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10 Goalies To Watch For The 2018 NHL Draft

10 Goalies To Watch For The 2018 NHL Draft

With the 2017-18 hockey season kicking off around the world, scouts are already hard at work determining who the next wave of young stars are. The 2018 draft class has an interesting mix of goaltending talent, with no clear leader of the pack – although a few names could quickly rise up the list.

Of the first-year eligible goaltenders for the upcoming draft, here are ten names to pay attention to as the season goes on:

Jakub Skarek – Czech – HC Dukla Jihlava – 6’3″ – 195

The recent influx of Czech goaltending prospects will continue into the 2018 draft. Jakub Skarek will be the next name to join the likes of Daniel Vladar and Ales Stezka as elite young goaltenders to come out of the central European country. Skarek will rank high on a lot of lists due to his excellent performance at the 2016-17 Hlinka Memorial tournament, but make no mistake, he’s earned the praise. He also managed to beat out the much older Vladar (a 3rd-round pick in 2015) to start three out of five games at the most recent World Juniors.

To the naked eye, Skarek’s skating ability may look suspect – but he makes up for it with excellent edgework while in the butterfly. This works for his style, because he likes to seal the ice first, and move from the butterfly position. His wonderful frame allows him to pre-set in the reverse-VH position in sharp-angle situations, and his post-integration is extremely advanced for his age. His talent ceiling is one of the highest in the draft class, regardless of the type of year he has.

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Jacob Ingham – OHL – Mississauga Steelheads – 6’3″ – 180

Ingham, a former second-round OHL pick, has certainly exceeded expectations early on in his junior career. Playing for a very strong offensive team in the Mississauga Steelheads, he caught fire late in the season and helped lead them to a first-place finish in the central division. As he got more comfortable playing major junior, it was easy to tell that he could potentially become one of the top goaltenders heading into the 2018 NHL draft.

Early on, Ingham struggled by chasing plays – which would pull him out of the frame of the net. He quickly learned that holding his edges and playing a more patient game was the route to success. He turned in a very good performance playing for Team Canada Black at the U17s, and his season really took off after New Year’s. If his core strength improves, he could potentially have a massive season for the Steelheads once again in 2017-18.

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Alexis Gravel – QMJHL – Halifax Mooseheads – 6’2″ – 225

Halifax Mooseheads fans have been treated to some great goaltending in their history, and Alexis Gravel is quickly adding his name to that list. He could become the highest goalie drafted in their history since Zach Fucale went 36th overall in 2013 to the Montreal Canadiens. The youngster has been in the conversation to play for Team Canada internationally (despite also having German citizenship) but has never been given a real opportunity to take charge in a starter’s role. That could change in the next few years.

He received a ton of playing time as a 16-year-old, appearing in 50 games for the Mooseheads last season. His .894 save percentage is quite good, considering the league that he plays in. He even improved on that number in the playoffs, posting a .924 in six games. With Nico Hischier on his team, those efforts certainly did not go unnoticed by scouts. His extensive major junior experience is a big advantage over other goaltenders his age heading into this season.

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Kevin Mandolese – QMJHL – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles – 6’3″ – 170

A highly-touted first round pick by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, the pressure is on Mandolese to perform early in his junior career. They are expected to have a good team once again, and he will be forced to compete with 18-year-old Kyle Jessiman for playing time. Mandolese has the size advantage, and is coming off some great exposure while playing for Team Canada Red at the U17s.

Mandolese certainly comes with his share of typical youth-related issues, like count-rotating and unnecessary overzealousness – but he should improve in those areas under the tutelage of goaltending coach Joel Gauthier. The season should prove to be a test for the Blainville, Quebec native. If he comes out on top, he’ll be highly sought after at the 2018 NHL entry draft.

Justus Annunen – Jr. A SM-liiga – Karpat – 6’3″ – 201

Much like Ukko-Pekka Luukonen in the last draft class, Justus Annunen could be a bit of a wildcard heading into this season. The Finnish product of the Karpat system has been putting up excellent numbers in the junior B system, but hasn’t really been given a chance at the next level. He also scuffled a bit at this year’s Hlinka Memorial tournament, which could hurt his stock. Ideally, you would like to see him play in the Liiga against men, but that opportunity will be tough with Jussi Rynnäs and Veini Vehviläinen playing for the big club. Barring an injury to one of the top goaltenders, he’ll have to work extremely hard to make the pro team, and climb his way up the draft list.

His situation shouldn’t take away from his skill set. His 6-foot-3 frame is what scouts love to see, and he plays a more-aggressive-than-average style that is very common with this generation of Finnish goaltenders. The comparisons to Pekka Rinne are inevitable, but he differs with a much more modern approach to post-integration. If he manages to package it all together this season, he will be a high riser on the European goaltenders list. Even if he doesn’t, he will tempt teams later in the draft as a potential steal candidate.

Olivier Rodrigue – QMJHL – Drummondville Voltigeurs – 6’0″ – 160

Drummondville’s starter last season stole the show at the Hlinka Memorial, and will look to take that momentum into the 2017-18 season. His father Sylvain is a goalie guru in the Edmonton Oilers system.

Lukas Dostal – Czech U20 – HC Kometa Brno – 6’0″ – 163

Another Czech super-goalie who showed well at the Hlinka. Has all of the footwork and speed of a high-end prospect, but size concerns are holding him back.

Carl Stankowski – WHL – Seattle Thunderbirds – 5’9″ – 170

Came out of nowhere to lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to a WHL championship. At 5-foot-9, he’ll need to continue to impress with a bigger workload and more attention to win scouts over.

Keegan Karki – USHL – Omaha Lancers – 6’4″ – 218

The latest commitment to the University of North Dakota, the absolutely massive Karki will get his first real taste of USHL hockey this upcoming season with Omaha.

Jakob Hellsten – SuperElit – Timra J20 – 5’11” – 180

Although he is moderate in size at 5-foot-11, Hellsten continues to build a reputation of a ‘big game’ goaltender through his international play. His father Joa is a well-respected goalie coach in Sweden.

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.