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2010 NHL Entry Draft

Conz hopes WJC play pays off at draft

Friday, 01.15.2010 / 9:00 AM / 2010 NHL Entry Draft

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"I saw good things from him. He's a very good, quick, athletic goaltender. … He's not as big as some of the other goalies, but what he does have is he's extremely quick. He can make big, big saves." -- Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting

At the 2009 World Junior Championship, Slovakia goalie Jaroslav Janus stole the show and the hearts of Canadian fans with his gutty, gritty play in leading his team to a surprising fourth-place finish that saw him named the to the tournament's all-star team.

Janus, who had been passed over at the 2008 Entry Draft, was subsequently taken in the sixth round of the 2009 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Could the same happy fate befall Benjamin Conz?

Conz, who was passed over at the 2009 Entry Draft, vaulted himself into contention for the 2010 selection process in Los Angeles June 25-26 with his amazing play at the 2010 WJC in Saskatoon.

The 5-foot-10, 198-pound goalie played all but 1:25 in seven games for Switzerland, and faced 318 shots -- 77 more than any other netminder, and his 284 saves were 85 more than any other goalie. He faced an average of 45 shots per game, including 50 in Switzerland's bronze-medal game loss to Sweden. Conz surrendered 11 goals in that game, but he had a .921 save percentage in his first six games, despite seeing an average of 48.5 shots per game.

For his effort, Conz was named to the tournament all-star team and won the trophy for best goaltender.

Count Team Canada coach Willie Desjardins among those impressed. Canada put 12 pucks past Conz in two games -- a 6-0 preliminary-round win and a 6-1 quarterfinal victory -- but those scores don't tell the whole story.

"He played unbelievable," Desjardins said after the quarterfinal game. "The first time we played them he made some great saves, he made some real big saves (in the quarterfinals) against Russia. He was real solid again tonight. He played outstanding in the tournament."

Conz's rights are owned by HC Geneve-Servette in the NLA, the top league in Switzerland, but he's currently playing with SCL Tigers Langnau on loan. In 15 games, he has a 2.93 goals-against average"" and .950 save percentage.

"I saw good things from him," Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting's goaltending scout, told NHL.com. "He's a very good, quick, athletic goaltender. … He's not as big as some of the other goalies, but what he does have is he's extremely quick. He can make big, big saves."

But did he make enough to earn a spot in the annual selection process? Conz was fifth among international goaltenders in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings; in last year's final rankings, he was sixth and went undrafted.

Conz, however, isn't spending much time worrying about what might or might not happen come June.

"It was very much pressure to play in front of NHL scouts," he said through an interpreter. "I've been in that position before. My goal right now is to be the best I can be, particularly at a high level in my own country. If that pleases NHL scouts in the future -- great, I wouldn't mind that. My goal is to be the best I can be."

He certainly played that way at the World Juniors. Highlights included 46 saves on 49 shots in a 3-0 loss to the U.S., 40 stops on 41 shots in a 4-1 win against Slovakia that got the Swiss to the medal round, and 50 saves on 52 shots in the remarkable 4-3 overtime upset of Russia in the quarterfinals.

"Sometimes that's what it takes, someone getting a chance," said Jensen. "If you're a good goalie you're going to get a chance sometime in your life. Janus took advantage of it last year, and this kid, same thing -- got into the World Juniors and took advantage of it."

Conz hopes his hard works pays off in June.

"While it's not my decision, I do the best I can," Conz said. "I do realize I'm physically small compared to NHL goalies. But if I do get drafted it would be awesome. It is a dream. But I realize I'm not your typical NHL goalie. Someday maybe."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com