After the departure of two goaltending prospects in the last month, the Carolina Hurricanes reloaded at that position on the second day of the 2012 NHL Draft.
The Canes selected Daniel Altshuller from the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League in the third round and Collin Olson of the United States National Team Development Program in the sixth round. It marked the first time the organization drafted two goaltenders since 2004, when Justin Peters and Magnus Akerlund had their names called.
“We feel we got two of the best goalies in the draft,” said Tony MacDonald, the head amateur scout for the Hurricanes. “We addressed the need there for future goaltending.”
After Mike Murphy’s exodus to the Kontinental Hockey League and Frederik Andersen’s decision to re-enter the draft, Vice President of Hockey Operations Ron Francis said the organizational need for goaltending depth was recognized and attended to.
“It was something we were aware of,” he said. “Our guys felt pretty comfortable with the guys [we picked], especially in the positions they were in. We feel that we got some goaltenders that we’re happy with, who should develop quite well in the next few years.”
Altshuller, 17, is coming off his rookie season with Oshawa. He ranked second among OHL rookie goalies in save percentage (.900) and third in goals against average (3.55).
“My end goal obviously is to play in the NHL, and playing in Oshawa gave me the tools to do that,” Altshuller said. “I feel like I became a lot better of a goalie.”
The Ottawa, Ontario native also has an international background. In June 2011, he attended Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence goaltending camp. He captured a gold medal with Canada’s summer under-18 team at the 2011 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament. MacDonald said he believes Altshuller will be vying for a berth on Team Canada.
“He has tremendous upside,” MacDonald said.
Fresh after his third-round selection, Altshuller recalled hearing his name called as he smiled ear-to-ear.
“It’s amazing. You sit out there and you hear your name called, and you honestly can’t believe it,” he said. “You’ve got to wait a second like, ‘Is this just me in my head, or are people really calling me into the NHL?’ It’s just a great feeling.”
Asked if he knew anything about the Carolina organization, the 6-foot-2, 191-pound netminder was quick to mention Cam Ward.
“He’s a great goalie. Going into training camp, it will be awesome to learn a lot from him,” he said. “[In training camp] you can see their work ethic, and it gives you an idea of what you have to do to get there. I think especially from watching Cam Ward and seeing what he does, it will really help me in my development.”
While he might draw on Ward’s experience in a few months time, Altshuller described himself today as a blend of Roberto Luongo and Carey Price.
“They’re both big goalies who use their body and play the numbers. They take away most of the net,” he said. “I challenge, come up high in the crease, cut off the angles and don’t give the players any room to shoot.”
Olson, 18, has played with the United States’ development teams for the past two seasons. Justin Faulk, also once a member of the U.S. development program, speaks just as highly of it as Olson did.
“It’s been outstanding. It’s absolutely turned [my development] around,” Olson said. “It’s been probably the biggest help in my game so far. I don’t know where I would be without it.”
The Burnsville, Minnesota native has a similar build to Altshuller at 6-foot-3, 197 pounds. Olson said his playing style is reminiscent of Pekka Rinne.
“He’s big, athletic and battles hard for pucks, so I like watching him play,” he said.
“He’s pretty solid,” Olson said, laughing.
Olson is committed to Ohio State for the Fall, a decision that was crucial for him.
“Academics have always been important. [I will be] able to have four years to develop with a great coaching staff,” he said. “I’ve always been pro-college; that’s how I grew up, so I’m excited to get down there.”
Just as MacDonald expects Altshuller to push for a spot on Team Canada, he believes Olson is capable of the same with Team USA.
In hanging on to all nine of their remaining draft picks, the Hurricanes were able to address a recent organizational need. And they did so with two players in whom they feel very confident.
“We’ve got two real good goaltenders with lots of potential,” MacDonald said. “The programs that they come from are very strong, and they speak very highly of them. We’re excited about what these guys might bring to table for us in the future.”