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InGoal Future Watch 2016: Western Conference

InGoal Future Watch 2016: Western Conference

This is a continuation of the Future Watch 2016 series.

Click here to view the eastern conference rankings.

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.

RankGradeTeamGoalie of the Future
1.A+Winnipeg JetsConnor Hellebuyck
2.ASt. Louis BluesJake Allen
3.ACalgary FlamesJon Gillies
4.B+Nashville PredatorsJuuse Saros
5.BMinnesota WildSteve Michalek
6.BVancouver CanucksThatcher Demko
7.B-Anaheim DucksJohn Gibson
8.B-Colorado AvalancheCalvin Pickard
9.C+San Jose SharksMartin Jones
10.CArizona CoyotesAdin Hill
11.CEdmonton OilersLaurent Brossoit
12.C-Dallas StarsPhilippe Desrosiers
13.DLos Angeles Kings?????
14.FChicago Blackhawks?????

*NOTE: Goaltenders with an InGoal logo beside their name were ranked in our pre-season Top 50 NHL Goaltending Prospects list.

Ducks ProspectsAnaheim Ducks (B-)

In the System: Anaheim has a pair of enviable young goaltenders in Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, but the rest of their depth chart is quite barren. Both goalies look to be capable starters in the future, although there is some concern about Gibson’s durability. Anton Khudobin and Dustin Tokarski have been the go-to goalies for San Diego, their AHL affiliate, with 25-year-old Matt Hackett playing a handful of games in between. Hackett was once a promising prospect, but is still working his way back from a devastating knee injury that almost ended his career. Garrett Metcalf is the youngest prospect in their system. He’s only 20 years old, and is starting his collegiate career at UMass-Lowell next season. It will be quite a while before he is in the picture for the NHL club.

Conclusion: Recent trade rumours point to Andersen eventually being dealt. If he leaves, the future is Gibson or bust for the Ducks.

Goalie of the Future: John Gibson


Coyotes ProspectsArizona Coyotes (C)

In the System: The Arizona Coyotes have quietly started to build a reasonable foundation behind veteran Mike Smith. Louis Domingue has been a pleasant surprise, proving himself to be an immediate quality option in goal. Niklas Treutle, a free agent signing out of Germany, and Marek Langhamer have both held their own as first-year North American pros. They drafted the big-bodied Adin Hill, out of Portland in the WHL, and he serves as their long-term option. More depth is needed, but the rough outline of a successful system is in place.

Conclusion: The goaltenders in the Coyotes’ system do not match up to their crop of highly talented young skaters, but the beginning of a respectable system is starting to take shape.

Goalie of the Future: Adin Hill


Flames ProspectsCalgary Flames (A)

In the System: While their current goaltending situation may be unclear, the future looks bright for Calgary. Even though the organization seems to have soured on him, Joni Ortio remains an interesting option. Jon Gillies is perhaps the most dynamic of their group of prospects, but he sadly had his first pro season cut short due to injury. It’s not a crippling setback because the Flames are still in a rebuilding phase, but any time a prospect loses a year of development, it’s an unfortunate situation. Top pick Mason McDonald is another high-ceiling long-term option, giving the Flames two very strong future options in their system. The signing of undrafted goaltender Nick Schneider proves that the team is willing to go out of their way to stockpile young goaltending talent.

Conclusion: Jon Gillies and Mason McDonald are two high-level prospects that give the Flames a better system than most, but some more depth could still be necessary.

Goalie of the Future: Jon Gillies


Blackhawks ProspectsChicago Blackhawks (F)

In the System: Corey Crawford and Scott Darling should still have a lot of gas left in the tank, but if injuries or unexpected circumstances occur, there isn’t much to fall back on. Their AHL affiliate has Mark Visentin on an AHL-only deal, and Michael Leighton just keeps plugging along. They recently acquired another veteran in Drew MacIntyre at the deadline. In terms of prospects? Ohio State’s Matt Tomkins was drafted in the 7th round in 2012, but has posted back-to-back sub-.900 save percentage seasons. Ivan Nalimov is a big 6-foot-4 netminder that has meandered his way through two seasons in the KHL since being drafted in the 6th round in 2014. That’s about it.

Conclusion: Due to a lack of draft picks, the Antti Raanta trade, and Crawford’s success, the Chicago Blackhawks haven’t been able to patch together any semblance of a goaltending depth chart.

Goalie of the Future: ????


Avs ProspectsColorado Avalanche (B-)

In the System: Semyon Varlamov is still in his prime, and Calvin Pickard has developed into a much more complete goaltender than was ever expected of him. Roman Will provides minor league depth, although he has struggled in his AHL opportunities. Spencer Martin and Sami Aittokallio are the clear frontrunners in the Avs system. Martin’s development has slowed due to injuries, and Aittokallio has returned to Finland after a stint in North America – where he has been lights out for Karpat this season. Maximilian Pajpach was a shot-in-the-dark late-round pick in 2014, but has yet to show a sign that he is turning into a legitimate prospect.

