2010-11 AHL Goaltending Preview
The American League season began last weekend and scores in many cities rang up (and continue to ring up) like a grocery store bill. In spite of what felt like a long pre-season, the reality is that most AHL teams only have a one real week of practice involving the core group of guys who will be there for the long haul.
It’s not much time to learn the systems, for defensive pairings to learn each others tendencies, and for goalies to get moving and thinking at game speed. There’s a lot of hockey left to play but rosters are set for the most part, so I thought I’d take a look at some notable goaltending situations around the league that we’ll be keeping an eye on this season.
Some game nights roll around and you think, “I hope Goalie B is in tonight instead of Goalie A.” And some nights, you know it just doesn’t matter which guy it is because either goalie in that team’s tandem can shut your guys down. Here are teams I believe have that kind of stopping power in net:
- Cedrick Desjardins, Dustin Tokarski, and Jaroslav Janus – Norfolk Admirals: The Ads of the Eastern Conference are awash in terrific goaltending. Desjardins ended last season with Hamilton boasting a jaw-dropping 2.00 GAA in 47 games. Tokarski had an outstanding rookie season carrying the load (55 games) for Norfolk, and Janus was terrific in 13 games with the Admirals last year. Janus will be the odd man out but if there’s an injury in Tampa or Norfolk, the Admirals won’t skip a beat in goal.
Dany Sabourin & Braden Holtby – Hershey Bears: Both are coming off of good years and play for a team that dominates the league year after year. Hershey’s ability to put points on the board give its goalies the confidence to let off the gas, but they never do.
- Thomas Greiss & Alex Stalock – Worcester Sharks: Assuming he’s not harboring any bitterness for being waived down from San Jose, Thomas Greiss has a comfort level with Worcester, a year of NHL experience under his belt, and serious competition for ice time from partner Alex Stalock. Stalock impressed last season, playing with confidence and flair and durability over 61 games. The two should push each other to greatness with the bonus of typically having an above average team supporting them. (UPDATE: So much for that. Apparently the Sharks want to loan Greiss to a team in Europe so he gets playing time, but not at the sacrifice of Stalock’s playing time. So they’re keeping him out of game action. Here’s the story.)
As in the NHL, some teams just have that one dominant goalie who will, barring injury, get the bulk of the starts.
- Brent Krahn – Texas Stars: Brent Krahn missed a big chunk of last season with a sports hernia, but the Stars gave him a big vote of confidence by letting him compete for the #2 spot in Dallas and he came prepared. He dominated the league when he was healthy and the weakened Stars will be relying on a similar performance. He’s backed up by rookie Richard Bachman, who played extremely well in his 8 starts with the Stars last season.
- Jhonas Enroth – Portland Pirates: Enroth just wins games. He was 7th in the league in GAA at the end of the season. He’s been a good soldier waiting for his chance to move up, but Ryan Miller plays so much, they don’t want Enroth to waste away in the #2 spot… so he bides his time. They have so much faith in him, they don’t even have another NHL goalie under contract below him. David Leggio, whose majority of playing time is from the ECHL and Finnish league (Turku) backs him up but probably doesn’t pose a threat to playing time.
Ben Bishop – Peoria Rivermen: Not only has Bishop looked good so far this season, he’s got scary-good goal support as the Rivermen beefed up with some AHL all-stars in the off-season. Bishop is a giant at 6’7” and has faced the challenge of getting that big body to move quickly enough. He’s backed up by rookie Jake Allen, who has experience carrying a heavy load and playing well in juniors, but if Bishop starts to fulfill his potential this season, Allen could be doing a lot of watching and learning.
- Mike McKenna – Albany Devils: He had a stellar year in the AHL last season and carried the bulk of the load despite partner Jeff Frazee playing well, too. Unlike so many goalies, we get a peek inside his head thanks to his writing here for IGM and on Twitter, and you can understand why he’s successful and will continue to be. He’s disciplined, focused, balanced, and hard-working, and because of that, he’s a difference-maker on this team. He’ll continue to be the anchor that keeps this team steady over the course of the season. (Editors note: Check out Mike’s piece on his gear customization and our video Q&A with him – Part I , Part II and Part III)
Krahn and Bachman could probably go in this list as well, but Krahn’s dominance and a less solid team than last season may put pressure on the team to play Krahn more. But here are some other vet/youngster combos that will be interesting to watch as the season unfolds.
- Tyler Weiman & Eddie Lack – Manitoba Moose: Lack seemingly came out of nowhere and impressed a lot of people right out of the gate. And Weiman is a veteran who got a raw deal playing on a perennial bottom-feeder and Colorado never gave him a chance to shine. Now, he’s with the crown jewel of the Western Conference, so I would expect more inspired play and setting a great example for Lack.
Joey MacDonald & Thomas McCollum – Grand Rapids Griffins: This is another case of the veteran goalie, MacDonald, being a place where he’s had success and he’s happy to be again, paired with McCollum, who had a lackluster rookie season and is looking to make some strides in consistency. He was a high pick and has a lot of expectations on him, and MacDonald, being in a situation he’s happy about, can be a great mentor and example for him. I wouldn’t expect this duo to set the world on fire, but down the road, it could be pivotal in McCollum’s development.
- Anton Khudobin & Matt Hackett – Houston Aeros: Khudobin barely falls over the line into vet territory, and Hackett has started his pro career with such a bang, you wouldn’t know he wasn’t a 6 year veteran already. But there’s still going to be a beneficial learning dynamic here. Khudobin has seen it all at this point, having battled up from the ECHL, all the way to limited, but very successful NHL stints last year, though sheer tenacity. Hackett has already said he knows there’s a lot he can learn from Khudobin, so his head is in the right place. But Hackett has been so good thus far, there’s no question they’ll push each other for ice time all season long.
It’s already shaping up to be an interesting season. We’ll keep you posted and bring some features from the AHL ranks your way through the season.
Don’t forget you can follow @InGoalMagAHL on Twitter for up to the minute news on AHL goalies.