Thanks to the NHL Network, I was able to evaluate the four goalies playing in the CHL Top Prospects game on Wednesday night. When scouting 17 and 18-year old goaltenders, projecting their future keeper or dynasty fantasy value may seem a little frivolous, but there is still so much to learn about their long-term potential and upside.
From my perspective, I’m less concerned with situation, and more concerned with technique, as I’mlooking for traits that reflect the body language of a future workhorse starter. Some of those elements include patience in frantic situations, controlled movements on fast-developing plays and on rebound opportunities, a relaxed demeanor, and more. So below I’ve done some comparing and contrasting of the four goalies to help you pick the best of the bunch!
Chris Driedger: Currently ranked 12th among North American goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting, Driedger displays a very calm demeanor in the net, and he moves with good balance due to a low center of gravity. He has very little excess movement, and is the most minimalistic and economical of the four. His game is very simple;he doesn’t waste any excess energy, he stays in good position, and he shows elements of durability by quietly letting the puck, and the play, come to him.
Because of this demeanor, he should rank higher than most draft-eligible goalies on your fantasy league scale. I know Driedger has been through a total whirlwind since he was invited to perform in the two-day Research and Development back in August, but the experience he has gained will pay off in the future. He wasn’t even supposed to play in this game, but earned the invitation when Malcolm Subban was ruled out due to injury.
Furthermore, he’s getting hot at just the right time; he went a perfect 6-0 in January for the Calgary Hitmen, posting a miniscule 1.29 goals-against average and .954 save percentage along the way. He won’t carry the same type of hype as an Andrei Vasilevski or a Subban, but due to his quiet and poised nature in the net, he’s certainly worth watching.
Brandon Whitney: Whitney was the most active, energetic, and explosive goaltender of the group. He’s down early on a lot of sequences, butterfly sliding to either side, then recovering quickly back to his skates. Compared to Driedger, there was a ton of “excess up and down” movements as well. I also noticed a lot of movements where he would lose an angle due to an over-anticipated slide, but had the quickness to recover without making any mistakes.
Whitney was tested on a more consistent basis in the first half compared to Driedger, but he moved very well, had a lot of energy, and overall, a terrific presence in the net. The short-side goal (blocker side) he allowed in the second period was one he’ll want back, but it was a nice seeing-eye shot off the half-boards from d-man Griffin Reinhart.
Although I’m going off just one game, I think Whitney gets drafted sooner than expected. He’s a tall drink of water at 6-foot-5, and has a very good goalie coach in Daniel Frechette, the same coach that turned David Honzik from a ball of clay into a Vancouver Canucks prospect in just one season. Every NHL team will see Whitney as a valuable pick because he has the juicy combination of size and speed, and he’s playing against very good talent in the QMJHL.
Like Driedger, Brandon may not as highly touted as the potential first-round picks in Vasilevski and Subban, but when it comes to locating that hidden gem for your dynasty or keeper league, he’s worth watching. It’s only February, but he has already tied the Victoriaville record for wins as a rookie (20) with none other than Daniel Manzato.
Francois Tremblay: Earned a lot of experience and exposure last season by playing 26 games in the QMJHL (5-10-4 with a 3.91 GAA and .869 SV%) as a 16-year-old. Tremblay, a native of Baie-Comeau, has the advantage of playing more than the other three goalies this season. Although he wasn’t over-worked in his 30 minutes of action, when he was tested, he performed with decent poise.
Like most young Quebec goalies, Tremblay’s tendency is to seal the ice with his pads by executing a lot of butterfly slides. He’s on his knees a lot, he steers low shots away with an active stick, and he’s very fluid along the ice as well. One thing I do like about his structured positioning is his glove hand placement. It’s very disciplined, but not over-exaggerated or uncomfortable, and it looks ready at all times.
I personally was not too impressed with his overall game. All of that sliding cost him on the game-tying goal in the third period, as he was sniped five-hole right in front of the net. He is certainly a terrific prospect that will be drafted this summer, but he would be the one goalie I pass over in a fantasy keeper league.
Matt Murray: I was more impressed with Murray than any other goalie in last night’s game. His biomechanics in the crease are very efficient. Snaps up out of the butterfly with a lot of speed, which is impressive for his size as a 17-year old. Playing alongside Jack Campbell for the Soo Greyhounds is a nice luxury, because Campbell has a lot of experience working with an NHL goalie coach, and some of the habits and methods are certainly shared and shadowed. That is one of the main elements you poolies will want to keep in mind as his game continues to evolve.
Murray is labeled as a Red Star prospect in my inaugural Draft Eligibles Report, and I could see him being the big sleeper in your fantasy league in four or five more years. Another goalie that will cause scouts to foam at the mouth due to his size/speed combo, Murray also has a few other elements of his game that I like, including his fluid mechanics, his overall intelligence, and his body control when moving laterally.
Another thing I like about Murray is that he actually recovers back to his skates instead of always butterfly sliding (like I saw with Tremblay and Whitney). For bigger bodies, the more a goalie moves on their skates, the more balance, quickness, and efficiency they’re likely to have. Over-sliding and dropping into the butterfly when it’s not really needed is a plague at the junior level, and it can turn some goalies into robots by the time they hit the pro ranks. If that happens, they often lack success because they can’t stay in control when the speed of the game really increases.
I’m not afraid of this happening with Murray, however, and part of the reason is due to the fact he moves more on his skates. During the game, the telecast mentioned how Murray looks up to Carey Price, and wears jersey number 30 because of Martin Brodeur. Similar to what I see in the WHL’s Driedger, I see in Murray as well, in the sense they’re both calm and quiet in the crease.
Murray essentially stole the show in the third period, making the “save of the game” with a pretty glove snag on a rebound chance. Furthermore, a few minutes after that save, Team Cherry scored to tie the game at 1-1. Murray also came up with a big save with exactly 10 minutes left in the game, but was unable to make another big stop with just a few minutes remaining, and he was eventually pinned with the 2-1 loss. By stopping 17 of 18 shots, Murray was awarded the MVP award for Team Cherry, a nice feather in his cap after an excellent performance.
And the answer to the big, burning question coming out of this Top Prospects game, you ask? Murray.
If I had to choose just one goalie, Murray would be the one I’d want to own most in a deep fantasy keeper league.