping his advanced age will cut down on some of that development time. The two-year length of his two-way contract shows that while his leash may be short – even O’Connor himself expects to take some time in the AHL to figure things out.
23. Brandon Halverson
2nd round, 59th overall in 2014 – 19 years old
50 GP, 2.63 GAA, .913 SV%, 40-5-2 (Sault Ste. Marie – OHL)
Although he is still raw, Halverson shows an advanced ability to understand the game. He is exceptional at reading plays, and is able to position his 6-foot-4 frame appropriately, so that when he’s on – he makes the game very easy for himself. Playing for a team like the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds that accustomed their play to his style, led to a lot of success. The real challenge will be seeing how he responds on a team with less structure around him. His struggles occur in “scramble mode” situations, which leads to a lack of those high-danger saves that the scouts go crazy for. The good news is that (despite this gaffe) he is already an excellent puckhandler, on top of being a smart, young goaltender that could excel if paired with the right goaltending coach.
24. Kristers Gudlevskis
5th round, 124th overall in 2013 – 23 years old
46 GP, 2.81 GAA, .900 SV%, 25-14-4 (Syracuse – AHL)
Gudlevskis enters next season in a virtual dead heat with Adam Wilcox for the starter’s job in Syracuse. He likely has a leg up due to his pro experience, but he could easily be overtaken by Wilcox if he doesn’t have a strong camp. The 23-year-old’s ceiling remains high, as many witnessed during his run with Team Latvia at the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, but a stagnant year of development in 2013-2014 has tempered the expectations. He has more than enough physical ability to be a solid NHLer, but it is crucial that he puts all of the pieces together this season.
25. Adam Wilcox
6th round, 178th overall in 2011 – 22 years old
38 GP, 2.42 GAA, .912 SV%, 22-12-3 (University of Minnesota – BIG-10, NCAA)
After tearing up the USHL, the Lightning sixth rounder continued that domination at the University of Minnesota. With two spectacular seasons under his belt, Wilcox’s numbers dipped slightly in his third year – which caused some concern. He was a workhorse for his college team, and after leaving at the end of the season, he showed no signs of fatigue during a short 3-game stint with Syracuse of the AHL. This year, he is expected to provide excellent competition for Kristers Gudlevskis atop the Lightning’s minor league depth chart.
26. Philippe Desrosiers
2nd round, 54th overall in 2013 – 20 years old
44 GP, 2.50 GAA, .901 SV%, 29-9-3 (Rimouski – QMJHL)
It was a highly successful year of development for Desrosiers who, in his fourth and final season with Rimouski, captured the Quebec league title. He also received the honour of being named as the CHL’s goaltender of the year. A loss at the Memorial Cup wasn’t enough to sour things for Desrosiers, who will likely begin next season with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. His best assets are his composure and awareness on the ice, but, like many young goaltenders, he needs to put his focus towards getting faster and stronger – on top of adjusting to the professional game.
27. Ilya Sorokin
3rd round, 78th overall in 2014 – 20 years old
28 GP, 2.82 GAA, .910 SV%, 7-13-1 (Novokuznetsk/CSKA – KHL)
It’s not easy being a teenage goaltender playing against grown men in any league, but especially not in the KHL. That’s exactly where Sorokin has been for almost three seasons now. His development has taken a few twists and turns as a result of playing above his weight class, but it also coincides with his athletic style of play. He seemed to find his place after being traded to CSKA Moscow at the end of the season, and hopes to build on that for next year. Judging by his talent level, he would have likely been selected higher than the third round in 2014 if he was not a Russian goaltender currently signed in the KHL. The Islanders are stuck playing the waiting game with Sorokin, hoping he continues to become stronger and fill out his lanky frame as time goes on.
28. Colin Stevens
Undrafted – 22 years old
31 GP, 2.31 GAA, .920 SV%, 16-15-0 (Union College – ECAC, NCAA)
As his role increased with Union College, Stevens seemed to get stronger and stronger. In his four years of development in the collegiate system, he continually proved that his undrafted status was a mistake. A strong performance at Florida Panthers’ development camp was icing on the cake. GM Dale Tallon jumped at the opportunity to sign him to an entry-level contract. Four straight above-average college seasons should be enough to prove that he isn’t a fluke, and is always going to give a consistent effort. Playing in the ECAC makes it hard to judge what his ceiling will be, but joining the Portland Pirates this upcoming season will make it easy enough to find out.
