In addition to there being a number of top North American goalie prospects from which to choose at the 2012 NHL Draft, the crops of Europeans manning the crease looks to be equally, if not more, impressive.
NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb is very high on the top three goalies he has ranked on Central Scouting's final list of European goaltenders -- Andrei Vasilevski, Oscar Dansk and Joonas Korpisalo.
"I'm pretty sure Dansk and Vasilevski will be taken in the first round," Stubb told NHL.com. "Korpisalo will go high in the second round."
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Long before Dansk became the puck-controlling goalie he is today, he starred as a power forward. The 6-foot-2, 186-pounder had 24 interviews at the NHL Scouting Combine in May, including 13 on his first day.
"I began playing goalie when I turned 9, and was playing forward before that," Dansk said. "I always wanted to score goals. I was kind of a go-to-the-net kind of player who drove past defensemen … a grinder."
Why the change in position?
"I really liked being put in that pressure situation [in goal] and being that guy who can kind of change the course of the game," he said. "I've come close to scoring a few goals as a goalie in Sweden, but I've also come close to scoring on my own net, too. I've had a few coaches tell me I play it too much."
Here are Stubb's top three European goalies:
1. Andrei Vasilevski, Ufa-2 (RUS-JR.): Some feel he might have overtaken top North American goalie prospect Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls as the top draft-eligible goalie. Vasilevski, selected in the first round (No. 7) of the 2011 KHL Junior Draft by Salavat Yulaev Ufa, spent much of the 2011-12 season playing in the MHL with Tolpar Ufa. He opened some eyes with his remarkable play at the 2012 World Junior Championship for silver medal-winning Russia, going 4-1 with a 2.01 goals-against average and tournament-high .953 save percentage. The only thing that may sway teams from drafting Vasilevski early is the "Russian factor," but his talent and size (6-3, 204) are hard to ignore.
"He's a big guy with excellent size and that helps him cover the net very well," Stubb said. "His angles and positional play are excellent and he has very good instincts; reads the game well. He's a game-winning goalie."
Vasilevski had 28 interviews over four days during the NHL Combine before closing it out with his fitness test. He told reporters that more than half of those interviews included questions regarding the fatigue he felt at the WJC.
Each time, he offered this response:
"I wasn't injured but just very exhausted, emotionally and physically, and it was the right decision that the coach [Valeri Bragin] made to put in Andrei Makarov," Vasilevski told NHL.com through an interpreter. "I'm a young player and I need to improve, especially my physical condition. I'm becoming more mentally tough, too, so it's something I need to continue to work on this off-season."
2. Oscar Dansk, Brynas Jr. (SWE-JR.): The Stockholm native, who actually spent three seasons at Minnesota prep powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary's, might be the next great puck-controlling goalie to enter the NHL.
Dansk, who spent three seasons at Minnesota prep powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary's, could be the NHL's next great puck-controlling goalie. (Photo: Getty Images)
"I watched a lot of Marty Turco when I was younger and picked up a lot of my ability to control the puck outside the crease from watching him," Dansk said.
His confidence is unrivaled, and he's a proven winner on an international scale. In addition to notching one assist for silver-medal winning Sweden at the 2012 Under-18 World Championship in April, Dansk was named one of the team's top players after finishing 4-1 with a 1.98 GAA and .937 save percentage in five games.
"He covers a lot of the net when in butterfly, recovers quickly, is athletic, focused and competitive," Stubb told NHL.com. "His angles and positional game are excellent, he's good at controlling rebounds, and always seems ready for the next shot."
3. Joonas Korpisalo, Jokerit Jr. (FIN-JR.): Look for Korpisalo to continue the success of Finnish goalies entering the NHL in recent years. He went 3-3 with a 3.02 GAA and .902 save percentage in six games for fourth-place Finland at the World Under-18 Championship.
In 38 games playing in Finland's junior league, Jokerit's Under-20 team won the regular-season title due in part behind Korpisalo's 2.04 GAA and .920 save percentage. In four playoff games, he had a 1.77 GAA and .926 save percentage.
"He's patient, well-balanced and always gives a consistent effort," Stubb said. "He has good size (6-2, 163), is flexible and can make the big, game-winning saves."
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