For Daniel Altshuller
, preventing goals is his job. However, setting goals has been nearly as important for the young netminder.
|Emily Pritt |
The 19-year-old Hurricanes prospect’s ability to set goals has played a key part in his success. Selected by the Hurricanes in the third round, 69th overall, of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Altshuller is in his third season protecting the net for the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). In the 2012-13 season, the Ottawa native led the OHL in wins (36), earning the Roger Neilson Memorial Award as the OHL’s top academic university or college player.
Altshuller has continued his progression with the Generals this season, currently ranking second in the OHL in wins (26), tied for third in goals-against average (2.49) and sixth in save percentage (.917). His success has helped to lift Oshawa to the top of the OHL’s Eastern Conference. The Generals have a six-point lead over second-place Sudbury, a position even Altshuller found to be been a little surprising.
“To be honest, at the start of the season we thought we weren’t going to be as strong as we were this year,” Altshuller said. “We were kind of hoping to finish fifth or fourth in the East and that would have been tremendous for us. To our pleasant surprise we’re in first.”
Though Altshuller’s performance can be undoubtedly tied to the Generals success, the goalie remained humble about his part in the overall team dynamic.
“I have contributed, but it’s been more of a team effort,” Altshuller said. “Everyone has put in the time and the team has worked really hard at practice. We’re all just pushing each other to be the best we can be and it’s just been working out for us.”
Despite Altshuller’s modesty, it is hard to deny his steady personal improvement. The Hurricanes have certainly taken note of his contributions in Oshawa, rewarding Altshuller with his first professional contract in late December. He will likely make one of his hockey goals a reality when he begins his first full professional season in 2014-15.
“It’s a hard feeling to describe,” Altshuller said. “I was partially surprised. I obviously knew it was coming soon but when you finally get it set in stone it’s obviously an unbelievable feeling to be part of such a great organization.”
Altshuller has some exposure with the organization, attending Carolina’s prospects development camp in Raleigh each of the last two summers, and playing for the Hurricanes during the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City in September 2013. He noted the history and closeness of Carolina’s staff as a key component to the successful environment.
“The first thing that [stood] out with me was how involved everyone is with the organization,” Altshuller said. “You have the guys they have there with Ron Francis and Cory Stillman and everyone just keeps going back because they love it there. It’s a great environment for everybody to learn and better themselves.”
Hurricanes goalie coach Greg Stefan has been impressed with Altshuller’s steady improvement throughout the year, finding the goalie more prepared for a career in the NHL.
“I think he’s maturing as a goalie [and] maturing mentally,” Stefan said. “I think that one of his biggest assets is his improvement this year because he’s taken more responsibility for his game preparation. He played a lot last year, but I thought from game in and game out he’s so much better this year than last year. From training camp to the rookie tournament in Traverse City to the start of the year I think he’s really taken accountability for his game.”
Stefan believes Altshuller has a bright future ahead of him and will ultimately work his way to the NHL.
“I think he’s a great prospect,” Stefan said. “He’s pretty good athletically. There are some things technically that all young kids have to work on, but he’s going to be turning pro next year and I think he’s got a lot of upside to him in the terms of National Hockey League goalies.”
As Altshuller focuses on finishing the season with the Generals, he will also begin preparing himself for his next step. Even though the goalie notes the increase in preparation that is necessary for the next level, he finds confidence in following an existing regimen that has helped him find success.
“I think it’s just doing all the right things on and off the ice,” Altshuller said. “You have to just follow the same regimen that you’ve been doing that’s made you successful in the past. You kind of just have to keep pace with that, and maybe work a little harder.”
With his professional career around the corner, Altshuller will continue to work on his skills and achieve his goals. Signing with the Hurricanes has been an important step, giving Altshuller plenty of the confidence and additional drive that he will need to make his goal of playing in the NHL for the Hurricanes a reality.
“I always have it in the back of my mind that I want to eventually play with the Hurricanes,” Altshuller said. “Even if I’m at the AHL for however long, my end goal is to play for them and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there.”