As the Sens prospects prepare for tonight's Rookie Showcase opener against the Winnipeg Jets at 7 p.m., the crease is looking a little more crowded than previous years…but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Just using some simple math, you can see how it might be tricky to share 3 games between 4 goalie prospects this weekend but according to Senators goaltending coach Pierre Groulx, this type of dilemma comes from having a plethora of good, young netminders in the pipeline.
"Over the last 3 years, Trent Mann and the scouting staff have done a great job at improving our depth in goal," said Groulx. "If you look at previous rookie tournaments, we've had to invite players to fill up our goalie spots. Now we have 4 solid, young goaltenders making the trip this year and that's a good problem to have."
Both Filip Gustavsson and Joey Daccord appeared in pro games for the Senators last season and will likely battle for starts with Marcus Hogberg in Belleville/Brampton next year while CHL goalies Kevin Mandolese and 2019 second round pick Mads Sogaard are expected to return to their respective junior clubs before their season get underway.
"The plan is for Gustavsson and Daccord to get a game each and the two CHL goalies will split the other game most likely," shared Groulx. "Unless something changes, we want to make sure that we give our pro goalies a full game so we can see where they're at heading into the season."
Video: First Look: Mads Sogaard
Filip Gustavsson has been confirmed as tonight's starter against the Jets and he's looking forward to kicking off the tournament in front of a talented roster of Sens prospects.
"All the guys are super excited to play the first game," said Gustavsson. "I know that the team will play good in front of me so I just need to play my best back there and try to help get us a win to start the tournament."
Gustavsson spent the bulk of last season in Belleville spliting starts with Hogberg and knows that in order to continue his progression, he needs to show his coaches some more consistency on a nightly basis. Receiving the first start of the tournament grants him the opportunity to start showcasing that tonight.
"I want to show that I can be more consistent and that I don't have these highs and lows." Gustavsson said. "That's something I need to start doing on a regular basis to earn more trust from the coaching staff and earn more playing time."
With a quartet of quality goaltending prospects between the pipes this weekend for the Senators, Groulx believes that the internal competition created by the club's depth in net can actually help to continue their development. He pointed out that the very nature of the position means you're always fighting for more ice-time and he hopes that mentality can bring the best out of these young goaltenders.
"As a goalie, you're always battling for more ice-time. The more good goaltenders you have, the more that they'll push each other to be better," he said. "We want our #1 goalie in the NHL to be pushed by our #2 who is being pushed by our #3 who is being pushed by our #4."
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. tonight at CAA Arena and you can catch all the action live on the Belleville Senators Facebook Page, TSN.ca, the TSN App and on TSN Direct with no blackout restrictions.