It is truly strange how quietly young goalies sneak into the league. Carter Hart is about the only goalie you hear mentioned as a future building block for any team, despite how many teams need goalies. Even here in town, you didn’t hear Collin Delia‘s name until last year, and he wasn’t even mentioned as a possible future starter until this season. Teams just arrive at a starting goalie, almost by accident.
And considering it might be the most important position in the four major sports, it’s startling that it is that way. Your team drafts a quarterback and a city’s entire economic future depends on it. Everything is dissected. If there’s one at the top of the draft, you get him. And if you don’t, everyone thinks you’re an idiot. Remember when the Texans passed on Vince Young for Mario Williams? People lost their goddamn minds! So why aren’t goalies like that?
In the last draft, the first goalie was taken in the second round. The year before that there was one taken in the first round. The year before that, Hart was the first one taken in the second round. Given the outsized importance of the position, shouldn’t the draft look like your fantasy draft and a goalie taken with like the first 15 picks? It’s the position you have to get most right, and yet it doesn’t seem like anyone has a surefire system for doing so.
Look around the best goaltenders in the league and you kind of get the impression every team found them by accident. Pekka Rinne was an 8th-round pick. Ben Bishop is on his fifth team. Robin Lehner is on his fourth. David Rittich came from nowhere. There are a handful of European signings, where the goalie system seems to be completely different and yet no one is trying it here. Only Andrei Vasilevskiy and John Gibson appear to be drafted for exactly this, going in the first and second round, respectively.
MacKenzie Blackwood is an example. He had a .920 the last two years he was in the OHL, but can you really get a read on a goalie there behind and stopping children. His numbers in the AHL are hardly inspiring, but again, you could be playing behind any collection of janitors and gym teachers there instead of prospects. And you could be playing in a different system than the one you’ll get in the NHL. Corey Crawford‘s numbers in the AHL weren’t all that inspiring either, but all the good d-men the Hawks had were on the Hawks. He never managed a .920 there, and yet look what the Hawks go.
The Devils future may hinge on Blackwood, as you can’t really be good without a goalie. And if you can get one that is young that you can keep cheap for a while, that’s even better, much like a QB on a rookie deal. If he’s not good, then the Devils are going to either have to trade for one and lose good players, or sign one and use up cap space. You’d think teams would be better at developing the most important position, and they’re just not. Looking around, Rinne, Vasilevskiy, Gibson are basically the only premier goalies on the team that drafted them (fuck off, Jonathan Quick stans). You can throw Henrik Lundqvist on there if you want, and maybe Carey Price. Connor Hellebuyck? Is he officially on that list yet? Hard to say. Braden Holtby is another.
Even being kind, that’s still over half the teams in the league who are fishing or have. You’d think they could do better. But this is hockey, baby.
Game #48 Preview Suite