There is no doubt that scouting goaltenders is the hardest position to scout. Over the years, many top goaltender prospects have received a ton of praise, but never ended up having the career that scouts had initially expected.
Since we have seen quite a few highly touted goaltenders struggle in the limelight, many analysts in the community feel that goaltending is “voodoo”. Even though it may be a challenge to find a goaltender in the draft, you still have to roll the die and see where they land.
At the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Dallas Stars drafted goaltender Jake Oettinger in the first round. In 2019, the Florida Panthers ended up selecting Spencer Knight in the first round. This year, Yaroslav Askarov is rumored to go pretty early on. But, how early on should Askarov go? After Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield? Or after Tim Stützle, Lucas Raymond, Jamie Drysdale and Alexander Holtz?
In this roundtable, I’ve invited a number of independent scouts and analysts to discuss whether or not goaltending is “voodoo”, when should Askarov come off the board and who might be a diamond in the rough.
Scouts & Analysts
Chris Peters, ESPN, @ChrisMPeters
Tony Ferrari, Dobber Prospects and Future Considerations Hockey, @TheTonyFerrari
Derek Neumeier, Future Considerations Hockey and SB Nation’s Defending Big D (Dallas Stars Blog Site), @Derek_N_NHL
Alexander Appleyard, The Athletic and Sons of Penn, @AvAppleyard
Patrik Bexell, SB Nation’s Eyes On The Prize (Montreal Canadiens Blog Site), @Zeb_Habs
Tobias Pettersson, The Prospect Network, @ManUtdTobbe
TPEHockey, The Prospect Network, @TPEHockey
Steven Ellis, Smaht Scouting, @StevenEllisNHL
Josh Tessler, Smaht Scouting and Future Considerations Hockey, @JoshTessler_
Please explain whether or not you believe in goaltenders being voodoo. If yes, how do you work around it when it comes to evaluating goaltenders for the draft. If you do not believe in the voodoo theory, please go into detail.
Chris Peters: I don’t think goalies are voodoo, but I do think they are much harder to project than their skater counterparts. I work around it by understanding immediately that I don’t have the expertise for it. I defer to experts among my contacts. Former goalies that are scouts, goalie coaches and I’ll even ask opposing shooters what makes a particular guy good. But I also think there are times where the best goalie in a given draft year presents himself. Like Askarov this year, there’s a gap between him and everyone else and there’s a gap between him and a lot of other goalies drafted recently.
Patrik Bexell: I don’t think goaltenders are voodoo, I think the reputation that they are voodoo comes from the fact that they need more time to develop. They need to mature into a bigger body, also it is tough for a goalie to break into a team, there are only two spots for a goalie prospect to fight for compared to eight or nine spots for a defender and around 15 spots for a froward. This means that they will play in juniors longer and face a more uneven competition – both in regards to his opponents but also in regards to his own team where the defensive zone work might have some discrepancy between the different pairings/lines.
You also have to consider the mental aspect, it’s tough being the guy that everyone looks at after a mistake, or when the defence makes a mistake but ultimately it is the goalkeeper that gets shafted and blamed by the media and the fans. It’s not for everyone.
It comes down to development, maturity and getting the right chance at the right time. However with many goalies available through out the draft and even after I think it also opens up for late bloomers and ‘surprises’ and therefore a high goaltending pick might not be worth it come draft day and therefore it has a reputation of being voodoo. Especially when you compare those of Riku Helenius, Al Montoya, and Pascal Leclaire, Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, and Dominik Hasek…
Derek Neumeier: Personally, I’ve never believed in the “goalies are voodoo” trope. There’s no doubt that they’re harder to scout than players at other positions, but it’s not impossible. Some goalies who were projected to become superstars and got drafted high (such as Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury and Roberto Luongo) developed just as expected, so there’s a process to scouting goalies that can work. I think the problem in the past is that teams, for a long time, didn’t fully understand what to look for in a goalie prospect. Another part of the problem might have been teams not fully understanding how to develop their goaltenders after drafting them — a perfect example of this is Jack Campbell, who was taken by the Dallas Stars 11th overall in 2010 but didn’t receive enough developmental support from the organization, and as a result, his career went off the rails for a couple of years. Moving forward, i think we’re going to see much higher success rates for goalies drafted in the first three rounds of the draft.
