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NHL Draft Preview 2017: Top 10 Eligible Goaltenders

NHL Draft Preview 2017: Top 10 Eligible Goaltenders

#1 – Jake Oettinger

Lakeville, MN, USA – Boston University (NCAA) – GP: 35 – SV%: .927

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The mostly-unanimous choice for top-ranked goaltender in the 2017 NHL draft is Boston University’s Jake Oettinger. With excellent size, and a mature positional game – it’s easy to see why he stands at the top of the list.

At 6-foot-4, he possesses the frame that NHL teams crave. What’s even more promising is his grasp of the position, and how he utilizes his size effectively. He plays a modern conservative style, staying deep in the crease, and relies heavily on his puck-tracking ability and hand placement to cut pucks off. When he is locked in he plays a very simple “NHL-style” game, which means he very rarely ends up sprawled out in desperation. He relied on this maturity to start for one of the premier schools in NCAA Division I hockey at the age of 17 – a feat that hasn’t occurred since Thatcher Demko’s days at Boston College.

Two areas of weakness for Oettinger are his skating and puck handling. Through his positioning he stays within his limits when moving around the crease, but still needs to work on his patience holding his edges. Building trust that he can beat passes on his feet rather than sliding across will be crucial to his development. The good news is that when he is caught down early, his edgework is superb. He is able to bail himself out of a lot of tough situations with his mobility in the butterfly.

Oettinger is one of the most exciting goaltending prospects in recent years. What he has accomplished at his age with Boston University and Team USA is nothing short of astounding. Any team that is looking for an immediate boost to their goaltending talent pool should consider taking him with a high pick. While he won’t make an NHL impact immediately, he plays a style that is very conducive to him getting there quickly.

#2 – Michael DiPietro

Windsor, ON, Canada – Windsor Spitfires (OHL) – GP: 51 – SV%: .917

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With almost 100 CHL games under his belt already, Michael DiPietro is a goaltender that scouts have had a lot of opportunity to watch. He measured in at only 6-feet tall at the NHL combine, which cast some doubt on his ability to be a top goaltending prospect – but that doubt is easily cast aside when he hits the ice.

DiPietro is chock full of intangibles, but also has the numbers to back it up. He improved on his .912 save percentage as a 17-year-old, turning in a .917 this past season, en route to a Memorial Cup victory with the Windsor Spitfires. He is a big-time personality, with flair on and off the ice. One note that you will normally see on his scouting reports is that he is a ‘battler.’ It’s a cliché, but he fits it perfectly. He never quits on a play, which has thoroughly impressed a lot of NHL clubs.

The biggest question mark moving forward may not be his size, but his ability to translate his style into the professional game. He is an above-average skater on his feet, but loses mobility when he is down in the butterfly. He plays with an overly wide stance, and that leads to him falling forward onto his stomach frequently. As an already aggressive goaltender, if he runs into issues as a pro and answers them by being even more aggressive – he will struggle. If he continues to work on refining the details of his game such as his post integration and puck-tracking – he will succeed.

Height measurement aside, DiPietro had one of the best combines out of any of the eligible goaltenders this year. Teams walked away thoroughly impressed with his intensity and passion for the game of hockey. This will certainly help his draft stock – but how much, exactly? We will have to wait and see.

#3 – Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Espoo, Finland – HPK U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga) – GP: 35 – SV%: .917

There hasn’t been a Finnish goaltender selected in the first two rounds of an NHL draft since Mikko Koskinen was picked 31st overall by the New York Islanders in 2009. At the 2016 NHL entry draft, not a single Finnish goaltender was selected. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen looks to break this recent trend, coming into the draft as the top-ranked European netminder.

His rise to the top has been helped by two solid performances at the U-17s and U-18s, but he was outperformed at the Ivan Hlinka tournament by Lassi Lehtinen – a much physically smaller and lesser-known prospect. Most scouts pass it off as merely a bump in the road for a guy with a skill set that is far too good to pass up.

If you’re looking for a goaltender with some flash and aggressiveness, Luukkonen has plenty to spare. He plays the type of style that will jump out at you, especially if you catch him on the right night. He is so active in the crease, there is some worry if he will be able to track the puck and read plays at the level that is required in the professional game. At 6-foot-4, being able to gain depth on the shooter is great – but he needs to learn when it’s time to set his feet and focus on the release rather than just keep drifting outward. NHL teams are hoping that they can chalk up a lot of his issues to youthful enthusiasm, but if that isn’t the case, he may struggle with back door plays when he transitions to the North American game. He has already shown signs of toning down his over-aggressiveness, but he still has work to do.