29. Laurent Brossoit
6th round, 164th overall in 2011 – 22 years old
53 GP, 2.56 GAA, .918 SV%, 25-22-4 (Oklahoma City – AHL)
The former Edmonton Oil Kings standout finally established himself in 2014-2015 after a tough start to his professional career in the previous year. A change of scenery from the Flames organization to the Oilers organization turned out to be the best thing for him, as it allowed him to develop as an everyday AHL goaltender instead of being stuck in the ECHL. Although he’s quite big, Broissoit prefers to play a more rhythm-based style that helps him to rely on his flexibility and sheer athletic ability – two of his strongest areas.
30. Mackenzie Skapski
6th round, 170th overall in 2013 – 21 years old
28 GP, 2.40 GAA, .914 SV%, 15-8-3 (Hartford – AHL)
At 15 years old, Skapski was involved in a serious bus accident. His injuries were so severe, it left him wondering if he would ever play hockey again. When he returned, most people expected it to at least delay his development. After finishing a stellar WHL career, he was an emergency call-up this season and became the youngest Rangers’ goaltender to record a shutout since Dan Blackburn in 2002. Extreme circumstances led to that opportunity, but he excelled at the AHL level as well, proving that he should at least push for an NHL job soon. He underwent hip surgery this offseason that will keep him out of training camp, but the tireless Skapski should make a full recovery.
31. Oscar Dansk
2nd round, 31st overall in 2012 – 21 years old
21 GP, 3.57 GAA, .880 SV%, 7-7-5 (Springfield – AHL)
Dansk was viewed as something of a wonderkid as he came out of the Brynas system in Sweden and transitioned to the North American game with the Erie Otters of the OHL. All signs pointed to him being a quick-riser through the ranks with the Blue Jackets after they selected him 31st overall in 2012. Things did not go as planned, as he struggled mightily in his first pro season, bouncing from Springfield of the AHL to Kalamazoo of the ECHL. He plays a style that relies heavily on advanced post integration techniques, but he admittedly started to get away from that as his confidence fell. Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark, club management, and Dansk all agreed that heading back to Sweden to play for Rogle BK was the best option to get back on track.
32. Linus Ullmark
6th round, 163rd overall in 2012 – 22 years old
35 GP, 3.12 GAA, .904 SV%, 12-20-0 (MODO – SHL)
In his first full season with MODO Hockey of the Swedish Hockey League, Ullmark could do no wrong. He earned the goaltender of the year award, while posting an exceptional save percentage of .931 in his age 21 season. Unfortunately, that performance was not repeated. Instead of battling for a playoff spot, a significantly weaker MODO team was forced to stave off relegation. Are these the regular growing pains that are usually associated with a bigger, more conservative goaltender, or was it a major hiccup in his development? Next season plays a large role in answering the question that nobody seems to know how to figure out.
33. Jordan Binnington
3rd round, 88th overall in 2011 – 22 years old
45 GP, 2.35 GAA, .916 SV%, 25-15-4 (Chicago – AHL)
When reviewing the St. Louis Blues’ long term options in goal, Binnington is on the outside looking in despite having two great seasons to begin his professional career. Ville Husso is far and away their best prospect, but is still likely a year away from arriving in North America. The T.J. Oshie trade also landed them Pheonix Copley, another high end prospect. If Allen takes over as the starter on the big club as expected, it wouldn’t be shocking to hear Brian Elliott’s name in trade rumours once again. If not, a change of scenery may be necessary because Binnington is outgrowing the AHL very quickly.
34. Spencer Martin
3rd round, 63rd overall in 2013 – 20 years old
31 GP, 2.98 GAA, .921 SV%, 15-13-1 (Mississauga – OHL)
It was a disappointing year for Martin, but not because of his play on the ice. He was having the best season of his four-year career with the Mississauga Steelheads franchise when a serious knee injury knocked him out in late December. He was the bright spot on a weak Steelheads team, and they simply could not find another goaltender to play at the level he was playing at. Every other goalie that they used finished with a GAA over 4.00, and a save percentage around or well below the .900 mark. Coming out of rehab and directly into his first pro season will be a difficult task, but that is exactly the situation that Martin is faced with.
35. Jake Paterson
3rd round, 80th overall in 2012 – 21 years old
50 GP, 2.90 GAA, .917 SV%, 26-21-1 (Kitchener/Saginaw – OHL)
After spending parts of five seasons with the Saginaw Spirit, Paterson was dealt to the Kitchener Rangers to bolster their roster for a playoff run in 2015. He would post the best numbers of his junior career, but the year would unfortunately end with a whimper in the form of a first round knockout. He was a model of consistency during his time in the OHL, and showed that he is ready to turn pro after a brief stint with Toledo of the ECHL.