Tobias Pettersson: Both, yes and no, I guess. I’m of the opinion that goalie scouting is the biggest market inefficiency in the NHL, mostly due to teams not putting resources into it. Very few (0?) teams have a designated goalie scout which is something I think is absolutely needed. Add that goalies have shorter peaks than skaters and you get ”voodoo”.
To get around this I use as much data as I can get my hands on, in my opinion there’s less noise in the data when it comes to goalies in comparison to skaters, at least over a bigger sample.
Alexander Appleyard: While I have used the phrase myself on numerous occasions, I would prefer to characterise goalies as “unpredictable”. I would evidence this with the fact that Corey Crawford is the only NHL goalie who has managed to have above average stats each of the last five seasons.
But why is it that they are so unpredictable? Well, partially due to simple deviation from the mean, and partially due to the spotlight on goalies.
If you have a 60 point forward a year full of bad luck, injuries, or a loss of “form” is likely to result in a 50-point season. That is around a 20% reduction in output, yet there would likely be no great level of consternation from the fanbase. Other players would likely have picked up some slack, and it would probably not have been the difference between a playoff berth and going golfing in May.
With goalies? Let is take Frederik Andersen for example. Before this season Andersen had been a paradigm of consistency over his career. Six seasons, with each season ranging between .916 and .922 sv%, and every year having at very least +0.31 dFsv%.
This year? .909 sv% and as a result rumbling about benching him, whether he can lead the Maple Leafs to glory, and even calls for a trade.
Yet when you actually examine the difference from this year vs last year?
Last year? 1958 shots against and 1796 saves resulting in a .917 sv%.
This year? 1577 shots against and 1434 saves resulting in a .909 sv%.
Extrapolate both to 2000 shots against and per 2000 shots Andersen would “only” have allowed an extra 16 goals. That is just a 0.80% change. An extra goal every 125 shots. Yet that is the difference between being top 10 in Vezina voting and a “bad” season. No wonder goalies get given the “voodoo” moniker! A few percent difference in terms of a drop in “consistency” can be the end of an NHL career. The reason for their “unpredictability” is for the most part being held to extremely difficult to achieve standards that very few – aside from a handful of Hall of Famers – can manage.
However, while virtually every goalie goes through troughs and peaks – it is only to be expected – when it comes to the draft specifically, are goalies to be completely avoided early on? I don’t personally think so, at least not in every case.
Between 2005-2015 there were 13 goalies taken in the first round of the NHL draft. Eight of the 12 became legitimate NHL goalies, four have become legitimate starters, and one is well on his way to becoming one. Would your team in hindsight spend a first-round pick on the Carey Price’s, Tuukka Rask’s, Semyon Varmalov’s Andrei Vasilevskiy’s and Ilya Samsonov’s of this world? Almost certainly. Furthermore, in hindsight highly rated prospects such as Carter Hart, John Gibson and Mackenzie Blackwood would have been drafted in the first round as opposed to falling into the second.
Good goalies are hard to come by, and while very few goalie prospects are worth spending a first round pick on, there are exceptions.
These exceptions come in my eyes when a goalie prospect has fulfilled three different criteria.
1. They have already excelled for multiple years. (and I mean EXCEL!)
2. They are already very sound technically.
3. They already have the athleticism to play in the NHL.
Why these three?
Well, the first establishes a floor, and for the most part a high floor. If you draft a goalie in the first round you want them “flaming out” to at worst mean they are a decent back-up. Multiple years of dominating their peers give some insurance in this regard, and for the most part is an indication of sound technique and athleticism at worst.
The second and the third, in tandem, also contribute to this floor, while also giving realistic room for them to grow into a high-end NHL goalie. A first round goalie pick should not be a “project”. They should not “need work”. As if that is the case they may already be doomed to failure on draft day. Athleticism is very hard to improve, let alone “teach”, and while technique can be taught, if a goalie is not already far ahead of their peers in this area the odds are not in their favour when it comes to catching up.
Goalies worth drafting in the first round should effectively be at a level where they could likely at least hold their own in the AHL in draft+1.
