By JD Lagrange – This is a topic that’s been in the back of my mind for a while. More and more, we see NHL teams taking taking chances on smaller players at the forward and defense positions. The success encountered by smaller players like Quinn Hughes, Alex DeBrincat and Cole Caufield, just to name a few, shows that the way the game is being played (and called by officials) opens some space for smaller, skilled players. But what about goaltenders?
No worries, I’ll save you the trouble to do the research. And what I found is surprising in a way. Not by the tendencies, but rather by how overwhelmingly one-sided the results are.
Teams have played anywhere between 32 to 37 games so far this season, so I have set a minimum of 15 games played to qualify, or between 41-47% of their team’s games played. This leaves us with 34 goalies at this point. Note that those stats are from December 28th, prior to the games that night.
Those 34 goalies average at 74.94” tall (or 6-foot 3-inches) and 197.9 lbs. On this list of the top-34 most utilized goaltenders in the NHL today, four of them are under 6-foot 2-inches tall and only one is under 6-foot 1-inch.
So as we can clearly see, while more teams are starting to select smaller skilled players at the forward and defense position, this has yet to translate into the goaltending position. In fact, the trend is the taller the better, and they are, for the most part, very lean as well.
Canadiens’ depth chart
In goal for the Canadiens, we notice the same tendency. Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau are the “shorties” of the group, standing at 6-foot 2-inches tall, while Joe Vrbetic looks down at his peers from his 6-foot 6-inches, very lean frame of 194 lbs. Samuel Montembeault seems to be carrying a little bit more weight on his bones at 214 lbs.
Last week, we reported a trade rumour to the effect that the Canadiens were in negotiation with the Buffalo Sabres to get the rights to goaltending prospect Devon Levi. We should note that the Dollar-des-Ormeaux native only stands at 6-feet tall, tipping the scale at 181 lbs.
A seventh round pick by the Florida Panthers, I’m not sure that resting the Canadiens’ hopes on him is such a good idea, seeing that the best goalies in the league are much taller. So he would be a project at best, and the price in a trade must reflect that, even with his very good stats in the NCAA.
When looking at the future of the Canadiens in net, we notice that all of those goalie prospects were selected in the later rounds. All of them are projects who are long shots at becoming good NHL starters. Oh I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but when Pittsburgh selected Marc-André Fleury, when Toronto picked Tukka Rask or when the Canadiens picked Carey Price, we had a pretty good idea that they would become great NHL goalies.
It will be very important for the Canadiens to focus on getting a good pick, or trading for a top-end goaltending prospect if they don’t want to repeat the mistake made by the Philadelphia Flyers (since Pelle Lindbergh), and the current Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs, wasting away their window to win because of sub-par goaltending. I’m not suggesting that they need to select one on the first round, but in the top-three rounds would be better odds.