There's certainly a lot to consider when it comes to projecting the future of a teenage goalie considered a top prospect for the 2012 NHL Draft.
NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen recently was asked if the art of goaltending has changed since the days when he played for the Washington Capitals in the mid-1980s.
"I guess it does a little bit each year … it's the same with players," Jensen told NHL.com. "The equipment has gotten better and goalies are great athletes. They're expected to perform at a high level and not allow bad goals."
Jensen has been scouting goalies for Central Scouting for the last 12 years.
"There was a time, though, where goalies were mostly trying to block, and now it's about good positioning and being athletic, reacting to shots instead of just letting the puck hit you all the time," he said. "There are still goalies out there that do that, but I think NHL teams are realizing that the goalies who have had success in the NHL are the ones who not only have good technique, but are able to react to shots and have a good feel for the game. I see that changing, too."
Jensen feels there could be a few goalies from this year's draft class who ultimately rise above the rest, with continued training and a dedicated work ethic.
Topping the 2012 draft class among North American goalies is Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League. At Central Scouting's final meeting to determine the top 30 North American goalies last week, Subban, who was No. 1 in the group's midterm rankings, remained No. 1 on the final list.
Subban was the only goalie among Central Scouting's top 10 to remain where he was listed at the midterm ranking in January. Here are Central Scouting's top five North American goalies, with Jensen's reasoning for their ranking:
1. Malcolm Subban, Belleville Bulls (OHL): He finished 25-14-0 in 39 regular-season games with a 2.50 goals-against average, three shutouts and a .923 save percentage. Subban compares his style to Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, but Jensen thinks otherwise.
"I see Malcolm as Carey Price," Jensen told NHL.com. "He's calm and poised. I find Fleury as more of an acrobatic goalie and getting out there, but Malcolm is very good with his positioning with outstanding lateral ability and quickness. He can make the big save to turn a game around, but he covers post-to-post so well with his butterfly. His leg extension is incredible and he has a very quick glove hand."
2. Brandon Whitney, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL): In 36 regular-season games, the 6-foot-5, 193-pound Whitney posted a 22-4-4 record with a 2.74 goals-against average and .896 save percentage. His solid play over the second half of the season earned him a spot on Team Canada for the 2012 IIHF World Under-18 Championships and pushed him up one spot to No. 2 in the final rankings. Whitney also participated in the Canadian Hockey League's Top Prospects Game, stopping 11 of 12 shots for Team Cherry.
"For his size, he has extremely quick movements and is controlled … he's not all over the place," Jensen said. "I find his angles are very good, he's aggressive and challenges well. He's got strong legs and gets set quickly. I see a lot of upside for this kid three or four years down the road."
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3. Jake Paterson, Saginaw (OHL): The 6-foot-1.5, 183-pound Paterson was No. 5 on the midterm rankings, but came on strong in the second half of the season to finish 18-18-3 with a 3.42 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.
"I like his quickness, his athleticism, drive and determination," Jensen said. "He wants to get better and he is getting better. He's most effective when he challenges. He has such strong leg strength. He's challenged better over the second half, and he has NHL quickness right now … he's one of the quickest goalies in the draft."
4. Anthony Stolarz, Corpus Christi (NAHL): Stolarz, a 6-foot-5, 200-pounder, was a surprise addition in the top five -- he was No. 21 in the midterm ranking. However, Jensen was sold on the North American Hockey League prospect, who finished 23-22-7 with a 2.84 GAA, three shutouts and a .920 save percentage in 50 games.
"I got some good viewing on him in the second half and he reminds me of [Ottawa's] Ben Bishop," Jensen said. "He's tall and not wearing big equipment, but has great athleticism, great drive and determination. He's controlled, has great reflexes. He'll probably need to work on his technical game; I don't know how much schooling he's had in the technical area, but he's got that quickness that's required in a pro goalie.
"He really wowed me."
5. Francois Tremblay, Val-d'Or (QMJHL): Tremblay advanced one spot in the final ranking after finishing 22-28-4 with a 3.79 GAA, two shutouts and an .882 save percentage in 57 games.
"He's one of the best technical goalies in the draft," Jensen said. "He's a typically butterfly-style goalie, calm, relaxed and patient. He's very tough to beat down low, he's very square, and his positional play is good. He may not be as quick as some of the goalies I've mentioned, but he's smart and keeps his body upright. I don't see many holes, and I see a good upside from this kid."
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