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2015 Draft: A run on goaltenders

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

One of the many questions heading into the 2015 NHL Draft is where the goaltenders will fall. The consensus a couple of weeks ago was that, for a third-straight year, it was likely no goaltenders would be taken in the first round. But, as opinions leading up to the draft often do, things have may have changed. Regardless of whether one is chosen high, a run on the position is likely to follow after the first chip falls.

Ilya Samsonov is gaining steam as a potential first-round pick. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Russian netminder has seen his name pop up more and more since the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo this past weekend, though he wasn’t in attendance.

Samsonov finished the 2014-15 season with a record of 11-4-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. He added two shutouts for Magnitogorsk of the MHL (Russia Junior). In international play, Samsonov had a 46-save shutout against Canada East in the bronze-medal game of the 2014 World Junior A Challenge. He had two wins and a .942 save percentage and was named top goaltender at the 2015 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament.

“He has good size and covers the net well,” said NHL Central Scouting’s Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb. “He plays at the top of the crease and effectively squares to the shooter. He shows good instincts, is well balanced and can make acrobatic saves.”

Samsonov models his game after Columbus netminder and fellow Russian Sergei Bobrovsky.

Will Samsonov, Central Scouting’s top-ranked International goaltender, be the first of his position off the board? If not, look to Barrie Colts' Mackenzie Blackwood to lead the way.

Blackwood impressed at the Combine, finishing in the top 10 of fitness testing for peak power output, force-plate vertical jump, hand grip and standing long jump.

Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American goaltender is a monster, standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at around 215 pounds. But he’s not a slow moving monster; he’s quick and athletic for his size.

“As of lately, I’m more of an athletic goaltender,” Blackwood said at the Combine. “I try to stay a little more patient on my feet and be a little more reactive, kind of react to pucks as they come and not just block and drop. I try to model myself after more of a Carey Price, Mike Smith (type). The kind of two pretty big guys who are pretty athletic and have all the tools. Those are the guys who I model after.”

Mackenzie Blackwood participates at the 2015 Combine. Photo by Getty Images.

Blackwood finished the 2014-15 season with the fourth-most wins in the OHL (33-14-2) with a 3.09 GAA and .906 SV%. He thrived under playoff pressure, posting a 2.88 GAA and .922 SV%. And oddly enough, he's late to the goaltending game, not playing the position until he was 12. But that late starts hasn’t slowed his development.

Blackwood’s size and athleticism make him a desirable prospect in this year’s draft. He has been invited to Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence goaltending camp.

After those two there are some other intriguing options in net, though likely not first-round selections. Joining Blackwood at the Combine was Czech goalie Daniel Vladar. Also a hulking presence, at 6-foot-5 and 185 pounds, Vladar is Central Scouting’s second-ranked European goalie.

Vladar posted a 2.78 GAA and .926 SV% in 29 games for Kladno in the Czech Republic Under-20 league. For Kladno in the Czech2 league, Vladar’s numbers improved to 1.97 GAA and .933 SV% in eight games.

International Scouting Services says Vladar has a “proven ability to steal games at every level. Massive frame and presence. Moves exceptionally well.”

Central Scouting’s 2nd-ranked North American goalie is Quebec’s (QMJHL) Callum Booth. The netminder had a 3.05 GAA and .900 SV% in 41 games for the Remparts this season. He’s described as calm, cool and confident with a tall, lean frame.

Ilya Samsonov tracks the puck in net. Photo by www.ak-bars.ru

There are several other names outside the top two rounds to consider as well. But returning to the first round, will there be a netminder chosen? If there isn’t one, goalies may fall quickly one after another as a run begins with the first off the board.

“There are different trends that occur in drafts and it has been that case in the last decade where there has been a lot go in the first round,” said Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr. “It’s hard to predict on that but the top two or three goaltenders, once one team takes one then teams, who have always got the goalies just sitting off to the side, they’re going to say, ‘do we go this direction or the goalie?’”

Marr believes once one is picked, the others will quickly follow due to impatience based on need. Teams will not want to miss out on their guy if they wait around too long. A run on goalies is likely.

“You get concerned that if you don’t take him now, will he be available in the next round? I think the teams identify it as, ‘does this guy have a chance to be number one for us?’ And if he does, there is no harm in taking him in whatever round they’re available. Just as long as they’re showing up on your list,” said Marr.

Last year, Mason McDonald was the first goaltender taken at 34th overall. Three were taken within the next five picks.

An example of how a run on goalies could be possible this year is how The Hockey News ranks their top four. They list Samsonov at 38th overall, Blackwood at 39th, Valdar at 40th and Blainville-Boisbriand’s (QMJHL) Samuel Montembeault 41st.

Once one goes, others will likely follow and the order could surprise people as teams identify different prospects as having potential to be their guy. The Oilers have a perceived need in goal and currently hold the 16th, 33rd and 57th overall picks, so if and when a run begins it puts Edmonton in prime position to select their guy come draft day, should they chose to go that direction.

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