Welcome to the Thursday prospect ramblings. This week I will continue my series of looking at NHL teams’ goalie prospects, if there is room for them in the near future, and how long I estimate they could take to be on the roster. I have already completed the West division (check it out) and the North division. Just remember with my “analysis”:
“Goalies can take a long time to get to the NHL and sometimes us Fantasy GMs forget that as they are the shiny new toy that we falsely proclaim “will be the starter if they give him a shot next season.” I always remind myself to look at goalie prospects differently. There are only so many NHL spots, and one year a goalie can be unstoppable and the next year he is on waivers because he is so bad. Goalies need to be looked in a way where you look at the team, see who is starting what their contract(s) are like, and how likely the prospect will get to actually start.” –
Here is my #GoodTweet of the week:
Rask and Halak are both UFAs this off season and are 34 and 35 respectively. With Boston being in “Cup Contender” mode there are a few options Boston can do, and of course no one knows if Rask will really retire as rumours suggest. Option one has both Rask and Halak returning with one, or both, contract(s) being at least a year; option two has Rask retire or move on to another team; option three has Halak retire or move on; and option four has both leave the franchise. If there is one, or two, goaltending spots open on the Bruins then it will be a battle between:
- Dan Vladar – He appears to be the current front runner as he has been the one replacing Rask this season, and performing pretty well in two games with a 0.952 save percentage. He has been great in the AHL since 2019-2020 so there is not much of a reason to keep him with Providence. He did sign a three-year extension in August of 2020, and year three has a one-way clause. The current ECHL/NHL experience should give him the leg up on the competition but he will have a strong test from:
- Jeremy Swayman – Signing with the Bruins in March 2020 after three-year in the NCAA with the University of Maine, Swayman comes with high expectations he is already living up to in the AHL. Well, he is living up to the high expectations in a small sample size of eight games, but in those eight games he has a 0.932 save percentage and 1.88 goals against average. I would bet that the Bruins would prefer he play in the AHL longer, so if options two or three above happen the Vladar should have the edge, but in option four you would have to bet the Bruins would give Swayman a chance to prove himself.
- Kyle Keyser – The least sexy and least thought of name in the Bruins goaltending pipeline, Keysey would have a much better chance if he was able to play more, but unfortunately he missed all but seven total games in the 2019-2020 season due to concussion issues. Concussions can really affect goalies, and sometimes a goalie on the shelf gets lost in the shuffle. Keyser is mostly playing in the ECHL as there is minimal room in the AHL, but with Vladar and Booth on the taxi squad he is on the Province AHL squad. Keysey has a 0.918 sv% in 16 games for the ECHL Jacksonville Icemen, and was very impressive in his one AHL game. If concussion issues are behind him, he is a dark horse candidate for the Bruins net in at least two years.
- Callum Booth – Speaking of another goalie with injury issues Booth may be a forgotten goaltender too. It looks as though Boston just added him for depth but there is skill and potential here. He likely will not find a starting role in Boston so hopefully another team gives him a chance.
I am an Ullmark fan and think people underrate him as a 1A starter, but he also gets hurt all of the time so he does himself no favours in securing the #1 position. He is a UFA after this dreadful season for the Sabres and there is no reason to not extend him. The goalie of the future battle in Buffalo is between Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (UPL) and Eric Portillo. With Ullmark in town neither goalie will get the #1 role outright. UPL has the inside track being about two years older and playing in the AHL since 2019. Portillo has just begun his NCAA career so he is at least two to three years away from playing in the AHL, giving UPL plenty of time to establish himself. I would expect UPL to play NHL games next season and Portillo to play in 2024-2025 at the earliest, if he stays in the NCAA for three years but I have a suspicion it will be only two years.
The Devils are pretty set with Blackwood in net and he is 24, there is not much more to add. There is no one really in the system to challenge him for the next three years at least. In 2025-2026 Nico Daws may be able to battle him for the starting role but other than him there is not much there. There is some promise in Gilles Senn but not much more than a 1B shot especially as he is 25. There is a slight possibility for Evan Comier, and more promise in Cole Brady but he will take at least three seasons.
New York Islanders
Varlamov is signed until the end of the 2022-2023 season, and Ilya Sorokin at 25 should be the Islanders goalie for probably a decade, seeing as he is pretty good. With those two locked up for the next two seasons there is not much pressure from within the organization to find another starter. A skilled young netminder is Jakub Skarek, and at 21 he can wait the two additional years to play in the NHL with Sorokin. That is all I would expect from the Islanders in terms of goalies for the foreseeable future.
New York Rangers
I feel as though I should just copy and paste my Islanders part down here and replace Ilya Sorokin with Igor Shesterkin. He will be the Rangers starter for at least a decade, and hopefully Rangers management give him more up front than Lundqvist has to deal with all those years he carried the Rangers. Tyler Wall, Adam Huska, and Olof Lindbom are all intriguing goalie prospects but none will usurp Shesterkin for the starter’s role. They could be used as trade bait down the road as I am a fan of Wall and think there could be good upside with Lindbom. Expect Wall and Huska to challenge for the back up role in the near future, while Lindbom is a much linger wait.
I feel like I the previous three teams and the next three teams are all the same. They all have good young goalies at the helm. The Flyers have Carter Hart, who right now is playing terribly (hello just being 22), and he will be the start for at least a decade. Unless he falls off the earth as a goalie, no one will challenge him for the starters crease once he is more enshrined. The Flyers have a couple intriguing prospects that have been dealing with injury issues in Kirill Ustimenko and Felix Sandström. Both have a chance to be more 1B starters than 1A or full-on number one goalies. Samuel Ersson likely has the best chance to challenge Hart in probably two seasons, keep an eye on him.
Tristan Jarry is 25 and signed for until the end of the 2022-2023 season where he will be a UFA. Casey DeSmith will be the back up until the 2022 off season as well. There is not much in the pipeline for the Penguins but they also just tend to just develop any goalie they have in to a potential starter. That means watch Alex D’Orio and Emil Larmi in the short term, though I think nothing is there personally. The 2020 second round selection Joel Blomqvist is the likeliest to become a starter but do not expect him to see NHL action until at least 2025.
The Capitals are set in net and will have to decide between Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek in the near future. The smart money is them keeping Samsonov. In a couple seasons more people will be talking about Mitchell Gibson as another potential starter for the Capitals, but the net will not be lost to Samsonov (or Vanecek). Hunter Shepard is playing well in the ECHL this season, and he will be another goalie to watch, but surprisingly was not drafted by the Capitals. He was only signed after a great career in the NCAA with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Also, do not look now but Zach Fuclale is on fire in the AHL for the Hershey Bears, even earning himself a two-year contract extension.
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