Halifax Mooseheads goalie Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault had a tough season, but it was how he responded to it that impressed NHL scouts.
"He's a big kid, athletic, who covers a lot of net," NHL Central Scouting goalie scout Al Jensen said. "He's strong. He didn't play on a very good team last year and had an up-and-down season, but I caught him on both ends. I saw him when he didn't play well and when he played very, very well."
At 6-foot-6 and 186 pounds, Corbeil-Theriault is the biggest goalie in the 2010 Entry Draft. Scouts like his size as well as his improved coordination and positioning from previous seasons. He's No. 7 on Central Scouting's final list of North American goalies for this year's selection extravaganza, June 25-26 in Los Angeles.
"He has a great upside. To be his size and be able to move as well as he does is rare," Jensen said. "The first time I saw him, I noticed how quick he is for his size. I like how strong he is going from point to point."
"I just worked harder. I'm a big guy," he said. "When you're tall like this at a young age it's hard to control your body and have the strength to be able to move the way you want and have everything perfect the way you want it. So every year I just get stronger and get better and I improve on every level of my game.
"I think that any training I do over the summer is going to help. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication and that's what I do. I put a lot of effort into my off-ice conditioning because I know that I need a lot of work to control my big body and that's what I have to do."
How bad a season was it? The Mooseheads were the worst team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, finishing with a 13-48-3-4 record for 33 points, 16 points behind any other team. No player who spent all season with the Mooseheads had a positive plus/minus rating, and 17 players had double-digit minus ratings.
All in all, a tough place to be a goaltender.
"It was a long season and a lot of losses, but every game we battled through," Corbeil-Theriault said. "Most of our games that we lost, we lost (by) one goal. So that obviously was something that was motivating for us. We knew we could beat every team in the Q circuit so that was motivating for us to finish the season and beat any team if we had the chance to."
Corbeil-Theriault went 8-39-0 with a 3.83 goals-against average and .883 save percentage. He got some help at midseason when Peter Delmas, a Colorado Avalanche prospect, was acquired from the Quebec Remparts. Despite his record and his team's struggles, Corbeil-Theriault twice was named the league's defensive player of the week in November, when the Mooseheads beat Saint John and Moncton, who played in the league's championship series.
"There were some issues with the team over the course of the year," Jensen said. "In the first half, he was their goalie and then they brought in a veteran goaltender. He sat on the bench a little bit and he put pressure on himself and his game changed. I caught him during that time. I think that had a lot to do with it."
"He faced a lot of rubber -- 1,466 shots -- playing for the worst team in the Quebec league," Jensen added. "It's tough for a young goaltender to see all that rubber. He battles. When he goes to the pros, he could wind up on a good team and you'll see he's a big kid who is really quick."
Corbeil-Theriault said the volume of shots he faced wasn't as tough to deal with as the quality.
"I didn't get a lot of shots if you consider the team we had," Corbeil-Theriault said. "It's just the odd-man rushes and stuff like that. The opportunity and the danger shots really impacted the outcome of the game. I had a lot of breakaways, a lot of 2-on-1s, 2-on-0s, 3-on-0s sometimes.
"So it wasn't the shots from our defensive zone as much as the odd-man rushes. It gave me a lot of practice. Not every goalie in the Q circuit has had a chance to face those opportunities and I try to learn from it."
Corbeil-Theriault said the victories against Moncton and Saint John came at a time when everything just seemed to click for him after a slow start to the season.
"At one point I just got the hang of everything and everything fell into place," he said. "That's when everything started going well for me. I worked hard the whole season and I guess everything fell into place and I could see all the pucks coming in slower. All my movements were the way I wanted them to be so it was a good time for me."
Corbeil-Theriault is attending Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence goaltender evaluation camp in Calgary, which runs June 17-20 and puts him in the early mix for a spot on the Canada's national junior team.
"It's the first time I've been invited to a Team Canada camp," he said, "so it's something I'm looking forward to. There's a lot of big names going there, a lot of very good goalies going there. But I'm tall and that's something they don't have. The jobs are there. It's going to come down to whoever wants it the most."
If he doesn't make the World Junior team this year, he still has another year of eligibility, but Corbeil-Theriault sees an opportunity and wants to seize it.
"I think that I can do the job," he said. "It's going to come down to having a good performance and I'll have to be at my best capacity there to show whoever is there that I can do it."
Contact John McGourty at firstname.lastname@example.org