Steven Ellis: Goalies aren’t weird just because of their personalities, even though that feels more like a thing of the past. The fact of the matter is, goaltending is a tough one to judge heading into a draft year. We’re often basing it on potential, which is obvious, but a large number of goaltenders at 17/18 are still sharing time with someone that’s older or more experienced. Take Nico Daws, for example. There was potential there a year ago, but he rarely had the chance to prove it. But what he did this year showed that he’s capable of leading the charge in net. Now, is one season enough proof to show that he’s going to have a solid NHL career? Again, that’s the tough part. Since goalies often don’t get consistent ice time, it’s hard to compare them to skaters in the draft that play key roles for their respective team. So, truly, predicting goalies are voodoo, and it’s impressive when a team lands a couple great picks in a row.
Tony Ferrari: For a long time I was in the “Goalies are Voodoo” camp. It changed when I had a conversation with Mike McKenna (former NHL net-minder) and we talked about that vary issue. I came away from the conversation with an understanding that the biggest issue with scouting net-minders is finding someone who knows what they are talking about. Teams often don’t have goalie specific scouts but there is a value to investing in that.
A factor that plays a role in it is that very few of us played the position and even fewer played it at a high level. I think one of the most important thing a scout or analyst can do is focus on learning the position. There are endless YouTube videos that help teach goaltenders how to play the position, how different techniques are better suited for different situations such as the VH vs. RVH techniques for post integration or how a net-minders footwork should look as they patrol their crease. Goaltending is a position of detail and if you want to be able to evaluate it properly then you need to take the time to learn some of that detail and keep learning.
TPEHockey: I’m not a believer in the theory that goalies are voodoo. Recently I wrote an article explaining why. To oversimplify it, if you look through the past 20 years of goalies taken in the first round, almost every single bust falls into one of two categories. Either they played in the CHL or over-performed in international competition compared to regular season play. By holding CHL goalies to a higher standard and not making judgements based solely on international competitions you can eliminate 90% of goaltending busts in the first round. Another reason I have would be the fact that often NHL teams and scouts don’t know who to evaluate goalies. Most teams lack specific goaltending scouts that know the ins and outs of the position which is crazy considering how it’s a completely separate game to that of a forward or defensemen. If more goaltending experts were incorporated into scouting departments I feel as if we’d see a sharp drop in goaltending failures. Lastly, the system in which a goalie comes up in has a huge impact on their career. Some teams struggle to develop and properly handle goalies. Where a guy plays can make or break his career.
Josh Tessler: I do not believe that goaltenders are voodoo. The challenge is that there seems to be always seems to be a small pool of goaltenders who are “draftable”. Once you have your pool of goaltenders that you deem are “draftable”, you now have to place them on your board. The goalies who are lights out and playing tougher competition like Yaroslav Askarov are going to be further up on your board. Given that Askarov has been facing tougher competition than the average draft eligible goaltender, he warrants more attention from scouts and analysts. What is frustrating is that we have seen plenty of goaltenders selected early on in draft and not pan out. Those goaltenders obviously had talent at the junior level, but I question whether they had strong coaching at the NCAA, ECHL or AHL level. If you do not have a strong goaltending coach that can work with the goalies and pinpoint issues like over-sliding or helping to determine whether or not a goaltender should be deploying a VH or overlap technique, the goaltender suffers. So, my advice to teams is stick to your gut. If you have a goaltender that you have been watching closely and feel that he is a fit, take a shot on him, but make sure that you have the right coaches to surround him with.
What are your overall thoughts on Yaroslav Askarov? If you were a GM, would you take Askarov before prospects like Marco Rossi, Alexander Holtz, Jamie Drysdale and etcetera and why?
Chris Peters: I think Askarov is the best goalie I’ve personally watched in 12 years of being around junior hockey and prospects in one form or another. I did not rank him ahead of some of the elite offensive talents in this draft, but I did rank him ahead of the defensemen and I could reasonably be convinced he’s no worse than the third best prospect in this draft. I hedge ever so slightly because projecting him out isn’t as clean as projecting out the skaters I listed ahead of him.
Alexander Appleyard: When it comes to Yaroslav Askarov he fulfills all of the above criteria.
1. He has excelled for multiple years.
I do not use the word excel lightly. This season Askarov played in a professional league. Yes, the VHL is somewhere in-between ECHL and AHL level, but he is the ONLY goalie under the age of 18 in the leagues history to play more than 10 games at that level. And not only did he “play” at that level, he posted a .920 sv%… right around league average. The season before he was the only starter under the age of 17 in the MHL, and posted a very respectable .921 sv%. In the MHL’s 11-year existence Askarov was the only goalie to start 30+ games in a season at under 17.
