Thatcher Demko of Boston College in Hockey East was the only goalie to receive an A rating on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft.
So the fact that the freshman from San Diego, Calif., is No. 1 on Central Scouting's midterm rankings for North American goalies is no surprise.
"He's a huge, strong goalie with excellent net coverage," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He has that NHL presence in the net. He's more of a positional-style goalie that relies on his angles and size and he plays big in his stance.
"When he drops in the butterfly he gets his body in front of a lot of shots. He's smart at reading the play and gets set quickly; strength is definitely not an issue with him."
Demko is the youngest player in NCAA hockey this season. He was the second-youngest (after 2015 draft-eligible center Jack Eichel) to make the United States' team at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, but as the third goalie did not dress for any games. In six games with BC this season he's 4-1-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.
"He has an ability to move very well laterally and is able to recover pucks," Ayers said.
Ayers, the former goaltending coach for the United States National Team Development Program, knows that with more experience and teaching Demko will continue to improve.
"Thatcher is extremely competitive and very coachable," Ayers said. "To me, if you have those two things it's very positive for his development. For a bigger kid he's pretty athletic. I think at the beginning of the year he may have lacked just a little bit of confidence knowing he was the youngest college player, and that's only natural.
"But he's continued to battle and has gotten wins for us. For a freshman to come in and do what he's done is pretty impressive. It's a true sign of his makeup and attitude and his hunger to be better."
Demko was out three weeks after sustaining a lower-body injury earlier this season but has found that confidence again.
"Coming back from that injury I had a little bit of a confidence thing in finding my rhythm again and getting back into a groove," Demko said. "It took me one game and then I got back into it against the University of New Hampshire [a 2-1 win Dec. 7] before leaving for the World Junior camp. Every game is a learning experience and being there is great for me."
Rounding out the top five North American goalies are: No. 2 Edwin Minney of the USNTDP under-18 team; No. 3 Blake Weyrick of the USNTDP u-18 team; No. 4 Chase Perry of the Wenatchee Wild of the North American Hockey League; and No. 5 Alex Nedeljkovic of the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League.
2. Edwin Minney (6-4.25, 191): Committed to Michigan State University in 2014-15, he started in goal for Team Joe Mullen at the 2013 USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Pittsburgh in September. Despite the 5-2 loss, he stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced before being replaced by Nedeljkovic. The native of Wind Gap, Pa., is 10-6-1 with a 2.99 GAA, .895 save percentage and two shutouts in 21 games.
"He's so relaxed and poised out there," Jensen said. "He has excellent body control and balance when moving throughout the crease and making saves. He has great low net coverage with his extended butterfly and his recovery and lateral ability is excellent. He plays his angles great and his rebound control is excellent."
3. Blake Weyrick (6-3, 203): The native of Ojai, Calif., is 4-2-0 record with a 2.80 GAA, .896 save percentage and one shutout in six games.
"He relies heavily on his quickness and athleticism, which is excellent," Jensen said. "He could turn out to be one of the quicker goalies in this year's draft. He has great lateral quickness, great battle and aggressiveness."
4. Chase Perry (6-2, 191): In 16 games this season Perry is 6-7-2 with a 2.37 GAA, .906 save percentage and two shutouts. Perry hails from Andover, Minn.
"He's a pretty good prospect," Jensen said. "He's got good size, great instincts and exceptional butterfly and five-hole coverage. He absorbed high shots like a vacuum when I saw him last weekend. He's also a very strong skater and his lateral movements are controlled with decent overall quickness."
5. Alex Nedeljkovic (6-foot, 184): The Whalers have struggled to score goals this season (league-low 2.6 goals per game), which has put added pressure on the goaltenders to be perfect every night. Still, Jensen likes Nedeljkovic's drive and determination. In 36 games Nedeljkovic is 13-18-4 with a 3.24 GAA and .915 save percentage. At the All-American Prospects Game in Pittsburgh he stopped 13 of 16 shots in 30:53 of playing time. He also will play for Team Cherry at the 2014 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 15.
"He's another very quick and athletic goalie," Jensen said. "He battles and has good strength in his crease area, has excellent recovery and lateral quickness. He's got quick reactions, flaring out his pads to make low corner stops. He's very smart and is capable of playing big games consistently."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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