Goalies Thatcher Demko of the Boston College Eagles and Alex Nedeljkovic of the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League have the privilege of being the only players at their position with an "A" rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Demko, a San Diego native, and Nedeljkovic, born in Ohio, each could become the first American-born goalie drafted in the first round since the Dallas Stars selected Jack Campbell with the 11th pick of the 2010 NHL Draft. Demko was the youngest goalie invited to USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in August.
At 6-foot-4 and 182-pounds, Demko is one the top prospects at his position heading into the 2013-14 season. Prior to joining the United States National Team Development Program's under-18 team last season, he went 9-3-0 with a 2.88 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in 15 games for the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League in 2011-12.
"He's a huge, strong goalie with excellent net coverage; he has that NHL presence in the net," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He is more of a positional-style goalie, relying on his angles and size. He plays big in his stance and when he drops in the butterfly, gets his body in front of a lot of shots. He's smart at reading the play and gets set quickly."
Jensen is equally impressed with Nedeljkovic, who took over the starting role in Plymouth in 2012-13 despite being an underage goalie.
"He's got good angle play which gives him very good net coverage," Jensen said. "He has a quick glove hand."
In addition to Demko and Nedeljkovic, there are several other prospects looking to impress. Here are NHL.com's initial five North American goalies to watch (listed alphabetically):
Thatcher Demko, Boston College (HE): He went 30-9-4 with six shutouts, a 2.08 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 46 games with the USNTDP U-18 team last season. He also started all seven games to backstop the United States to the silver medal at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, recording a 2.24 GAA and .899 save percentage. He had a 4-0 shutout of Sweden in the quarterfinals, stopping all 28 shots.
"When making stops he makes them with authority," Jensen said. "Strength is definitely not an issue with Thatcher. He has a powerful leg drive, which really helps in his recovery, and he displays lots of confidence. He's a very good prospect for this year."
Edwin Minney, USNTDP (USHL): The 6-4.25, 191-pounder earned a "B" ranking from Central Scouting. He's committed to Michigan State University starting in the fall of 2014. He'll join Demko at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game on Sept. 26 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
"He plays big in all situations, is so relaxed, calm and poised out there," Jensen said. "He has excellent body control and balance when moving throughout the crease and making saves, has an excellent butterfly and great low net coverage, with his extended butterfly covering the lower portion of the net. His recovery and lateral ability is excellent."
Brent Moran, Niagara IceDogs (OHL): Last season, his first in the Ontario Hockey League, Moran finished with a 4.26 GAA and .872 save percentage in 19 games. The "B"-rated goalie (6-3.5, 186) should improve upon those numbers with a greater workload in 2013-14. Jensen sees a lot of upside in the Ottawa native.
"He has a very big presence, especially on initial shots," he said. "He's very quick for his size and his technical ability is very good. He has strong legs which allow him to push off his post and move laterally very quickly. He plays most of his game in the paint, and with his size you don't see many holes; he gets his body in front of a lot of shots."
Alex Nedeljkovic, Plymouth Whalers (OHL): As an OHL rookie last season, the 6-foot, 184-pound "A"-rated goalie had a 2.28 GAA and .923 save percentage in 26 games. The Parma, Ohio, native will join Demko and Minney at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game.
"He's another very quick and athletic goalie; I like his drive and determination," 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."
Blake Weyrick, USNTDP (USHL): The 6-3, 203-pounder will pair with Demko for Team Mark Johnson at the All-American Prospects Game. The Ojai, Calif., product perfected his craft at Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in Minnesota before joining the USNTDP in 2012-13. In seven games for the USNTDP under-18 team, he had a 2.96 GAA and .868 save percentage. He enters the season with a "B" rating.
"He relies heavily on his quickness and athleticism, which is excellent," Jensen said. "He could turn out to be one of the quicker goalies for this year's draft. He has great lateral quickness, which gives him a good chance to make the huge save for his team, and has a very quick recovery. He's very determined, has a great work ethic and will only continue to get better. He'll be another very good prospect to follow this year."