Alongside his stalwart domestic play, he has also played at a high level in 4/6 of the international tournaments he has taken part in over the last two years. He was the best goalie in the WHC-17, the WJC-18, the WJAC-19 and the 2019 Hlinka. In the 2018 Hlinka he also played well. The only real “blip” on his resume so far has been the 2020 World Juniors, where he was admittedly shaky at times.
2. He is very sound technically.
Askarov’s game is built around his technique. He is extremely composed, efficient with his movement, and very rarely gets out of position. His fantastic edge work combined with an ability to be one step ahead of the play enable him to always remain square to the shooter, and has high-end rebound control. He either absorbs the shots or directs them to the boards.
3. He is a fantastic athlete.
Most of the time Askarov does not “need” to make a spectacular save. His strong technical game and anticipation mean that he is usually in position before danger surfaces. He rarely has to “scramble”. But even so, not only can you see how athletic he is by his movement in the crease, his ability to completely close off the entirety of the bottom of the net when he drops into butterfly… but also when tasked with making a wonder save. He usually delivers. Whether it be a 2v0 plucked from the goal-line with a glove, or a back-door tap in that he makes a sprawling pad save with, at times it seems that the young Russian is made from the same stuff your childhood Stretch Armstrong was.
Now, when I personally stack him up against the top of this draft and the myriad of high-end skaters available where does he sit? Where would I feel comfortable taking him?
Of course, it depends on the team. Askarov is one of those rare goalies who could well be an NHL starter by the time he is 20 years old. He is not a “long-term” investment. Therefore, he may well be “ready” to be a split-starter at the same time some of the skaters in the back-half of the top 10 are entering the league.
Personally I could see no scenario where Askarov would be worth taking over Lafreniere, Byfield, Stützle, Raymond, Rossi and Drysdale. I think all six of those skaters realistically project to be centre-pieces that could turn into franchise-type players, and point-per-game forwards and Norris calibre defenseman potential are more valuable in my eyes than even the best goalie in the league – once you factor in performance versus peers. However, depending on the team in question I do not think it would be ridiculous, or an enormous reach, to take Askarov ahead of players such as Holtz, Lundell and Perfetti. Would I personally do so in a vacuum? No. But I would certainly be able to understand the logic.
Patrik Bexell: I think Askarov is the real deal, comparing him to the other Russian goalkeepers taken in the first round Semyon Varlamov, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Ilya Samsonov, Askarov certainly holds up his own end in the comparison. The only other goalie playing for the U20 at an age of 18 is Vasilevskiy, and even if Vasilevskiy has better numbers its still a good comparison. At a national level, its Askarov and Samsonov that is the comparison as they both have played in the KHL before getting drafted, and here Askarov comes out on top, even of its only a game for either goalie, and before anyone says SKA is better than Magnitogorsk, Magnitogorsk was a top team in 2015. Igor Shestyorkin had more games with SKA in his draft year, six, with a marginally worse GAA, while the NYR goalie had better stats in the VHL compared to Askarov. Right now it seems like Shestyorkin is a great pick.
Let’s remember that Askarov more or less single handedly took his Russian team to the final in the U18’s last year, and that final was lost in OT after a missed defensive read by his defence. While Askarov was up and down in this years U20 he wasn’t really helped confidence wise with the swap back and forth that the Russian coaching team seemed to be happy with.
The second question is easier, nope I would not take Askarov ahead of Rossi, Holtz and Drysdale. However I think he will go somewhere around number 10 in the draft. He has proven somethings, but also let’s remember that he is a long term prospect, you’d want him to follow the same path as Shestyorkin. Also, Russian goalies with Georgiyev, Shestyorkin and Sorokin are in high demand. I don’t see him falling further than 12, especially considering that some teams are looking for their goalkeeper for the future.
This also reflects bad on a draft class that after the top eight or nine is homogeny and I would expect some surprises where teams will draft because of need, and their own scouting as normally a WJC like the one Askarov had would have dropped him further. However, with patience and letting him develop in Russia, learning English on the side I think one team will have a goalie for the future in Askarov.
