Photo Credit: Jeremy Champagne / Brandon Wheat Kings
Carson Bjarnason is a 2023 NHL Draft eligible goaltender prospect and he plays for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. Bjarnason grew up just east of Brandon in Carberry, Manitoba. Prior to joining the Wheat Kings, Bjarnason had played U15 AAA hockey for the Southwest Cougars (Oak Lake, Manitoba based) and U16 Prep School hockey for RINK Hockey Academy (Winnipeg, Manitoba based). Bjarnason wasn’t drafted in the WHL draft. He was listed and then signed by Brandon in September of 2021.
D.O.B – June 30, 2005
Nationality – Canadian
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Weight –181 lbs
Position – Goaltender
Catches – Left
Bjarnason’s Style Of Play
Bjarnason has some excellent tools on his tool-belt. He is quick, shifty, does an excellent job of tracking the puck from the point even when dealing with an attacker trying to shield his vision and has a great glove. Bjarnason stays well aligned to oppositional puck movement when the puck carrier is shifting the puck from east – west in front of him. In high danger situations, Bjarnason does a good job of using his athleticism when reacting to tough saves. He’s flexible and can go into the splits when needed.
If his leg pad isn’t in place to shut down a shot a net front, he will extend the leg pad out to shut the door. Check out this toe pad save against Josh Filmon from high danger.
As mentioned above, Bjarnason does an excellent job of tracking pucks at the point when he was quite a bit of traffic at net front. Keeps his head on a swivel, reacts in time to the shot coming from the point and traps it.
Not only does he track pucks well, but he also reacts to them quickly. Check out this shot attempt from Brayden Yager. Bjarnason reacts quickly, shifts over and shuts the door.
Bjarnason has a good glove and doesn’t have much trouble grabbing a shot coming from medium and high danger. He shifts around from having his glove positioned underhand to having it overhand. Bjarnason’s overhand glove positioning allows him to react quickly to shots coming up chest level.
Here are a few overhand glove save clips.
Using his glove in an overhand position also allows him to take up more space in net. I’ll touch on this a bit later on in the report, but Bjarnason does give up a decent amount of space top shelf when in the crouch and in the butterfly. I’d like to see him extend his glove overhand more when in the crouch and in the butterfly as that will take away space top shelf towards the right for the opposing puck carrier to use.
Bjarnason does make underhand saves. Usually he will extend his glove underhand when squared up to the puck carrier. His underhand positioning allows him to quickly trap shots that hit him in the chest. While he can be efficient with his glove extended underhand, he does give up a lot of rebounds to high danger when facing shots from the slot and his glove is positioned underhand while Bjarnason is in the crouch and the butterfly. He struggles to glove the shot and instead it ricochets off of the glove and into high danger.
Bjarnason doesn’t just have a good glove, he also has a good blocker and does a good job of extending his blocker out at the precise moment to make contact with the puck when facing a shot. The extension of the blocker allows Bjarnason to react in time and push the puck into medium and/or low danger areas.
When protecting the post, he will use RVH. Not VH. If Bjarnason is in an RVH stand and he is observing an attacker skating along the red line from the corner to the slot, he struggles to take away room top shelf and sometimes that leads to goals against. I’d like to see Bjarnason use a VH stance in those situations and then drop into the butterfly when the puck carrier gets to the doorstep. The VH stance takes away more space when defending against puck carriers along the red line and takes up more space on the far side top shelf.
Sometimes when protecting the post, he overlaps the post and that means that he is giving up quite a bit of space on the far side. He needs to be more cautious with overlapping because when oppositional puck movement is moving from side to side, he has to cover more ground when shifting over.
Bjarnason drops into the crouch when the puck carrier is skating into the slot is at the perimeter line. Sometimes his positioning is too far out in the crease and it seems that he is overcommitting to the edge of the crease when facing shots coming from glove side. With his stance, he is giving up a bit too much top shelf. I don’t mind seeing Bjarnason position himself along the edge of the crease, but if he is looking to stand there regularly when facing shots glove side, I’d like to his crouch stance improved a bit. When in the crouch, he slouches a bit and that is opening up space top shelf when he is the edge of the crease. But, it’s not just in the crouch, you will notice the same when Bjarnason is in the butterfly.
The tools that Bjarnason has makes him a rather intriguing goaltender prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft. The athleticism, the glove, the blocker and the puck tracking are excellent. He is showing that he can react quickly to puck movement and shut down scoring chances on routine. He extends his blocker and pads out just in time to push pucks to low danger areas. Bjarnason keeps his head on a swivel and does an excellent job of puck tracking even when traffic builds up at net front is a tool that will come in handy at the NHL level when the opposition is bigger and faster.
The area that I would like to see improvement on the most is his stance. If Bjarnason can improve his crouch and butterfly stance in net to take up more space, those tools are going to blend nicely and thus he has NHL starter potential written all over him.
January 28, 2023
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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