It's also pretty special to be considered the No. 1 ranked goalie among 2013 NHL Draft-eligible players on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list -- something Fucale doesn't take for granted.
"There's a lot of hockey left to be played and all I can control right now is contributing to my team's success, playing as good as I can," Fucale told NHL.com. "If I get two shots or 45 shots, my job is still the same: I have to stop all of them. I'll work every single day to make sure I accomplish my role on the team."
PERFECTING HIS CRAFT
(Photo Courtesy: Halifax Mooseheads)
Halifax Mooseheads goalie Zachary Fucale enjoys watching and, at times, mimicking many of the top-tier NHL goalies.
Fucale told NHL.com that he and Mooseheads goalie coach Eric Raymond spend plenty of time in the video room on off days reviewing clips of many of the top NHL goaltenders. Fucale said the video offers him a fresh perspective on what to avoid or add to his repertoire.
"We watch the games of guys like Jonathan Quick, Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price, and try to gain different parts," Fucale said. "We'll mix them together and put it into something that I could use because every goalie is different, styles are different. Taking this approach helps me develop and I learn a lot about myself as a goalie. It could only be positive taking things from other great goalies."
Fucale wears jersey No. 31 in honor of his favorite player, Price.
"Carey Price is under the microscope every single day in Montreal," Fucale said. "I know there are days when we all hit a wall in our game, when things just aren't going our way. That's when you have to pull yourself together and say, 'This will not bring me down.'
"You just keep moving forward, keep working hard and get back on track. To me, that's mental toughness and something that's very critical to becoming a good goalie. In the end, you become a better person and player for going through those events."
Fucale has proven that his mental makeup is just fine. He was rated No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top North America goalies eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft.
-- Mike G. Morreale
It's one thing to possess the skills and ability on the ice, but it's another to take a realistic approach in the wake of what should be a pretty special draft year for the 6-foot-1.25, 181-pound 17-year-old.
"When the draft comes [in June], we'll have plenty of time to think about that, but right now is certainly not the time," Fucale said.
He understands how projecting a young goaltender in his draft year might just be the toughest assignment for an NHL scout, but consistency is something that can't be denied.
"I know I need to continue to work on every aspect of my game," Fucale said. "I'm 17 and early in my development as a goalie. I understand it's a long process … I'm aware of that."
Even though Fucale is the starting goalie for one of the top teams in the Canadian Hockey League, he still plays third fiddle to forwards MacKinnon and Drouin, who come in at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, on Central Scouting's ranking of the top North American skaters (behind Seth Jones of Portland in the Western Hockey League).
"It's no secret [MacKinnon and Drouin] have exceptional talent and it's obviously great to be practicing with them every single day," Fucale said. "They keep pushing you, but I feel we all push each other and that's a great thing. We help each other progress, compete and contribute to team success."
Fucale is 35-5-2 with a 2.43 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in 44 games for the Mooseheads. With 67 career wins, Fucale is two short of passing Jean-Sebastien Giguere to become the all-time franchise leader.
Fucale also joined teammates MacKinnon and Drouin on Team Cherry at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 16 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Despite being the only goalie scored upon in the game, many scouts feel he is the odds-on-favorite to be the first goaltender selected at the 2013 NHL Draft.
"To me, he's clearly the best goalie I've seen this year," Central Scouting's David Gregory told NHL.com. "He just has this NHL game about him already and it starts with his focus. He plays on a team that, oftentimes, is in the other end of the rink for a lengthy period of time, but then there's a breakdown where he must make a 2-on-1 save where he keeps himself in games. He plays with a ton of confidence."
Central Scouting's Al Jensen, who specializes in goalies, agrees with Gregory.
"Zach is an excellent positional-style goalie with great stance and balance," Jensen told NHL.com. "He plays and looks big in all situations, has an excellent butterfly style and is very tough to beat down low. Zach is very calm, relaxed and dependable, and has excellent rebound control. He directs the low shots and absorbs the higher shots."
The Rosemere, Quebec native not only earned co-team MVP honors with McKinnon last season, but won the Fans' Choice award, Top Rookie award, and the Academic Player of the Year award. He became the fastest 17-year-old goaltender to reach 50 career wins in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and after finishing second in the league with 32 wins last season, his 35 wins this season lead not just the QMJHL, but the entire CHL.
Fucale is quick to credit those around him for all his success.
"It has a lot to do with my teammates," he said. "We exceeded a lot of expectations together. We just worked hard every day and that was our goal. It's a simple process, really … come to the rink and have fun, but work for each other. In the end, it all works out."
Drouin said it's very easy to play hard for Fucale, because he's so determined and motivated.
"Off the ice, he talks a lot and likes to have fun," Drouin told NHL.com. "He's calm and knows when to focus and when to let it go. He's really a great guy and great goaltender. He's very easy to play for."