Derek Neumeier: I’m a big fan of Yaroslav Askarov. I genuinely think he’s the best goaltending prospect to come along since Carey Price in 2005. He has all the tools that you want in a goalie, and his track record so far is very impressive. If I were a GM, I’d be more than happy to take him in the Top 10, maybe even as high as the Top 5, depending on how badly the team in question needs a goalie prospect in their system. An elite goaltender can be such a huge difference-maker for an organization, so if you think he’s going to make more of a long-term impact than someone like Alexander Holtz or Jamie Drysdale, then I think it makes sense to pick him.
Tobias Pettersson: I think Askarov is one of the best goalie prospects in the last decade or two, he’s fantastic. With having said that, I wouldn’t pick him in the top 15 (31 really) because of what I just said in the other question. Goalie scouting is the biggest market inefficiency in the league which means you can get big steals later in the draft which diminishes the value of picking a goalie early, no matter how good he is.
Steven Ellis: I know the consensus is to draft the best player available, but I also don’t think that is truly the case when you add goalies into the mix. I don’t think Anaheim, New Jersey or Montreal drafts him if he’s still on the board, for example, but Minnesota, Buffalo, Chicago or even Columbus would be suitable homes. I personally wouldn’t take him before guys like Rossi, Holtz, Drysdale or Raymond, but I’d consider him over Jake Sanderson or Cole Perfetti if the situation was right. It’s a risk, but I haven’t been this confident about a goaltender in a long time. Askarov has shown he arrives when the games get tougher. Style-wise, Askarov has perfect NHL size at 6-foot-3 and his right glove hand is a tricky one to beat. Askarov has impressive rebound control and moves fluently post-to-post with minimal hiccups. Let in a bad goal? Askarov can bounce back and play his best hockey in the minutes after. He often gets aggressive with his poke check but can move quick enough to make up for a miscue. You’ll often hear that a goalie battles hard and doesn’t give up on a play, but he guards his net like it’s his kid: he’ll do whatever it takes to protect a lead and has the proper headspace to remain calm.
Tony Ferrari: Yaroslav Askarov is the best goaltender I have ever scouted. He has every tool that you look for in a netminder from his physical size to his athletic ability. He is consistently square to shooters and he is very crisp in his transitions throughout his crease. What makes Askarov truly special however is his ability to track the puck at an elite level. He asserts himself in his crease and looks around and through traffic actively. He has the quick twitch muscle to make the saves through traffic.
As for whether I would take him ahead of Rossi, Holtz, Drysdale, et al, I would consider taking him as soon as sixth overall in all honesty. Especially if I am a team with multiple first-round picks and no clear star developing in my system. The players I would put ahead of Askarov in a definitive sense would be the big boys up top in Byfield and Lafrenière as well as the group of three (Raymond, Rossi, Stützle) that I feel have separated themselves from the pack. I would have zero issue with Askarov going anywhere from sixth to tenth, anywhere beyond that and a team will be getting a top-five talent outside of the top-10.
TPEHockey: Personally I have Askarov ranked at 6th behind the likes of Raymond, Rossi, and Stutzle. A lot of scouts voice the concerns that he’s risky cause he’s a goalie, but I think he’s just as good a bet to be an NHLer as those three players I mentioned. And if he hits his ceiling as an elite starting goalie he’d be just as valuable or more than the other players in this range.
Josh Tessler: As many of my colleagues mentioned, Askarov is one of the best goaltending prospects that scouts and analysts have seen in a long time. Askarov is hybrid goaltender. Most of the time, Askarov is standing tall in his net, but will opt to move to a butterfly position when there is heavy traffic. The attribute that I really enjoy is his edges. Askarov’s glide is smooth and quick. He can transition from side to side quickly, which allows him to prevent goals in high danger situations. If there is a two-on-one situation, Askarov remains calm and composed because he knows that he can shut down the scoring opportunity.
In terms of where I would take Askarov, that mostly comes down to draft position. There are teams that could use a robust goaltender in their system more than others. For example, the Los Angeles Kings or the Chicago Blackhawks should consider taking Askarov with their first round selection because of organizational depth at goaltender. Even if Rossi, Drysdale or Holtz are still on the board when the Blackhawks or Kings are called up to the podium, I would still lean to Askarov. He has a strong chance of being a franchise goaltender and could fill the shoes when Corey Crawford or Jonathan Quick are no longer manning the pipes.
Diamond In The Rough
Is there a particular draft eligible goaltender, who you believe is a diamond in the rough and why?
