Zach Fucale's star has dimmed considerably since Montreal drafted him 36th overall three years ago, although he's still young enough to have a shot at realizing his potential.
Welcome back to my weekly prospects ramblings column! This week, I take a look at three young goaltending prospects who will be under scrutiny over the course of the season.
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When Zachary Fucale was coming into his draft year in 2013, he was easily the most highly touted netminder coming into New Jersey that day. After a very successful junior career with the Halifax Mooseheads, and a brief stint with the Quebec Remparts, the young Laval, Quebec, native was seen as potential heir-apparent to the throne that Carey built.
Things have not gone as planned.
Possessing the size at 6-2 and 187 pounds, Fucale boasts the kind of size that teams want between the pipes these days. Perhaps what was most appealing to the Canadiens in drafting him 36th overall were a few of the traits that people enjoy with Carey Price – most notably, his complete presence of mind and composure in the crease. While this is something that goalies can develop, possessing this kind of trait at a young age is an absolute boon. This, combined with his innate knack for solid positioning, made him a very promising prospect for the future.
Despite putting together an excellent 2013-14 campaign with 36 wins and a 2.26 goals-against average, the 2014-15 season came crashing down around him. While he admittedly played on a far weaker Mooseheads squad, he was unable to bring his A-game to the Remparts, where he continued to struggle. Many were not concerned, however, for all he had accomplished in junior, the next step in his development would come in the pro game.
During his first professional season on the St. John’s Ice Caps of the American Hockey League, Fucale had an up-and-down season. Though the improvement in his game showed, he played on a relatively weak squad that failed to provide him any true defensive support. He split duties on the club, posting 16 wins in 42 games with a 3.13 GAA and a .903 save percentage, hardly the kind of numbers sought after in a high pick.
This season will be an important one for this young player, as he will see increased opportunity and responsibility with the Ice Caps. Continued development alongside other Canadiens prospects, such as Nikita Scherbak, will be critical for the overall performance of the club – as well as the confidence of a young goalie with great potential.
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On the other side of the country, fans are not necessarily thinking about continuing development, but rather a first glimpse of a potential star.
I, of course, am talking about Vancouver Canucks fans, and the impending debut of one Thatcher Demko.
Fans of the Canucks can hardly wait to see what goalie Thatcher Demko can do with an orca on his chest:
Demko represents arguably the best goaltending prospect in the game today. After an absolutely ridiculous collegiate career, Demko ended the hand-wringing speculation by signing his three-year, entry-level contract with the Canucks on April 21.
During that career, Demko was absolutely dominant. Hyperbole? Not a chance. To any who had the chance to watch this young man as a member of Boston College, the hype was absolutely justified.
Breaking the Boston College shutout record, ironically owned by former Canucks netminder Cory Schneider, Demko bordered on the unbeatable. Despite playing on a very talented squad, Demko left little doubt to his ability by using his size to his advantage and playing a measured and composed game. His side-to-side mobility only adds to the mystique, as he almost appears to be a wall on skates.
Probably assuming the role that Joe Cannata has held with Utica of the AHL the past few seasons, Demko is likely to get eased into the lineup. This isn’t to say he won’t be their starter later in the season, however it would be prudent to allow him to work up to this lofty status. To this scout’s way of thinking, it would take one heck of a training camp to change that.
Though, in fairness, his resumé certainly leaves it as a possibility.
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You can’t help but feel kind of bad for Eric Comrie.
After an excellent WHL career with the Tri-City Americans, Comrie will come back to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League as the likely starter. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is a performance that will be the impetus for future NHL squads to look to acquire the young man.
While Ondrej Pavelec remains a Winnipeg Jet, he is by no means a part of the future. Comrie is in an unattractive position for a goaltender looking to make his mark. Having a decent rookie pro season with a goals-against-average of 3.17 and a save percentage of .907, while putting up 13 wins, the Edmonton native will need to do better if he wants to make a move. With Hellebuyck the goalie of the future in Winnipeg, and Hutchinson as a reliable backup, Comrie could be a very good trade-chip.
With the Jets looking to reintroduce themselves to the post-season this year, low-cost acquisitions would be attractive at the trade deadline. Having a solid goaltending prospect would fare well on the trade market. Were Comrie to make his mark, he could potentially find himself wearing a jersey where his depth chart prospects are much more fortuitious in both the near and long-term.
Only time will tell.
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