By all accounts, this is not necessarily the year you want to be looking for a goaltending prospect. While there are certainly a few players in this class who are going to fit nicely into a team’s goaltending pipeline, there aren’t any that stand out as truly elite at this point. In fact, I would be pretty surprised to see any goalies go in the first two rounds, but that’s based more on the skill level of the skaters in this particular class.
I think that actually makes things a little easier for teams. They can focus on getting the skaters early and see who might be there in the third, fourth or even fifth rounds at the goaltending position. There are some players with enough upside that they might be able to strike gold.
Only one goalie made my top-80 prospect big board, which will drop this week. It wasn’t intentional to leave the goalies off — it’s just how the rankings worked out. Additionally, there is a school of thought that since goalies are so difficult to project, teams should manage risk by waiting to make their selections anyway. I definitely subscribe to that, but I’m always willing to make exceptions. This year there just wasn’t enough in this class to move the needle for me.
Now, I’m certainly not a goaltending expert, but there are some key things I look for in goaltending prospects. Size is the easy one, but if a goalie doesn’t have it, I’m not going to write him off. This year in particular, there are some really good goalies who come in under the 6-foot-3 range that teams seemed to go gaga over in previous years. Quickness is another, but as important as a goalie’s quickness is, I want to see how often that goalie is making it look easy. Does he challenge the shooter enough to take away the net and make the easy save? How well does he keep things in front of him? If he can stretch and make those highlight-reel saves, it’s a bonus, but if he’s doing that a half a dozen times a game, that might suggest other issues.
The most important thing, however, is the part that can’t really be discerned solely by watching a player, though body language helps. I want to know about a goaltender’s calmness in the net. How does he react to goals allowed? What are his next few saves like? What do teammates and coaches say about their confidence in his play? All of that matters. It’s difficult to teach, and some goalies may never learn it, but it’s definitely something I try to identify with outside sources.
So with that, here are my top five goalies for the 2018 NHL draft.
1. Lukas Dostal, Trebic (Czech-2)
Age: 17 | Catch: L | Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 158
20 GP | 2.43 GAA | 0.921 SV % | 2 SO