LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Hockey Canada enlisted Sean Burke to help with its Program of Excellence with the hope that some of the success he's had working with NHL goalies as the Phoenix Coyotes' goaltending coach will help the next generation of Canadian goaltenders.
So far, Burke said he's been impressed by what he's seen from Eric Comrie, Zachary Fucale and Jake Paterson, the three goalies skating with the team this week as part of the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp.
"We have three excellent goaltenders here, all guys that are capable of playing very well," Burke told NHL.com. "This is a great opportunity for us to observe these guys."
He got his first look at Comrie, a Winnipeg Jets prospect, in Canada's 5-3 defeat of Finland.
"I really liked the mental side of it," Burke said. "A kid who hasn't played since January, he came out, got scored on on the first shot and was outstanding for us. He made some key saves, really battled hard in that game. He's got a very good game technically. He's a kid that with a couple injuries he had last year hasn't had a lot of playing time, and yet seemed really sharp for that situation. I really liked what I've seen with his game."
Thursday against Sweden he'll get his first chance to see Fucale, a Montreal Canadiens draft pick who NHL Central Scouting had rated as the best North American goaltender in the 2013 NHL Draft.
"He played on a team [Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League] that was a good, strong hockey club," Burke said. "But from the games I saw him play, he's a guy that was very good at handling games where he might not get bombarded, yet came up with key saves at the right time. He was able to win a lot of hockey games at a high level for a young guy. We've got a very mentally strong guy in him. I think he's a guy that talent-wise is very athletic. I'm really looking to see today in this game just an overall picture of what his whole game is about. I think I got a good idea, but I'm really excited to see it."
Paterson, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, will be Fucale's backup today and start the final game of the camp, Saturday against the United States. He's also the only goalie of the trio with previous World Junior Championship experience -- he was the third goalie on the 2013 WJC team. However, Burke said all three goaltenders were working on an even playing field.
"We're observing these kids," he said. "There's nothing in stone now. We're not picking the team today, we're not picking the team this week. These are three really good goaltenders and there's lot of other good players out there. Jake, he's got a little experience of being around it. I've seen him battle really hard this week … but this is an opportunity to really watch all the guys. We're not going to sit here today and make those decisions. We're very fortunate. We're very deep in talent and very deep in talent at goal. This really just a great opportunity to watch these kids first-hand."