For a larger goaltender, he projects over top of the puck extremely well. His battle for pucks is on the same level as Michael DiPietro, which scores very well with many scouts. Luukkonen has all of the skills necessary to become one of the best goaltenders to come out of Finland in recent years.

#4 – Keith Petruzzelli

Wilbraham, MA, USA – Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL) – GP: 35 – SV%: .918

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There is no other goaltender in the 2017 NHL draft that had their stock rise as quickly as Keith Petruzzelli. Coming from the high school ranks, he tore up the USHL in his rookie season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, and was even named to the All-Rookie team at season’s end. Sadly for Muskegon, he’ll be heading to Quinnipiac University in 2017-18 to play NCAA Division I hockey. In a somewhat surprising move, he was named as the top North American goaltender for the 2017 NHL draft by Central Scouting on their midterm list. Jake Oettinger had been the unanimous choice up until that point – and Petruzzelli slipped back down to second on the final ranking.

Listed at 6-foot-6, 190 pounds – Petruzzelli has a very wirey frame. He doesn’t fill the net in the way that you would expect a goaltender of his height to, but there is a lot of potential there once he fills out a bit more. He certainly has the potential for an ideal frame, but learning how to use it effectively continues to be a challenge. With the size that he has, over-aggressiveness isn’t necessary a lot of the time. Finding a proper balance between his youthful exuberance and conservative positioning will be crucial to his development.

Petruzzelli has shown flashes of an excellent understanding of the game. He does take the occasional risk with aggressive pushes, but they are usually very calculated, and end up working out in his favour. He typically utilizes average depth, with his toes right on the edge of the crease. Some adjustments need to be made with his routes around the crease and transitions in and out of reverse-VH, but he is otherwise very solid in that area. He has shown that he has a great foundation to work from, and he will be an extremely exciting goaltender to watch as he makes the leap to college.

#5 – Stuart Skinner

Edmonton, AB, Canada – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL) – GP: 60 – SV%: .905

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As a late-1998 birthday, Stuart Skinner is a name that has been bolded, underlined, and circled on scouting reports for quite a few years now. He already boasts a robust WHL resume of over 170 games played, and additional appearances in multiple events for Team Canada. Long story short: He’s a guy that most NHL teams are very familiar with.

Ever since he was drafted 17th overall in the 2013 WHL bantam draft, Skinner has been rumoured to be a potential top goaltender of this draft class. Unfortunately, due to some inconsistent play, his stock slipped over time. He took Lethbridge to the playoffs in 2015-16 with a pristine .920 save percentage, but they were swept out in the first round. This past season, it was reversed. His save percentage slipped to .905 in the regular season, but a number of incredible performances in the playoffs extended their run to the third round.

Next to Keith Petruzzelli, Skinner has probably the second-most appealing frame of this year’s crop of goaltenders. At 6-foot-4, 207 pounds, he fills a lot of net – and that alone will be enough to get him drafted. Like a lot of bigger goaltenders, there is some wasted movement in his footwork around the crease. He makes up for it with immense leg strength and some surprisingly good flexibility. Unlike more mature goaltenders, he doesn’t hold his edges very well on lateral plays. He can get beaten by a patient shooter that out-waits him. This is a bit of a red flag because it causes him to “sprawl out” on occasion, which is when you see him make some highlight-reel saves. On front-door shots, he tracks the puck well. He stays moderately deep in his crease, which allows him to set his feet and see the puck all the way in.

Make no mistake: The team that selects Skinner will be getting an excellent goaltender, but he is not without some pressing issues. Although he can be exposed on a weaker defensive team, he has a lot of positive signs – and his sheer size makes him a very tantalizing prospect.

6. Olle Eriksson Ek – Färjestad BK J20 (SuperElit)
Average size mixed with technical proficiency. Has shown well internationally for Sweden. Won’t be joining his brother Joel in the NHL any time soon, but he should one day.

7. Maxim Zhukov – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Lots of raw skill and very good size. Came over to North America from Russia to show that he can play. He deserves all of the hype he’s received so far.

8. Cayden Primeau – Lincoln Stars (USHL)
Plays with every bit of fire and passion as his father Keith and uncle Wayne. Obliterated the competition at the World Junior A Challenge. Will get his first true test with Northeastern (NCAA) this upcoming season.

9. Ian Scott – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Toiling behind a terrible Prince Albert squad, Scott has managed to fly under the radar in recent years. The former #9 overall WHL pick will turn some heads when finally given the spotlight.

10. Dayton Rasmussen – Chicago Steel (USHL)
Yet another USHL grad on this year’s draft list. Heading to the University of Denver (NCAA) in the fall. The ‘athletic’ tag follows him around a lot, but he’s so much more than just that.

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.