36. Elvis Merzlikins
3rd round, 76th overall in 2014 – 21 years old
49 GP, 2.61 GAA, .913 SV%, N/A (Lugano – National League A, Switzerland)
The energetic, young Latvian made a name for himself by not only making the roster for HC Lugano of the top Swiss league as a 19-year-old, but he also put up strong numbers. Containing that energy so he can use it in a more productive, efficient manner will be his biggest challenge. If he matures quickly, he could push Oscar Dansk and Anton Forsberg for top spot on the Blue Jackets’ prospect chart very soon.
37. Rasmus Tirronen
Undrafted – 24 years old
31 GP, 2.30 GAA, .929 SV%, 12-14-3 (Merrimack – Hockey East, NCAA)
Tirronen is yet another goalie that has taken the NAHL-to-college-to-pro route, but the 24-yearold Finn was not highly touted until his final year with the Merrimack Warriors. Playing in the extremely tough Hockey East conference of division 1 NCAA hockey, Tirronen continually held his team in games that they had no business winning. An eye-popping save percentage of almost .930 in his final year was enough for him to earn a pro contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, and he was immediately assigned to Charlotte of the AHL.
38. Daniel Vladar
3rd round, 75th overall in 2015 – 18 years old
29 GP, 2.78 GAA, .926 SV%, N/A (HC Kladno – Czech U20)
“You can’t teach size” is a common saying, and the 6-foot-6 Vladar is a perfect example of why it is used. His massive 84-inch wingspan turned heads at the NHL combine, which led to him rising to 75th overall in this year’s draft. While he is still a long term investment, Bruins fans won’t have to wait very long to see him in North America. He’s slated to play for the Chicago Steel of the USHL in 2015-2016, and will work one-on-one with their new assistant coach, the recently retired Peter Mannino.
39. Callum Booth
4th round, 93rd overall in 2015 – 18 years old
41 GP, 3.05 GAA, .900 SV%, 23-13-2 (Quebec – QMJHL)
After beginning the season as the starter for the Quebec Remparts, they decided that he wasn’t quite ready to handle the starter’s job as an 18-year-old, and brought in some help. Booth lost his job to Zach Fucale after a trade with the Halifax Mooseheads, and that move greatly impacted his draft position. Although he was originally touted to go as high as the second round, his stock fell drastically as the 2015 draft approached. The good news is that he responded well to the competition, and even started a few games on the Remparts’ long playoff run when Fucale faltered.
40. Brody Hoffman
Undrafted – 24 years old
22 GP, 2.06 GAA, .922 SV%, 13-6-2 (University of Vermont – Hockey East, NCAA)
Hoffman signed with the Wild as a 24-year-old, and is much further along in his development than most goaltenders that come out of the collegiate route. After three above-average seasons in a row, he chose to forgo his fourth and final year at the University of Vermont. Rumours swirled that the decision was caused by a spat with his head coach. Either way, the Wild will know what they have in him very quickly.
41. Magnus Hellberg
2nd round, 38th overall in 2011 – 24 years old
38 GP, 2.33 GAA, .913 SV%, 15-10-6 (Milwaukee – AHL)
Drafted in the second-round by Nashville in 2011, Hellberg was seen as a “prototypical Mitch Korn” guy; A goaltender with a large frame, who is also very athletic. His adjustment to the North American game has not gone as smoothly as expected, and the emergence of Marek Mazanec, coupled with the signing of Juuse Saros meant that there was no room left for him with the Predators. The Rangers picked him up for the dirt-cheap price of a sixth-round draft pick in 2017.
42. Andrey Makarov
Undrafted – 22 years old
39 GP, 2.91 GAA, .905 SV%, 16-18-3 (Rochester – AHL)
It has been a long road for Makarov, coming out of the WHL as an undrafted goaltender. He signed with the Sabres and has spent one season in the ECHL, and one in the AHL. While he doesn’t possess the type of high-end skill that you would like to see in a top prospect, he didn’t look out of place in his Sabres debut and seems to be developing into a legitimate future NHL option. He’s still only 22 years old, so there is still plenty of time to make improvements to his technical game.
43. Evan Cowley
4th round, 92nd overall in 2013 – 20 years old
20 GP, 2.16 GAA, .924 SV%, 9-6-2 (University of Denver – NCHC, NCAA)
After spending some time with the United States national team development program, then making the jump from the NAHL to the collegiate level, Cowley has taken a slow but steady approach to improvement. He appeared in only 5 games in his freshman year, but has since formed a formidable tandem with Tanner Jaillet in the University of Denver net. Three of his nine wins last season were accompanied by a shutout, which hints that he is ready to take another big step in 2015-2016.
