It's not easy being the duck in the shooting gallery. But not only does goaltender Edward Pasquale
enjoy the role, he's winning a level of acclaim in doing so.
Pasquale, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Saginaw Spirit, was named Player of the Game for Team Cherry at the CHL-NHL Top Prospect Game in January, which cemented his spot on the elite goaltenders available for the 2009 Entry Draft.
Pasquale stopped 20 of 21 shots in his 30 minutes of action, where he faced some of the most talented forwards in his age group.
"They can all shoot the puck, all have great hands," Pasquale told NHL.com. "You just have to be ready for it."
He was more than ready, and scouts certainly were paying attention.
"He's got the look of an NHL goalie down the road," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "I like his foot speed, he's got an excellent butterfly, and when he goes down he covers the net well. He moves well with excellent net coverage."
At 6-foot-2 1/4 and 218 pounds, Pasquale is big enough to cover the upper portions of the net when he goes down.
"It definitely helps being bigger," said Pasquale. "You can take away more of the net. With the smaller equipment, the rule changes coming in, if you're bigger, you're taking away more of the net but you're always square to the puck and you're using your size."
Opposing shooters speak highly of Pasquale.
"As a player you always try to find holes and weaknesses on goalies," said London Knights forward John Tavares
, the prospective top pick of the draft, "and he's a guy, it's definitely not easy."
Added Guelph Storm Peter Holland
, another top-10 forward who sees a lot of Pasquale as Guelph and Saginaw play in the OHL Western Conference: "He's a good goalie. He shut the door on us a couple times when I thought we had some for-sure goals."
Pasquale has heard all the compliments and seen the rankings, but says none of it affects him.
"I don't put a lot of thought into it," he said. "It's definitely an accomplishment to be recognized as one of the top goalies going into the draft, but that's still a long way away. We still have the second half of the season and playoffs."
Pasquale finished among the OHL goaltending leaders in wins (32, sixth), goals-against average (3.02 11th) and save percentage (.911, ninth). He guided the Spirit to a third-place finish in the OHL's Western Conference, behind only juggernauts Windsor and London.
He backstopped a sweep of the Guelph Storm in the first round of the playoffs, allowing just 14 goals in four games, but Saginaw had its season ended in the second round in four games by London.
He also was ranked third by NHL Central Scouting among North American goaltenders in its final rankings, a drop from first in the midterm release. Jensen, Central Scouting's top goaltender evaluator, said Pasquale's spot on the final list was not a reflection in his play.
"It was more (Matthew) Hackett and (Olivier) Roy playing well, moving up ahead of him," Jensen told NHL.com. "It wasn't any indication of Pasquale's play. He was consistent throughout the course of the year."
This season also was a marked improvement from last season for Pasquale. He split the season, his first full OHL campaign, between Belleville and Saginaw, going a combined 12-9-1-1 with a 3.25 GAA; in 13 games with a Saginaw team that finished eighth among 10 teams in the West, he went 8-5-0-0 with a 3.54 GAA.
It was a learning experience, one that has served Pasquale well this season.
"My first year in the OHL, it was don't make a mistake because the red light is going on and everyone sees it," he said. "But now, it's my third year and you start to realize, you make a mistake, you don't worry about it until after the game. You just have to worry about getting the two points. That's what I base my game off. Doesn't matter how many shots or what numbers you're putting up. It's nice to get a shutout each game, but realistically you're going to make a mistake or two. If you let in a bad one you don't worry about it until after the game."
Pasquale also has learned to not worry about the 2009 draft. Scouts are watching every move he makes, and while the pressure can be unbearable for some, Pasquale said he takes it in stride.
"It can be tough when you hear a lot about the draft," said Pasquale. "You go to the prospects game, you're really excited. But the draft is a long time away, so you have to still play hard."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.