Prospect Rankings – Goaltenders

By Bob Trask – With a bushel of draft picks and growing uncertainty about the goaltending prospects within the organization, the Montreal Canadiens could take a hard look at choosing a goaltender in the early rounds of this year’s draft. You can count me as one of those who has been disappointed in most of the goaltending prospects – Jakub Dobes has been the main exception. With than in mind, if Kent Hughes manages to acquire a late first round pick in a pre-deadline trade it wouldn’t be surprising to see him selecting a goaltender with that pick. We can take a look at some of the possibilities.

NHL Central Scouting came out with their mid-season rankings and their lists differ from other scouting services in that they break down prospects into four categories – North American skaters, European skaters, North American goaltenders and European goaltenders. What their list doesn’t do is give you an idea of where they rank a player overall without regard to position or origin, but it is a starting point.

North American Goaltenders

RANKNAMEHEIGHTWEIGHTAGELEAGUE
1Carson Bjarnason6’318117.6WHL
2Michael Hrabal6’620918.0USHL
3Trey Augustine6’117917.9NTDP
4Adam Gajan6’417618.7NAHL
5Carsen Musser6’421517.7NTDP
6Scott Ratzlaff6’117217.9WHL
7Jacob Fowler6’220118.2USHL
8Tomas Suchanek6’218119.7WHL

Player stats courtesy Elite Prospects. Age is as of December 31st, 2022

Michael Hrabal stands out because of his size and Carson Bjarnason has received a great many accolades for his play so far this season. But a couple of others merit a closer look. Trey Augustine is ranked #3 but when I saw him play in the WJC, he didn’t look like a high draft pick to me. Adam Gajan, on the other hand, came out of nowhere to have a solid tournament. The Slovakian goaltender is unlikely to be a high draft pick but Montreal had success with another Slovakian long shot when they drafted Jaroslav Halak. The final name is Tomas Suchanek who also had a strong WJC tournament but he is almost 20 years old and the oldest goaltender in the top eight rankings – he could slip down in the draft.

One thing to keep in mind is that goaltenders can take a long time to develop. As such, players drafted from the CHL may be at a disadvantage because teams need to make a contract decision within two years of drafting the player.

Most likely targets:
➙ Early round pick: Michael Hrabal
➙ Mid to late round pick: Adam Gajan

European Goaltenders

RANKNAMEHEIGHTWEIGHTAGELEAGUE
1Alexander Hellnemo6’218319.0Swe – Jr
2Juha Jatkola6’117620.4Finland
3Ian Blomquist6’218519.6Swe – 2
4Adam Dybal6’016517.4Cze – Jr
5Aksels Ozols6’115417.9Latvia

From this group there seems to be few candidates that would tempt the Habs in the first three rounds but with lots of later round picks, Kent Hughes may take a flyer on one of them. The team has made a practice of drafting goaltenders that are off the board and it could happen again. If it does, one of these players could see their name called by the Habs on the 2nd day of the draft.

Other Rankings

This table illustrates how many scouting services rank a goaltender in each round of the draft. A “2” under round 1 indicates that 2 scouting services rank the goaltender as a 1st round pick. I’ve cut it off at the 4th round.

PLAYER1st rd2nd rd3rd rd4th rd
Carson Bjarnason22
Michael Hrabal32
Trey Augustine2
Adam Gajan
Carsen Musser
Scott Ratzlaff2
Jacob Fowler1
Tomas Suchanek
Alexander Hellnemo
Juha Jatkola
Ian Blomquist
Adam Dybal
Aksels Ozols

What is absolutely stunning about this table is the lack of coverage given to goaltenders among many of the scouting services. Given the importance that is often attached to the position, you might expect to see more goaltenders rated. While that leaves casual followers in the dark, it does create opportunity for surprises at the draft table.

There are a lot of questions about whether or not the Habs may pick a goaltender but chances are very high that they will. It may be someone listed in this article but the team has shown a tendency to go with under-the-radar picks. We’ll have to see if that trend continues. With 11 picks already on the docket and maybe more to come, Kent Hughes could surprise and choose two goaltenders if he feels the talent is there – one in the early rounds and one in the mid to later rounds.

As the rebuild continues, goaltending will be an important element. Stay tuned and see if more scouting services begin to add goaltenders to their rankings.

Editor’s note: The Canadiens’ prospects in net are all 5th-7th round picks. Here is the table taken from the feature “In the Systems“, showing how they are doing this season.

