Skip to main content
NHL Draft

Draft providing fewer opportunities for shorter goaltenders

Trend past seven years has been for teams to select taller players for position

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

A trend has developed in recent years that doesn't bode well for anyone 6-foot tall or shorter looking to pursue a career as an NHL goaltender.

Of the 148 goalies selected in the NHL Draft during the past seven years, 16 (10.8 percent) were 6-foot or under. During that same span, 61 goalies 6-3 or taller were selected (41.9 percent).

"I think NHL teams are looking for guys like Pekka Rinne (6-foot-5, 217 pounds) or Matt Murray (6-4, 178) a lot more than in the past," said John Vanbiesbrouck, who played 20 seasons in the NHL, won the Vezina Trophy in 1986 and was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

Vanbiesbrouck was listed at 5-8, 176 pounds during his playing days.

"I know there are goalies who will come out of college and will not be drafted and make it that will be 6-foot-1 or shorter, but I don't think you're ever going to see guys my size playing regularly in the NHL again," Vanbiesbrouck said. "Not with the way the equipment is and the way the game is going. That's not going to happen."

Among the 18 goalies chosen in the 2016 draft, Connor Ingram (6-0, 212), a third-round (No. 88) pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, was the only one under 6-1 selected. One of the 24 goalies taken at the 2015 draft was under 6-1: Erik Kallgren (5-11, 157) who was picked by the Arizona Coyotes in the seventh round (No. 183).

 

[RELATED: NHL first-round order finalized]

 

"There are many trends in hockey and some come and go in cycles, but there definitely seems to be a tendency for NHL clubs to draft goaltenders with size as an asset," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "The precision shooting skills of NHL players as well as the speed in which plays are executed would tend to support having a goaltender that can physically cover more of the net.

"But at the end of any debate, no matter what his size, all clubs desire a goaltender that gets in front of pucks, makes the saves and gives his team a chance to win."

Jim Bedard, who was goalie coach for the Detroit Red Wings for 19 seasons prior to taking the same job with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League this season, believes the attraction toward taller goaltenders began in 2004, the same year the Nashville Predators selected Rinne in the eighth round (No. 258).

"You see the size of goalies like Rinne and Ben Bishop (6-7, 216) and how intimidating they look in the crease," Bedard said. "I've spoken with numerous scouts and you're seeing a non-stop parade of 6-4 and 6-5 goalies that can't play at that size because they're still growing into their bodies."

Bedard was with the Red Wings when they selected Jimmy Howard in the second round (No. 64) of the 2003 draft. At the time he was drafted, Howard was 6-0, 218 pounds.

"We heard about his height," Bedard said. "But when you stop the puck on a consistent basis that goes away. I watched him practice every day and never once thought, 'Gee, if only he were taller.'"

There are three goalies 6-foot or shorter among the top 31 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goaltenders, and two of the top 13 in its final ranking of international goalies.

Among that group the one with the best chance to be drafted early is Windsor's Michael DiPietro (6-0, 202), No. 4 on the final ranking of North American goalies.

"I'm not naive to the fact I'm not the largest goalie up for this year's draft," DiPietro said. "But I can only control what I can control and that's how I play."

DiPietro tied for the OHL lead with six shutouts, was second with a 2.35 GAA and third with a .917 save percentage in 51 games. Then he allowed eight goals in four games to help Windsor win the Memorial Cup.

"All I can say is I wouldn't trade Michael DiPietro for anybody," said Rocky Thompson, who coached Windsor prior to being hired as coach of Chicago of the American Hockey League on June 7. "He's a great teammate, reliable and dependable. He's one inch shorter than Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings). Is that one inch that big of a difference?"

Quick (6-1, 218) was 6-foot, 180 pounds when he was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the third round (No. 72) of the 2005 draft.

USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 goaltender Dylan St. Cyr is 5-8, 163 pounds. He helped the United States win the gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and was named to the tournament all-star team, and had a 2.66 GAA and .900 save percentage in 47 games with the NTDP. But he isn't ranked on Central Scouting's final list of North American goalies.

"It's not up to me," said St. Cyr, whose mother, Manon Rheaume, is the only woman to play goalie in an NHL preseason game. "I know it's a trend right now and it is what it is. I think so long as you can stop the puck and play the position well that you should be afforded an opportunity. But whatever happens, happens."

St. Cyr was born in Las Vegas, but was 9 months old when he moved with his mother to Northville, Michigan. With the expansion Vegas Golden Knights preparing for their first NHL Draft, could they take a chance on a smaller goalie?

Golden Knights director of amateur scouting Scott Luce said he can see a time when goalies aren't overlooked because of their size.

"The numbers show it's there, but the bottom line is stopping the puck," he said. "If you have a little bit more size you can work that to your advantage. It has been a trend, but I think it has peaked and there will be a settling-in process over the next five years."

View More