Chris Peters: This is purely on projection, but I think Erie’s Aidan Campbell has some spectacular raw tools. His numbers are not good, but you also have to consider the fact that he just made the jump from midget hockey to junior and had a very leaky team in front of him. The raw ability, his willingness to compete, his athleticism and his size are all intriguing. He’d be a guy I could consider taking a flier on very, very late in the draft and getting him into my system to work with goalie coaches and help elevate his development.
TPEHockey: Last year I was big on Dustin Wolf. A phenomenal goaltender who just recently won WHL Goalie of the Year. I had him ranked in the early second but he fell to the 7th due to his height. This year I don’t see a Dustin Wolf, but there are a few guys I’d have an eye on. Devon Levi is likely a late round pick that I could see doing something down the round. He plays in the CCHL, a weak league, but has done exceedingly well as he won CJHL player of the year. I like his style, but coming out of the CCHL he has a long way to go. Joel Blomqvist is, in my mind, a rock solid 2nd rounder, but it seems possible that since the U18s aren’t happening he won’t get the attention he should. If you can get the Finnish junior league’s top goalie at 18 years old in the mid rounds he could be an absolute steal. Lastly, Artur Akhtyamov is currently in my 3rd round, but is unranked by NHLCS. He plays for Irbis Kazan in the MHL and while I have a few concerns about his style if you can get him in the 7th round then he could certainly be a diamond in the rough.
Tony Ferrari: The goaltender that I feel doesn’t get the respect he deserves is Drew Commesso. He has a very strong mental game and reads the play at a high level. He needs to work on some of his footwork at times but the structure in net is there. He prioritizes staying square to the shooter and getting big in his net. He will need to continue to mature and he will get that opportunity next year at Boston University. Statistically speaking, Commesso surpassed Spencer Knight’s totals from last season and did it on a drastically less talented team. Commesso likely doesn’t have the elite starter upside that Knight or Askarov possess thanks to their more gifted physical makeup but this years NTDP netminder was the best player on that team on many nights.
Alexander Appleyard: Jan Bednář.
Coming into this season the giant Czech goalie was in contention for being the second-best goalie in the draft, and managed to put up .916 sv% in 15 Extraliga games as a 16-year-old last year. However, this season he has really struggled at times at the same level, while also being pretty mediocre at the international level.
However, there is no doubting his talent level. Bednář is very mobile with a fantastic frame and good skating. He is also a calm goalie who generally has good positioning. Alongside that he has a fast glove and the capacity to make jaw-dropping reaction saves. So, what is the bind here, you might say?
Well, first and foremost he has issues with his consistency. There are moments in games where he just seems to switch off. Furthermore, he can be guilty of losing the play, especially in circumstances where the play develops quickly, and as a result can get himself into trouble.
Bednář has all the attributes to be a very good NHL goalie down the line, if he can become more consistent as well as track the puck and play better. In terms of where I would consider drafting him? Mid-late third round. Nevertheless, I can imagine some teams viewing him as the second best goalie “talent” in the draft, and would be happy to use a second round pick on him depending on how the draft falls.
Steven Ellis: Nick Malik has fallen in the eyes of scouts to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the best value option. Malik gave the Czech Republic chances to win at various tournaments that they wouldn’t have a big shot at otherwise. He had a tough season this year, but a full year in North America will pay dividends, I think. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Vsevolod Skotnikov become an NHLer at some point – he’s undersized, but he battles as hard as anyone in the crease and makes up for everything with fast, effective movement in the crease.
Tobias Pettersson: Arthur Akhtyamov is my guy, he’s quick laterally and has overall good technique and most importantly, he is fantastic at saving the puck more then others. His statistical profile is right up there with the top Russian goalie prospects of the last decade.
Derek Neumeier: I like Garin Bjorklund of the Medicine Hat Tigers for someone who could be had in the later rounds. He’s a well-rounded netminder who doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses to his game. The Tigers did a good job of bringing Mads Søgaard’s game up a level after they picked him up, which is a good sign, and Bjorklund should be the team’s starter for the next two or three seasons after Søgaard turns pro, so he will likely get plenty of opportunity to hone his craft.
Josh Tessler: I’m a strong believer in Nick Malik of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. When it comes to goaltending at the junior level, basic goaltender statistics like goals against average and save percentage should not be the be all end all. It is no secret that Malik’s numbers in the OHL were on the higher end, but the skill-set was in fine form. Malik has elite reflexes and has an underrated glove.