At a time when goaltenders are more athletic and better coached than ever, don't be surprised if a run on top prospects at the position ensues after the early rounds of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., June 26-27.
"If this year has proven anything when it comes to goalies it's that having the ability to stick with it and work hard can lead to good things," said Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting's top evaluator at the position. "There were so many goalies out there this year [in the NHL] who didn't make it at first. But when given an opportunity proved they could thrive."
Among the goalies who excelled this season after bumpy paths included Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild, Cam Talbot of the New York Rangers, Scott Darling of the Chicago Blackhawks and Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators.
"Goalie is also a position where when you get on a roll, your confidence rolls and the puck begins to look like a beach ball," Jensen said. "There isn't a whole lot of difference between stopping pucks in the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League."
One of the more intriguing prospects at the position entering the draft is Daniel Vladar, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of European goaltenders. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound native of the Czech Republic was the third goaltender for the Czechs for the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship but did not play in any games. In 29 games with Kladno's under-20 team, he had a 2.78 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.
"My father wanted me to be a forward when I was 5 years old but a year later my coach said I was the worst forward on the team so I tried for goalie," Vladar said. "It's more expensive to play goalie but we had no choice. I'm glad it worked out."
The last time a goaltender was picked in the first round was 2012, when the Tampa Bay Lightning selected Andrei Vasilevskiy (No. 19) and the Boston Bruins picked Malcolm Subban (No. 24). At the 2014 draft the first goaltender picked was Mason McDonald by the Calgary Flames in the second round (No. 34).
Here are NHL.com's top 10 goalies eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft.
1. Mackenzie Blackwood, Barrie (OHL): Blackwood (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) finished the regular season 33-14-2 with a 3.09 GAA, a .906 save percentage and two shutouts in 51 games. He is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American goaltenders. Blackwood did well at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo; he was one of four players to have a peak power output score better than 19.0 on the Wingate stationary bike test (19.2), was third in the vertical jump (27.28 inches) and possessed the third-strongest right-hand grip (174 pounds). "He's one of those goalies you could see four or five years down the road as a starter in the NHL," Jensen said. "He's got those tools that separate him from the others. I like his power."
2. Daniel Vladar, Kladno (CZREP-2): He was the third goalie for the Czechs at the 2015 World Junior Championship but didn't get into any games. Vladar, who will play for the Chicago Steel in the United States Hockey League in 2015-16, takes up a lot of net (6-5, 185) and uses his instincts as an advantage. "I sense a little bit of Blackwood in him," Jensen said. "He has a strong and powerful leg drive, quickness and athleticism. He's just got that presence of being a future quality NHL goaltender." Vladar is No. 2 on Central Scouting's final ranking of European goaltenders.
3. Ilya Samsonov, Magnitogorsk 2 (RUS-JR.): Samsonov (6-3, 200) played 18 games in Russia's junior league, with a 2.66 GAA and a .918 save percentage. He also played one KHL game with Mettalurg Magnitogorsk. His size enables him to cover plenty of the net and he has shown consistency. Samsonov, who is No. 1 on Central Scouting's final ranking of European goaltenders, was invited but did not attend the NHL Scouting Combine due to an unspecified injury; he is signed with Magnitogorsk through the 2016-17 season. "He can make the big game-winning saves," NHL European Director of Central Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He has a good glove, quick feet and plays a very mature and cool game."
4. Callum Booth, Quebec (QMJHL): In his second season with the Remparts, Booth (6-3, 199) went 23-15-0 with a 3.05 GAA, two shutouts and a .900 save percentage in 41 games. Jensen compares him to St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen because Booth has excellent net coverage and is a quick, reactionary goalie. "He reads and reacts exceptionally well and is very smart, great instincts," Jensen said. "He's very good at challenging the shooters and is consistently square to the shooter." Booth is No. 2 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goalies.
5. Samuel Montembeault, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL): Montembeault (6-2, 173) played 52 games for the Armada this season and was fourth in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 33 wins. No. 3 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goalies, he had a 2.59 GAA, three shutouts and a .891 save percentage. "Montembeault is more of a calm and relaxed goalie," Jensen said. "He is Carey Price-like in that regard; really calm and cool. He's got a phenomenal extension from post to post and is tough to beat down low."
6. Adin Hill, Portland (WHL): The left-handed catching goaltender is No. 4 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goaltenders after being No. 9 in the midterm rankings. He led the Western Hockey League with a .921 save percentage, and 31-11-1 with a 2.81 GAA in 46 games. He spent most of 2013-14 in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Calgary Canucks before making his way to Portland and earning the No. 1 spot. At 6-3 and 198 pounds he takes away a lot of the net. "He has good quickness, good feet and pad quickness," Jensen said. "He gives his team a chance every night; dependable and consistent."
7. Matej Tomek, Topeka (NAHL): The 6-2, 180-pound native of Bratislava, Slovakia will play for the University of North Dakota in 2015-16. He went 24-7-2 with a 1.83 GAA, six shutouts and a .928 save percentage in 33 games as a rookie with the RoadRunners in the North American Hockey League, and is No. 5 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goalies. "He's not your typical cookie-cutter goalie because he'll react to a situation and play a different style in certain situations," Jensen said. "He's been very solid in the North American Hockey League; I can see him making the jump to the next level with ease; no problem."
8. Ryan Larkin, Cedar Rapids (USHL): Committed to Miami University for 2016-17, the native of Clarkston, Mich., went 15-10-0 with a 2.43 GAA, three shutouts and a .919 save percentage in 28 games for the RoughRiders. He is No. 6 on Central Scouting's final North American goalie rankings after being No. 20 on the midterm list. He possesses good net coverage and rebound control. "He has a very good extended butterfly and his play steadily improved over the season," Jensen said.
9. Felix Sandstrom, Brynas Jr. (SWE-JR): In 14 games for Brynas' under-20 team, Sandstrom (6-2, 191) had a 2.63 GAA and a .907 save percentage. Central Scouting has him No. 3 on its final ranking of European goaltenders. Regarded as a player with good instincts and positioning, he missed several games because of illness and injury but returned for two regular-season games and one playoff game for Brynas' team in the Swedish Hockey League; he had a 1.09 GAA and .963 save percentage.
10. Nick McBride, Prince Albert (WHL): McBride (6-3, 179) went 13-18-1 with a 3.41 GAA and a .895 save percentage in 37 games for the Raiders and is No. 7 among North American goaltenders on Central Scouting's final ranking. He was chosen in the first round (No. 23) by Prince Albert in the 2012 WHL bantam draft. McBride relies heavily on his overall quickness and athleticism. "He has very good quickness and recovery skills," Jensen said.