Conclusion: While Colorado’s goaltending depth chart isn’t particularly deep, there are some bright spots. With Varlamov and Pickard, there is no immediate need to develop another goaltender quickly.

Goalie of the Future: Calvin Pickard


Stars ProspectsDallas Stars (C-)

In the System: It’s fairly safe to assume now that the Jack Campbell era is over in Dallas before it ever began. The former “can’t miss” prospect and 11th overall selection in 2010 has spent more time in the ECHL this season than the AHL, where he was passed by 2013 second-round pick Philippe Desrosiers. With Campbell’s faltering, 23-year-old Maxime Lagace has luckily given stability to the organization’s AHL affiliate. Henri Kiviaho has returned to Europe on a loan after one less-than-stellar ECHL season, and Markus Ruusu, another Finn that they drafted late in the 2015 draft, is having a down year as an 18-year-old. Brent Moran’s stock has been in a free fall since being drafted in 2014. He was cast off by his OHL team, the Niagara Ice Dogs, and sent to the troubled Flint Firebirds for the remainder of 2015-2016.

Conclusion: The Stars’ system contains depth, but it remains to be seen if any of their prospects will break through as a future NHL starter.

Goalie of the Future: Philippe Desrosiers


Oilers ProspectsEdmonton Oilers (C)

In the System: The Oilers will be running with Cam Talbot for the foreseeable future, but the real future prize looks to be Laurent Brossoit. Brossoit was essentially stolen from the Calgary Flames, and is easily the goaltender with the highest ceiling in their system. The rest of the goalies on their depth chart are longer term projects. Eetu Laurikainen is 23, but is still raw and is playing his first season in North America. 2014 fourth-round pick Zach Nagelvoort had a down year, and was relegated to backup duty for the University of Michigan. They also took a seventh-round flyer on Keven Bouchard in 2014, who has bounced around in the QMJHL this year. 21-year-old Czech Miroslav Svoboda was their under-the-radar late selection in 2015, and looks like a work in progress. Niklas Lundstrom is a hard-working 23-year-old Swede who was recently acquired from St. Louis.

Conclusion: The Oilers have drafted a handful of goalies in recent years, but the real future of the team lies in the hands of Laurent Brossoit.

Goalie of the Future: Laurent Brossoit


Kings ProspectsLos Angeles Kings (D)

In the System: Not-so-shockingly, Jonathan Quick’s presence has delayed attempts to develop younger goaltenders in the Los Angeles Kings system. With Jonathan Bernier and J-F Berube out of the picture, and Peter Budaj now manning the pipes for their AHL affiliate, the future is simply an afterthought for the franchise. Patrik Bartosak was developing into a possible future option, but was arrested on domestic violence charges and subsequently suspended by the team. His NHL future is seriously in doubt, as his ability to return to North America is in jeopardy. Alec Dillon of the Edmonton Oil Kings is the only other prospect in their system. He unfortunately only appeared in seven games this season while battling hip problems, and eventually decided to have season-ending surgery.

Conclusion: The Kings have a bare-bones system beneath Jonathan Quick. They are riding his prime years, and have not yet made any concrete plans to develop his replacement.

Goalie of the Future: ????


Wild ProspectsMinnesota Wild (B)

In the System: Devan Dubnyk rescued the Minnesota Wild’s 2014-2015 season, and was rewarded with a handsome contract. With him as their starter for the next few years, time is running out on Darcy Kuemper. He is stuck in the backup role, and may want to move on. Luckily, they have a handful of options in their system that can replace him. Steve Michalek and Brody Hoffman are two ex-collegiate goaltenders that have transitioned well to the professional game, especially Michalek. If Kuemper leaves, Michalek should be next in line. Kaapo Kahkonen is a 19-year-old prospect who won the starting job for Team Finland at the World Juniors, and led them to the gold medal. The Wild also used a fourth round selection on Ales Stezka at last year’s draft. Stezka is a six-foot-four Czech who joined the USHL this year, achieving mixed results.

Conclusion: Even if the Wild part ways with Kuemper, they have a solid group of prospects in their system waiting to pounce on the opportunity.

Goalie of the Future: Steve Michalek


Predators ProspectsNashville Predators (B+)

In the System: With Pekka Rinne beginning to show signs of wear and tear, the Nashville Predators have begun to set their sights on the future. Marek Mazanec has been respectable during his stints in the NHL, but it is clear that he will not be carrying the franchise into the next decade. The smaller, athletic Juuse Saros is the true future of the organization. He’s only in his first season as a North American pro, but already looks like he’s gearing up for a lengthy NHL career. Their prospect pool is rounded out by 21-year-old Finnish Liiga netminder Janne Juvonen, who is enjoying his second straight successful season, and a 19-year-old Czech goaltender named Karel Vejmelka. Vejmelka is a southpaw that is listed at six-foot-three, and continues to develop in the Czech Republic.