44. Felix Sandstrom
3rd round, 70th overall in 2015 – 18 years old
14 GP, 2.63 GAA, .907 SV%, N/A (Brynas – Sweden U-20)
Many scouts saw Sandstrom as something of an enigma heading into the 2015 draft. Various injuries and ailments shortened his season, and a lot of people did not get a chance to see him play live. InGoal previously ranked him as the fourth-best draft eligible goaltender, and the Flyers decided to grab him with the 70th overall pick. When he was healthy, he outplayed Sabres’ prospect Jonas Johansson for the starter’s job on the Brynas under-20 team.
45. Samuel Montembeault
3rd round, 77th overall in 2015 – 18 years old
52 GP, 2.59 GAA, .891 SV%, 33-11-7 (Blainville-Boisbriand – QMJHL)
Montembeault caught a lot of attention this season, posting the second best goals-against-average in the QMJHL as an 18-year-old. His stock rocketed all the way up to 77th overall in the 2015 NHL draft, and he also received an invitation to this year’s World Junior summer showcase. He had never represented Canada at any level before, so it looks like talent evaluators are finally starting to notice. He was an absolute workhorse for Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL last season, appearing in 52 regular season games, plus an extra six in the playoffs. Even with some blocking tendencies in his game, Montembeault displays above-average tracking skills, and the puck sticks to him like glue when he is on his game.
46. Matej Tomek
3rd round, 90th overall in 2015 – 18 years old
33 GP, 1.83 GAA, .928 SV%, 24-7-2 (Topeka – NAHL)
Philly’s new head coach Dave Hakstol recruited Tomek to play for the University of North Dakota before he left his position at the school and joined the Flyers. He must have really liked what he saw, because he also convinced the Flyers to take him with the 90th overall selection in this year’s NHL draft. The super-athletic Tomek absolutely dominated the NAHL in 2014, and was an easy choice for goaltender of the year. He hopes to carry that momentum with him into his college career.
47. Jonas Johansson
3rd round, 61st overall in 2014 – 19 years old
13 GP, 3.62 GAA, .886 SV%, N/A (Brynas – Sweden U-20)
Splitting time with Flyers’ prospect Felix Sandstrom on the Brynas under-20 team, the large 6-foot-4 Johansson had a frustrating season. After carrying the team for the two previous seasons, he saw his playing time cut and development stunted as a result. He has also been shaky during recent international play, but a strong showing at Sabres’ development camp has helped cement his status as a prospect to watch. As a large goaltender that likes to play a somewhat aggressive, rhythm-based style, some hiccups were to be expected. 2015-2016 remains an important year for him to get back on track.
48. Alec Dillon
5th round, 150th overall in 2014 – 19 years old
41 GP, 2.27 GAA, .914 SV%, 23-11-4 (Tri-City – USHL)
The Victoria, BC native will ply his trade with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL next season, as their previous number one goaltender Tristan Jarry will be moving on to begin his pro career. Dillon may be raw, but he possesses dazzling skill. He has had a lot of success at every level he has played at, but the jump from the USHL to the WHL will be his biggest move yet. His lanky 6-foot-5 frame projects very well if he continues to physically develop, and hopefully he can turn the corner with his development in 2015-2016.
49. Jamie Phillips
7th round, 190th overall in 2012 – 22 years old
41 GP, 1.74 GAA, .933 SV%, 28-9-2 (Michigan Tech – WCHA. NCAA)
The transition from junior hockey to college was not initially a smooth one for Phillips, but the 2014-2015 season was a breakout year – his first as the starting goaltender for Michigan Tech. After being taken in the seventh round by the Jets in 2012 (only two rounds later than Connor Hellebuyck) he was stuck as the backup behind Pheonix Copley for two seasons. Now that he’s the starter, he needs to continue with this positive momentum, and work hard to become a physically stronger, more balanced goaltender on the ice. Proving that last season wasn’t a fluke is the only way he will stand a chance in a Winnipeg Jets’ system that is absolutely stacked with talent.
50. Igor Shestyorkin
4th round, 118th overall in 2014 – 19 years old
6 GP, 2.33 GAA, .917 SV%, 3-0-3 (SKA St. Petersburg – KHL)
After four seasons of bouncing around the KHL developmental system, Shestyorkin hopes to stick with SKA St. Petersburg in 2015-2016. He has had success wherever he has played, even against the big boys in the KHL in recent years, but has only amassed 15 games of experience at that level. Strong showings during international play is proof that he is more than ready for the next challenge, and the Rangers are eager to see what he can do. With Andrei Vasilevskiy, Ilya Samsonov, and now Igor Shestyorkin – the future of Russian goaltending looks to be in good hands.
Antoine Bibeau – Toronto Maple Leafs
Kaapo Kahkonen – Minnesota Wild
Hugo Fagerblom – Florida Panthers
Linus Soderstrom – New York Islanders
Marcus Hogberg – Ottawa Senators