Any team that wants to win the Stanley Cup has to have great goaltending. It seems like in any given playoff year that some goaltender rises to prominence for being so dominant between the pipes. In the days after the Minnesota Wild were eliminated in their play in series, players and coaches were interviewed as they reflected on the 2019-20 season. For Wild General Manager Bill Guerin, one area he was clearly rather frustrated with was goaltending. Minnesota had the 3rd worst save percentage among goaltending tandems in the league at a paltry .897 save percentage.
“I was disappointed in the goaltending this year, Al had a tremendous year and Devan had an off-year, and it needs to be better. That’s just the way it is. And if I told you anything different, I’d be lying to you. It was not a strong point for us.” ~ Wild GM Bill Guerin on the team’s goaltending
Guerin didn’t just talk disappointment, but he took the first step in acting on that feeling by not renewing goalie coach Bob Mason‘s contract. The International Falls-native has had that job for the last 18 years, so that certainy should send a message to the teams’ cadre of goalies that they have to be better. 33-year old Alex Stalock started in each of the team’s playoff games, but it is uncertain whether he’ll have the starting role going into the 2020-21 season. Stalock is signed for the next two seasons at a very affordable $785,000 per season and I think no matter what happens the South St. Paul-native likely still be with the club next season. But will he be the starter?
KFAN‘s Pat Micheletti doesn’t seem to think so as he shared on Beyond the Pod. Fast forward to the 8:18 mark to hear his comments on the Wild’s goaltending situation.
Devan Dubnyk had a rough season both off the ice and on the ice where he had an ugly 3.35 goals against per game. With one year on his contract left, at $4.33 million per season the hope is to trade him but many believe a buyout could be possible. The 34-year old goaltender’s game has been in a steady decline the last few seasons and its hard to believe someone would want to trade for Dubnyk’s services.
Waiting in the wings is Kaapo Kahkonen who is coming off a fantastic season with the Iowa Wild where he was AHL Goaltender of the Year with a 2.07 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. While some Wild fans were hopeful the team was going to give Kahkonen a shot in the post-season that didn’t happen. But Guerin didn’t guarantee anything and there is likely going to be a reasonable crop of unrestricted free agent goaltenders available including Brayden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Cam Talbot, Corey Crawford, Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner.
So the #NHL is looking at moving up this year’s Entry Draft. What is the #mnwild’s greatest area of need in regards to the team, prospect pool, etc? Please RT @AngryFinn @thoen88 @BraveTheWild @TonyDeanHB @MNSOTA24
— Derek Felska (@CreaseAndAssist) May 4, 2020
As I look at the team, this is what I see as the biggest needs organization-wide. I have created a movement tracker for NHL Central Scouting’s 2020 Final Rankings in case you want to see how the league sees this draft class. I consult a variety of different scouting services like the NHL Central Scouting List, the Hockey News, HockeyProspect.com, Future Considerations as well as eliteprospects.com for insight into these draft prospects.
1. A speedy Top-6 center with scoring ability – While the Wild have had a few players you could say were Top 6 centers, none really possessed a combination of speed and scoring. With a possible elite winger coming into the fold with Kirill Kaprizov and the emergence of Kevin Fiala it would be nice to maximize that talent with a top line calibre center that can work with them.
2. A quality starting goaltender prospect – Some believe the Wild may already possess this player with the promising play of Kaapo Kahkonen who had some of the best numbers in terms of shutouts and save percentage in the American Hockey League, or the high quality play of Hunter Jones in major junior. Yet Devan Dubnyk seemingly supplanted this season by Alex Stalock the future of the starting goaltending position seems to be more fluid than it has been in years.
3. A top-4 defenseman with size and physical skills – More and more teams are using smaller more mobile defenseman, but in the playoffs it often is the defender that brings a dose of sandpaper that can prove to be so crucial to winning and losing those tight games. Soon to be unrestricted free agent Carson Soucy was a revelation last year, but it would be nice to have another defenseman with that body type but can play on the team’s top 4 especially as Ryan Suter gets older and the team may be shipping out one of its smaller finesse defenders in search of help up front in its Top 6.
So let’s look at the Top 5 available goaltenders given the team’s needs.
1. Yaroslav Askarov – Omsk, Russia
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 176lbs Catches: Right
NHL Central Scouting: #1 (Euro) Hockey News: # TSN McKenzie: #7
HockeyProspect.com: #1 Future Considerations: #10
Talent Analysis: Big, tall athletic netminder who oozes potential and is likely NHL starter in the future. Askarov wow’d scouts with his performance at the U18 tournament, dazzling with his post-to-post quickness and the ability to make the stand on your head kind of save time after time. He also catches right, which puts him rarified company and the fact he possesses the NHL prototype big frame and combined with superb mobility has some saying he might be the best goaltender available in a draft since Carey Price. He reads the play very well and demonstrates tremendous focus. Askarov can uses his positioning effective to make saves, but also has that athletic reflexive type of skills to make the truly remarkable saves. Yet, there also may be some reason to pump the breaks. He did have some poor performances this season where he gave up soft goals and some believe his glove hand is just average. However the other intangibles; the size, the athleticism and the rare catching combination make him the consensus top available goaltender available in the 2020 draft.
