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Draft Analysis: The Timing on Goaltender Picks

by Mark Pukalo / Tampa Bay Lightning

Three of the last five years, NHL teams have waited until the second round to select the first goaltender in the draft.

While there is a good chance that Montreal’s Carey Price will still be the last goalie to be a top-10 pick (fifth in 2005), the crop of puck stoppers available for the June 22-23 draft could be the deepest in a some time.

Just four goalies were picked in the first round the last five years and 32 over the past 15 drafts.

“Some people don’t believe in taking goalies in the first round,” said Lightning Director of Amateur Scouting Al Murray, who selected Adam Wilcox in the sixth round last year. “Some teams, like Washington, have picked two in (the first 34 picks).

“Everybody views it a little differently. We try to evaluate the same as we do all the other positions and slot them into the right spot ... It’s like any other position. You’re just never sure how long it’s going to take.”

The Lightning are slated to pick 10th and 19th in the first round and could have as many as four selections in the second round, giving them a good chance to add another netminder to the system.

One reason some teams shy away from selecting goalies high is the fact that they may be the most difficult to project. The last two Stanley Cup-winning goalies Tim Thomas and Antti Niemi weren’t drafted and two of the current top goalies in the league – Pekka Rinne of Nashville and Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers – were not picked in the top 200 on their draft days.

Still, if you get the right one, you can prosper. Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, the first overall pick in 2003, and Carolina’s Cam Ward - 25th in 2002 - have won Cups. Martin Brodeur, who was picked 10 slots behind goalie Trevor Kidd at 20th by New Jersey in 1990, has won three Cups.

The potential is there for this group to be one of the best.

Two goalies have appeared to set themselves apart from the others – Malcolm Subban and Andrei Vasilevski – but most think there is good depth behind them.

“Those two kids are top-end talents and difference makers for their teams,” TSN scout Craig Button said. “But there are five or six guys after them who have good value. I really believe that seven or eight goalies will be drafted in the first 75 picks or less.”

Subban, the younger brother of Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban, had a strong season with Belleville of the Ontario Hockey League. The 6-foot-1, 178-pound Subban had a 2.50 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 39 games for the Bulls.

Vasilevski, who does not turn 18 until July 25, shined at the World Junior Championships last winter in helping lead Russia to a silver medal with a .953 save percentage and two shutouts. Vasilevski is 6-3, 204, and plays in Russia for the ufa organization.

“Subban is more athletically gifted and Vasilevski is the more technically sound right now,” Button said. “You have to ask yourself how much better they can get in the other areas of the game.”

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was the first overall pick in 2003. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Oscar Dansk from Sweden, who played some prep hockey in Minnesota with Shattuck-St. Mary’s, is also highly regarded. Andrey Makarov, who played well beside Vasilevski on the Russian junior team and played at Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League, will also be considered in the first couple rounds.

Brandon Whitney from Victoriaville of the Quebec Junior League, along with Matthew Murray of Sault Ste. Marie, Michael Houser of London and Jake Paterson of Saginaw in the OHL are also rated high. Anthony Stolarz from New Jersey, who plays for Corpus Christi of the North American Hockey League, has also been rising in the rankings.

“People generally feel this is a stronger group of goalies than in previous years,” Al Murray said. “They are big kids that are agile and athletic. They just need to refine their games.”

Goalies Selected in first round (the last 15 years)

2011 – None
2010 – Jack Campbell (11) by Dallas, Mark Visentin (27) by Phoenix
2009 – None
2008 – Chet Pickard (18) by Nashville, Thomas McCollum (30) by Detroit
2007 – None
2006 – Jonathan Bernier (11) by Los Angeles, Riku Helenius (15) by Tampa Bay, Semyon Varlamov (23) by Washington, Leland Irving (26) by Calgary
2005 – Carey Price (5) by Montreal, Tuukka Rask (21) by Toronto
2004 – Al Montoya (6) by NY Rangers, Devan Dubnyk (14) by Edmonton, Marek Schwarz (17) by St. Louis, Cory Schneider (26) by Vancouver
2003 – Marc-Andre Fleury (1) by Pittsburgh
2002 – Kari Lehtonen (2) by Atlanta, Cam Ward (25) by Carolina, Hannu Toivonen (29) by Boston
2001 – Pascal Leclaire (8) by Columbus, Dan Blackburn (10) by NY Rangers, Jason Bacashihua (26) by Dallas, Adam Munro (29) by Chicago
2000 – Rick DiPietro (1) by NY Islanders, Brent Krahn (9) by Calgary
1999 – Brian Finley (6) by Nashville, Maxime Ouellet (22) by Philadelphia, Ari Ahonen (27) by New Jersey
1998 – Patrick DesRochers (14) by Phoenix, Mathieu Chouinard (15) by Ottawa
1997 – Roberto Luongo (4) by NY Islanders, Mika Norenen (21) by Buffalo, J-F Damphousse (24) by New Jersey
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