The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed college free agent Ben Scrivens from Cornell University of the ECAC. Brian Burke famously said that he learned to never be caught short of goaltending. Last year he failed to heed his own words and paid the price for it. This year he has already signed the coveted Jussi Rynnäs from under the nose of teams like the Stars and the Oilers and now he has picked up Ben Scrivens despite interest from the Philadelphia Flyers. As per TSN, he will be competing with Jussi and James Reimer for a spot on the Toronto Marlies with the loser going to the Royal Readings in the ECHL I guess. Worst case scenario MLSE invests in some advanced medical technologies and build one great goalie out of the spare parts.
Scrivens has put up some mind-boggling numbers at Cornell, home of Ken Dryden, although that should be tempered by the knowledge that David LeNeveu did the same and never amounted to a hill of beans. As well, as Chemmy notes endlessly, the ECAC is known as the EZ-AC because it is not traditionally one of the good conferences in the NCAA. Not to mention that the common knock against Cornell's goalies is that they are products of a highly defensive system. Still, with numbers like those below, there's nothing to lose in giving out a one-year entry level contract.
We're waiting to hear from HockeyJoeGM who follows the ECAC closely. Once he wakes up we'll slot his thoughts in here. In the meantime David Hutchison of InGoal Magazine has a good look at Scrivens' accomplishments which, to put it mildly, are impressive:
His record as one the the NCAA all-time greats is clear – currently fourth in career shutouts, with 18, and second in consecutive games started, with 103. He will also finish in the top 10 in career save percentage and goals-against average.
He sums up his piece with a plea for a team to give Scrivens a shot which turns out to be incredibly prescient:
But why not take a chance? The cost is nothing more than a contract – no draft picks to give up. Surely a team that lacks depth in goal but is cash rich – Hello Toronto! – would give this kid a shot.
Despite being eliminated in the first round of theNCAA tournament in a 6-2 loss to the University of No Hardware, sorry New Hampshire, Scrivens was still named to the All-American Second Team. He also won the Ken Dryden award as the ECAC's best goalie. Scrivens' teammates clearly appreciate the solid goaltending that he provided. Here's one example:
Cornell teammate Nick D'Agostino on Ben Scrivens: "He's unbelievable, he was easily the best goalie in the nation."
In addition to a great mask which features the Cornell tradition of reading newspapers when the opposing lineup is announced, I am sure that Brian Burke appreciated his truculence in protecting his crease.
Update: HockeyJoeGM wrote a ton about Scrivens. Be sure to check out his blog for more NCAA hockey and general NHL info.
So you're a little excited about Ben Scrivens and his awesome goaltending numbers from college and think you might have another diamond in the rough here. And here I am waltzing in to take a dump in the punch bowl to tell you that while his numbers are astounding, there's a chant that started to work it's way through the ranks at some of the smarter places through college hockey when it came to Ben Scrivens:
I know, these accusations seem baseless and twinged with bitterness coming from someone that follows RPI hockey closer than just about anything and that's fair, you can say that all you want to... But here's a great question for you: Who's the last good NHL goalie to come out of Cornell? Care to guess who you'd have to answer to be right and to mock their fanbase? It's Ken Dryden from back in the late 60s and early 70s. I'm serious here.
Check out the names and statistics from these previous "incredible" Cornell goalies and I'll also share where their careers peaked.
2000-2001 Matt Underhill 13-8-3 1.88 GAA .928 SV%
2001-2002 Matt Underhill 14-6-1 1.80 GAA .922 SV%
Dave LeNeveu 11-2-1 1.50 GAA .936 SV%
2002-2003 Dave LeNeveu 28-3-1 1.20 GAA .940 SV% (Cornell lost in Frozen Four semifinals to UNH)
2003-2004 David McKee 16-10-6 1.84 GAA .920 SV%
2004-2005 David McKee 27-5-3 1.24 GAA .947 SV%
2005-2006 David McKee 22-9-4 2.08 GAA .910 SV%
That covers the years preceding Ben Scrivens' arrival in Ithaca. For what it's worth, the guy Scrivens split time with his freshman year was brutally bad (yes, even behind that system) and Scrivens quickly took him over.
As for where these "holy shit this is amazing give them the Hobey Baker" goalies careers peaked, well...
Matt Underhill got a cup of coffee in the AHL with Providence and St. John's when they were a Leafs affiliate. He spent the bulk of his career in the ECHL with Florence, Mississippi and Alaska.
Dave LeNeveu is the "most successful" of the bunch as he made it to the NHL, playing some time for the Coyotes (21 games in his career) and put up some very Toskala-like numbers with a GAA near four and a save percentage below .900. Note that he got out of Cornell when the getting was good, bolting the program after his incredible sophomore season. He spent a few years in the AHL and was last seen playing for Salzburg in the Austrain pro league.
David McKee went to the ECHL after graduating Cornell, playing for Augusta. His numbers were dramatically worse than they were in college and after getting a handful of games to play in the AHL, soon returned to the ECHL. This past season, he was last spotted playing for the Allen Americans in Texas in the CHL.
All this means to tell you is that while you're excited to bring in a goalie who was a two-time Hobey Baker top ten finalist who put up some gaudy numbers in college, just remember how his college career ended once he was outside the confines of the ECAC. He was lit up by New Hampshire in the NCAAs where his weaknesses were exposed badly. If ever there was a harbinger of what was to come, that was it.
Repeat after me: In Rynnäs we trust.
Courtesy of the official site, here's a longer video of highlights of Ben Scrivens tending goal for the Cornell Big Red.