Like most kids his age, Scott Stajcer
likes to spend his down time playing video games on his Xbox, and his game of choice currently is NHL '09.
And he certainly takes advantage of the ability to create a player and put himself in the game. But Stajcer, a goaltender for the Ontario Hockey League's Owen Sound Attack, indulges his fantasy of scoring goals rather than preventing them.
"When I play I like to learn other positions," Stajcer told NHL.com. "I like to control the whole team and know what's going on, understand other positions."
So far this season, he's got a great handle on his own position.
Despite his record of 13-12-3-2, 3.59 goals-against average and .905 save percentage, Stajcer was rated the second-best North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting in its midterm rankings. Stajcer also was one of the four goaltenders chosen to play in the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game in January.
"I love it, it's the most important position on the ice," said Stajcer. "You have to have that goaltender to win championships and win playoffs games. It's more pressure and I like the pressure. Everyone relies on you and I like the feeling that you can steal games."
As one of eight rookies on an Owen Sound Attack team hovering around .500, he hasn't been able to steal many games, but that hasn't changed the scouts' opinions.
"He's steadily improved over the course of the year," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "I really like the way he presents himself in the net. He's got that NHL mentality about him. You need to be confident, you need to be strong and he's very smart out there. He's got those attributes right now.
"For a 17-year-old, I just really like the way he presents himself. His net coverage is very good. He's a good kid. He works very hard."
Attack coach Mark Reeds
started the season with Tyler Beskorowany
, a 2008 second-round pick of the Dallas Stars
, as the No. 1 netminder, but since the calendar flipped to 2009, it's been Stajcer playing the majority of the games -- nine of 14 in January, and six of the Attack's first nine games in February.
"He's taken the majority of the workload in the last little while," Reeds told NHL.com. "He's earned that right with the way he's played in winning games."
Reeds said there's a lot to like in the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Stajcer.
"Scott's strengths are his positioning and his ability to stop the initial shot," said Reeds. "When he's on his game, his ability to control his rebounds is pretty good, which avoids second and third opportunities. For the most part he's pretty calm in the net and his teammates have a lot of confidence in him."
And Stajcer is growing in confidence in himself. He stopped all 26 shots he faced in the Top Prospects Game, going against elite scorers like Evander Kane
, Carter Ashton
and Nazem Kadri
"I enjoy facing the big names," said Stajcer. "It's a lot of fun going against the top shooters because it's a challenge for yourself. If you succeed, you feel good."
The scouts certainly noticed.
"He presented himself very well," said Jensen. "I was very impressed. He communicated well with his teammates on the ice. I really like his presence out there. He's only improved his status from the Prospects, the way he handled himself. His work ethic was excellent. He's got a great attitude, he's very positive and he's very confident."
Stajcer said the invitation to the elite prospect gathering definitely has buoyed him, but he knows a reputation in the scout's minds is built off more than just one game.
"When you get invited to a thing like that you get a boost of confidence," said Stajcer, "but my mindset has been work hard and you'll get to where you want to go. It boosts your confidence, but you've got to keep working."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.