NAMETEAMLEAGUEGPGAASv%TREND
Jakub DobesOhio State Univ.NCAA242.20.920⬇️
Emmett CroteauWaterloo Black HawksUSHL132.87.897➡️
Cayden PrimeauLaval RocketAHL133.65.890➡️
Joe VrbeticTrois-Rivières LionsECHL113.77.872➡️
Laval RocketAHL44.05.871⬇️
Frederik DichowFrölunda HCSHL92.91.897➡️

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Options In Goal and Right Defense

By JD Lagrange – What came first? The Chicken, or the egg? The Montreal Canadiens find themselves in a similar dilemma. Is their goaltending bad because of their young defense or does the youth at that position is exposed because of sub-par goaltending? Not an easy question to answer.

Here’s what we do know. Everyone must do their jobs to the best of their abilities. We know that the Canadiens’ defense will be young. And with youth with inevitably come “rookie mistakes”. You cannot have one without the other. Those young defensemen will do their jobs to the best of their abilities – and there is no lack of skills – while the coaching staff, led by Stéphane Robidas, will work on helping them develop and learn from their mistakes. That, we know for sure.

Jake Allen

This leaves goaltending. Jake Allen was hired as Carey Price’s backup. He’s found himself in a spot that is not his as the team’s undisputed number one since Price fell to a serious knee injury. So this will be the second season where he will be asked to carry (no pun intended) the load. A true pro, and while he has done fairly well, his entire career has shown that he’s not capable to be a true number one, even less so on a rebuilding team. At best, he’s good in a 1A – 1B situation.

The issue the Canadiens find themselves in today is that neither Samuel Montembeault nor Cayden Primeau are stepping up to prove that they are ready to have any impact at the NHL level. We can use Primeau’s age (23) to justify that he needs another year (or two) in the AHL as the starter, but Montembeault will turn 26 in a few days. If he’s not ready to be a NHL backup today, he may never be.

Goaltending options

The Canadiens decided to pass on claiming 36 year-old goaltender Anton Khudobin, placed on waivers by the Dallas Stars yesterday. This is most likely due to in part to his fairly high cap (one year remaining at $3.33 million). But that doesn’t mean that the two teams couldn’t work out of trade where the Stars either keep salary or they could take one of the Canadiens’ bad contracts in return. So stay tuned.

There are also two teams who currently have three veteran goaltenders at camp and unless they trade one of them, they will have to try sneaking one through waivers. Here are their situations:

TEAMNAMEAGEGAASv%CAP HIT
VEGASLaurent Brossoit292.90.895$2.325M (1 yr)
Adin Hill262.66.906$2.175M (1 yr)
Michael Hutchinson32*3.23*.899$750k (1 yr)
SEATTLEPhilipp Grubauer303.16.889$5.9M (5 yrs)
Chris Driedger282.96.899$3.5M (2 yrs)
Martin Jones323.42.900$2M (1 yr)
* AHL stats

Statistically speaking, none of these guys had an outstanding season last year. But they are veteran goaltenders who have seen plenty of pucks and have the potential of providing an improvement over Montembeault and help for Allen.

For those concerned about Montembeault not clearing waivers, just a reminder that he’s on a one-way, $1 million contract for two years. This means that if a team wants to send him down to the AHL, not only will he have to clear waivers, but not all teams are willing to pay such a goaltender $1 million in the AHL. Further, the following are not stats to worry about losing a goaltender to waivers, are they? At least not this early on.

RECORDGAASv%
2021-228-18-63.77.891
Career17-26-93.54.892

Right defense

The Canadiens have another glaring need which was created since Shea Weber didn’t return. It got amplified when Jeff Petry was traded and while 20 year-old Justin Barron is showing promises, he will inevitably spend some time in Laval this season. We’re talking about the need for a quality right-handed defenseman, of course.

UPDATE:

Don’t be shocked if the Canadiens pick one off waivers in the coming days. The teams I would certainly keep an eye on are, in alphabetical order:

  • Anaheim Ducks
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Boston Bruins
  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Calgary Flames
  • Dallas Stars
  • Los Angeles Kings
  • Minnesota Wild
  • St. Louis Blues
  • San Jose Sharks
  • Seattle Kraken
  • Winnipeg Jets

All of the above-mentioned teams have a surplus of defensemen who must clear waivers, many of them have some right-shooting players in there.

Through trade, I still believe that a trade is possible with the Edmonton Oilers, who are apparently looking for secondary scoring. To me, one that makes a lot of sense, is Tyson Barrie for one of Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov or Jonathan Drouin. The salary is close in all cases, particularly for Hoffman.

On the right side right now, the Oilers have, in addition to Barrie, Cody Ceci and Evan Bouchard. None of them are third pairing defensemen so they would be trading from a position of strength.

So whether what we touched on in this article takes place or not, something will be happening between now and Wednesday, October 12th, when the Canadiens open the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre. Kent Hughes is lurking.

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