Prospect Ramblings: Goalies take time

Hayden Soboleski


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Keeper poolies have been excited about Carter Hart for a while, and justifiably so. He has dominated the WHL for 3 years, won gold with Team Canada, was a top goaltender prospect in the 2016 draft, and now has 17 AHL games under his belt. When he got called up this week to the Flyers, lots of fantasy owners started licking their lips – is this the inevitable takeover that we all know is coming eventually? He’s had a nice couple games, 2 wins in 3 starts with a 0.904 SV%…


 But don’t hold your breath on a breakout.


He is still an elite prospect. I still have complete faith in him to be a future starter. But even the world’s best netminders take time. Let’s look at the development timeline of a few recent top-prospect goaltenders. These are players who were considered “goalies of the future” for their respective squads in the last several years, and made it. Yes, some are better than others, and some may not be considered starters anymore, but all went from being a top prospect to playing at least 41 games in a season. This is the path Hart needs to take.


Note: Most names below had a year of playing less than 5 games on a call-up/tryout basis. I did not count these brief stints as true NHL seasons.


John Gibson

Years to become a starter: 3

AHL games: 70

2014-15: 23 GP, 0.914 SV%

2015-16: 40 GP, 0.920 SV%

2016-17: 52 GP, 0.924 SV%


Andrei Vasilevskiy

Years to become a starter: 3

AHL games: 37

2014-15: 16 GP, 0.918 SV%

2015-16: 24 GP, 0.910 SV%

2016-17: 50 GP, 0.917 SV%


Matt Murray

Years to become a starter: 2

AHL games: 72

2015-16: 13 GP, 0.930 SV%

2016-17: 49 GP, 0.923 SV%


Jake Allen

Years to become a starter: 4

AHL games: 177

2012-13: 15 GP, 0.905 SV%

2013-14: 0 GP

2014-15: 37 GP, 0.913 SV%

2015-16: 47 GP, 0.920 SV%


Petr Mrazek

Years to become a starter: 3

AHL games: 87

2013-14: 9 GP, 0.927 SV%

2014-15: 29 GP, 0.918 SV%

2015-16: 54 GP, 0.921 SV%


Connor Hellebuyck

Years to become a starter: 2

AHL games: 88

2015-16: 26 GP, 0.918 SV%

2016-17: 56 GP, 0.907 SV%


Juuse Saros

Years to become a starter: TBD

AHL Games: 62

2016-17: 21 GP, 0.923 SV%

2017-18: 26 GP, 0.925% SV%

2018-19: 15 GP (so far), 0.894 SV%



So, doubting that this is Hart’s season to take over the crease is nothing personal. The precedent set by the names above makes it pretty clear that even the best names take time before becoming a bona-fide starting netminder. The most optimistic approach is looking at Hellebuyck, who had the easiest spot to grab at the time (just like Hart has now). But even then he still needed one year as a backup before grabbing the reigns. So, maybe Hart becomes a backup/1B from here on out, and n a 2019-20 Calder candidate. 


But even top prospects with spots waiting for them need time to develop. Let’s look at one more “goalie of the future”:


Thatcher Demko

Years to become a starter: TBD

AHL games:102 (and counting)

NHL starts: 1


The Vancouver crease belongs to Demko…soon. Maybe he could’ve won it this year, maybe its his in 2019-20. But the point is that despite being a blue-chip name with a high draft pedigree and a history of outstanding performances, he requires some slow cooking. This doesn’t make him worse, and by no means would Carter Hart be considered a disappointment if he required the same approach. 


At the end of the day – don’t think less of Hart if he gets sent down this week. And don’t think less of him if he isn’t a starter in 2019-20. Owning goaltenders in keeper leagues is a long game, and requires patience and planning. In the case of Hart, don’t bank on starter-level wins, saves, or shutout numbers until he’s got the experience under his belt that his brethren needed.



Thank you for reading, and happy holidays to you and your families!

Hayden Soboleski







Name Fantasy Upside NHL Certainty
Mikulas Hovorka 4.0 5.5
Fabian Lysell 8.5 9.0
Jakub Lauko 6.0 6.0
Matthew Poitras 7.5 7.5
Alexander Nikishin 9.0 9.3
Alexander Rykov 7.0 7.5
Justin Robidas 5.5 4.5
Zion Nybeck 8.0 3.0
David Kase 4.0 6.0
Jacob Julien 6.5 6.0