Bottom Line: ‘Generational talent’ is usually reserved for talking about forwards and defenseman, but for goaltenders its like finding a unicorn. Askarov may be that player when you consider he’s a rare right catching goaltender along with the size and mobility he possesses. The question with him is was his struggles in his draft season a sign of dealing with the expectations or is he not quite as good as some people are hoping for him to be. Either way, he seems to have NHL starter potential and if the 2019-20 was just an abberation a team could have an elite goalie on their hands if they have the courage to draft him.
2. Joel Blomqvist (Karpat Jr., Fin. Jr.) Uusikaarlepyy, Finland
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 205lbs Height: Left
Central Scouting: #3 (Euro) Hockey News: # TSN McKenzie: Hon. Mention
HockeyProspect.com: #2 Future Considerations: #62
Talent Analysis: While some goalies are just athletically gifted, others are technicians and Blomqvist fits this description. He moves with efficiency and precision as he angles himself so he stays square to opposing shooters. Blomqvist demonstrates an advanced level of awareness as he reads the play consistently that you normally don’t see in goaltenders his age. He has as a great glove hand and does a great job of seeing pucks through traffic. He has good rebound control which makes him a calming presence on the ice. While it would be unfair to say he’s a small goalie, he’s a shade undersized than the 6’3″ / 6’4″+ goalies which appear to be so commonplace in today’s game, but his dedication to the technical parts of his game means he makes the most of what he has.
Bottom Line: He’s probably not a 1st round pick, but he’s a solid goalie prospect with some potential to be a starter or a very solid backup. He is technically refined and is supremely focused which probably bodes well for his future development. He’s not a small goaltender but he’s a bit smaller than the NHL’s current standard for goaltenders these days.
3. Nico Daws (Guelph, OHL) Munchen, Germany
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 203lbs Catches: Left
Central Scouting: #1 (NA) Hockey News: # TSN McKenzie: #64
Hockey Prospect.com: #3 Future Considerations: #78 TSN Button: #65
Talent Analysis: The German-born, Canadian-raised goaltender has shown steady improvement in his 3 years in the Ontario Hockey League. Daws brings prototypical NHL size and uses his 6’4″ frame to its fullest advantage to stay square to the opposing shooters. He moves well post-to-post, but its very economical; you don’t see wasted movement. Daws has good rebound control and has a terrific glove hand. A major reason for his improvement was taking the time off-season to improve his game as well as his physical fitness which is something his coaches said was self-initiated and has resulted in taking a big step forward in his development. He reads the play fairly well and has demonstrated tremendous poise when facing shooters working near the crease area. However, if he has one weakness is his recovery time. At times when he makes a save, if he does give up a rebound he doesn’t recover as quickly and thus can be guilty of giving up goals on rebound opportunities. Yet overall, Daws has the size NHL teams want, he seems to have taken the steps to prepare himself mentally and physically for the next level which make him an intriguing goalie prospect.
Bottom Line: The reigning OHL Goaltender of the Year has a lot of elements any team likes in a modern day netminder. Big, technically sound and very poised. He still has one rough edge to smooth out in his game, but if he can do whoever drafts him could have a real gem on their hands.
4. Devon Levi (Carleton Place, CCHL) Dollard des Ormeaux, Quebec
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 185lbs Catches: Left
Central Scouting: #8 Hockey News: TSN McKenzie: NR
Future Considerations: #234 HockeyProspect.com: #4
Talent Analysis: Levi is an undersized goaltender who possesses terrific athleticism and probably has the strongest competitive drive in this draft class. His post-to-post movement is outstanding and denies the lower part of the net extremely well. He is an adept puckhandling goaltender and moves efficiently for the puck and can make that outlet pass to a defenseman. He had a solid season for Carelton Place last year and is a Northeastern commit. Levi does have another area of his game besides his below-average size is the fact his glove isn’t the best and with a smaller frame it means he is vulnerable to being beaten top shelf. Yet in just about every other facet of goaltending; positioning, lateral quickness, puckhandling he’s excellent.
Bottom Line: An undersized goaltender who overcomes that limitation with his athleticism and competitive spirit. Levi reminds a lot of scouts of Nashville’s Juuse Saros who has proven that smaller goaltenders can still provide solid minutes as an NHL goaltender. He’s another goaltender who will likely be available later in the draft in the mid rounds.
5. Drew Commesso (USNDT, USHL) Boston, Massachusetts
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 181lbs Catches: Left
Central Scouting: # Hockey News: # TSN McKenzie: #87
Future Considerations: #100 HockeyProspect.com: NR
Talent Analysis: A Boston University commit, Commesso’s best asset is his calmness under pressure where he doesn’t seem to panic with traffic near his crease. He is also an adept puckhandler and he likes to get involved in settling pucks behind his net and can make a solid accurate pass. While his size appears to be in the range you normally see NHL goaltending prospects, some scouts feel he doesn’t use his size as effectively as he could. He reads the play well and demonstrates antipation. His post-to-post movement is just ok, but lacks that quick burst you’d like to see. Commesso has terrific rebound control as he seems to absorb most shots that come his way. Even though he stays calm with traffic he can sometimes get caught watching the puck with too much focus which means he can get caught looking frozen eyed at a puck when it gets deflected by him.
Bottom Line: He’s not a 1st round pick, but he might be a mid-round goalie selection after some quality develop with the Terriers. He has decent size, good rebound control and reads the play the way you’d expect a player with starting potential to have. Can he improve his post-to-post movement which is will likely determine how much of an NHL future he has as the goaltenders listed above are more athletically gifted than he is.
What goaltenders intrigue you? Let us know on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below.