Conclusion: Pekka Rinne won’t be leaving soon, but the next plan is already in place. Juuse Saros is an exciting prospect with an extremely high ceiling, and will quickly push for an NHL job.

Goalie of the Future: Juuse Saros


Sharks ProspectsSan Jose Sharks (C+)

In the System: The acquisition of Martin Jones was a great move for the future of the San Jose Sharks, but bringing in James Reimer shows that they aren’t totally confident in him yet. Troy Grosenick recorded a shutout in his first NHL game, but is still more of a depth piece. Aaron Dell is a late-bloomer that could eventually receive an NHL shot. Harri Sateri had three up-and-down AHL seasons before heading to the KHL, where he is faring well. The rest of their system is more mysterious. Their most recent pick, Mike Robinson, is a University of New Hampshire commit that desperately needs to play more games. 21-year-old Fredrik Bergvik could make the jump to North America soon. 6-foot-5, 200 pound Jake Kupsky is a late-round selection and is currently playing for Union College. Joel Rumpel has looked brilliant in flashes in the ECHL.

Conclusion: The groundwork of a solid system is in place, but somebody from their stockpile needs to step up and emerge as a bonafide NHL talent.

Goalie of the Future: Martin Jones


Blues ProspectsSt. Louis Blues (A)

In the System: Jake Allen has steadily become a consistent NHL talent, which is made even scarier by the crop of talent behind him. Former Michigan Tech Huskies goaltender Pheonix Copley was a major part of the TJ Oshie trade, and is showing why. His AHL numbers have sagged, but he has matured, and will challenge for an NHL spot next season. Ville Husso looks to be the next major name to make his way to North America. He has raised his save percentage in Finland’s Liiga by .012 points, and is posting a .927 as a 21-year-old. Although Jordan Binnington looks to have been passed on the depth chart by Copley, he has the skill to be an NHLer, and is still only 22 years old. Luke Opilka was taken in the previous draft in the fifth round, and has performed exceedingly well in his first OHL season.

Conclusion: The Blues have a prospect pool that is littered with NHL talent, but they may not end up needing any of it. Jake Allen has staked his claim as the goalie of the future, and isn’t going anywhere.

Goalie of the Future: Jake Allen


Canucks ProspectsVancouver Canucks (B)

In the System: Jacob Markstrom is finally looking like the goaltender that talent evaluators thought he would be. That’s a huge sigh of relief for the Vancouver Canucks, because he could end up being the perfect bridge to Thatcher Demko. It has been an extraordinary year for Demko, who returned from hip surgery to absolutely dominate the NCAA for Boston College. While the Canucks may look to sign him as early as this year, he is still only 20 years old, and NCAA goaltenders take a while to adapt to the pro game. Richard Bachman and Joe Cannata make up the current tandem for their AHL team. Bachman was signed as more of a veteran option in case Ryan Miller or Markstrom went down. Cannata, on the other hand, has improved his game recently, and could end up being a late bloomer.

Conclusion: Short and long term plans are in place with Markstrom and Demko, but the Canucks still lack the security of a possible “plan B” option if things go awry.

Goalie of the Future: Thatcher Demko


Jets ProspectsWinnipeg Jets (A+)

In the System: If you’re looking for high-end goaltending talent, look no further than the Winnipeg Jets system. Connor Hellebuyck was our pre-season pick for the top-ranked goalie prospect, and he did not disappoint in his first NHL stint. He should be a workhorse for Winnipeg for years to come. Eric Comrie is already nipping at his heels. He has weathered the storm considerably well in his first pro season on a terrible Manitoba Moose team. Some scouts have even suggested that he is NHL-ready at 20 years old. Michael Hutchinson is having a down year, but don’t forget that he is only 26, and still provides value. Jamie Phillips is the only other goaltender in their system, but he’s another good one. Phillips is in his fourth year with Michigan Tech, and is performing at the top of the league.

Conclusion: The future of the Winnipeg Jets franchise looks to be in very good hands with two elite-level goaltending prospects in Hellebuyck and Comrie.

Goalie of the Future: Connor Hellebuyck

About The Author

Greg Balloch

Greg Balloch is a Vancouver-based writer for InGoal Magazine, broadcaster for Sportsnet 650, and goaltending coach. His career began in Hamilton, Ontario with the Junior 'A' Hamilton Red Wings, before moving to Vancouver to cover the Canucks on the radio and work with the Surrey Eagles of the BCHL. A lifelong goaltender, he has been teaching the position for over a decade.