The Toronto Maple Leafs have had horrible goaltending since the lockout. This is not up for debate.
The Leafs have tried virtually every possible iteration of obtaining goaltending and have been unsuccessful in coming up with a tandem that can provide them anything resembling league average netminding. The end result has been that no matter how good or bad the team in front of them has been, the subpar goaltending has put the Leafs at a significant disadvantage.
During Brian Burke's tenure, the problem has been exacerbated by relying on the same underachieving and unreliable goaltenders for too long past their shelf life. There also was not much in the way of prospects, especially after Tuukka Rask was foolishly dealt away.
In order to try and solve this problem of no goaltending depth, Burke has been creative. He signed a number of undrafted free agents from college and Europe to populate the team with players further along in their development who might step into roles in the NHL. While thus far the experiment has proven largely unsuccessful, there are signs of progress. Ben Scrivens was incredible in the AHL this past season, and a capable emergency backup last season, and will get a full-time shot in the NHL this year. James Reimer, who many Leaf fans hope to be the real deal, will look to recover from what was in many ways a lost season due to concussion and neck injuries.
There is another goaltending prospect who has been following the same developmental path as Reimer and Scrivens, and who quietly put up impressive numbers that should provide some hope for another gem within the pipeline. Mark Owuya made a seamless transition to North America last season, and the big Swede has impressed us enough to bump him up two spots to #16 on our countdown.
After signing with the Leafs from Djurgarden of the Swedish league, Owuya came across the pond and began his acclimation to the North American pro game. He played the majority of his season with Reading of the ECHL, but injuries to Reimer at the NHL level, and Jussi Rynnas at the AHL level gave him an opportunity to see a good chunk of time at the AHL level. At both levels, Owuya impressed. He tied for the best save percentage in the ECHL (.930 in 25 games), and his .929 SV% in 19 games in the AHL would have placed him 3rd in that league (if he had played enough games to qualify).
Goaltending is far from an inexact science, and there's no NHLe type number that allows us to project his performance in the ECHL or AHL to what we could expect in the AHL. But generally great goalies put up great save percentages as the competition gets less severe. James Reimer and Ben Scrivens both earned full-time promotions to the AHL based on their strong performance in the ECHL and AHL, and Owuya matched or bested their numbers at a younger age or at similar levels of experience.
Reimer's first pro season (21 years old), he posted a combined .909 SV% in the ECHL and .884 in the AHL. He had a .925% in the AHL in his second pro season (as a 22 year old).
Scrivens' first pro season was split between the ECHL where he posted a .938 SV% and the AHL where he had a .924%. However, Scrivens was 24 years old during this season.
Mark In Da Park vaulted from 5th on the depth chart to 3rd in one season. We would expect him to be the starting goaltender this season for the Marlies, or at worst in a tandem situation with Jussi Rynnas. At just 22 years he still has room to grow and if he can continue to build on his success in the previous season, he could very well be challenging for playing time in another season.
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Owuya's potential has clearly impressed a couple of our voters, who have all moved Owuya up a handful of spots into their top half of the countdown, while for others there remains more to be seen. JP Nikota bumped Owuya from 17th to 11th and thinks his play this past season earned the promotion.
It may seem strange to have a player that spent much of his season in the ECHL ranked as high as the eleventh spot, but Mark Owuya had exactly the kind of season he needed to stay in the mix on the Leafs' goaltending depth chart. He did substantially better than Jussi Rynnas this past season in both the ECHL and the AHL, even though Rynnas has, so far, been the more high-profile prospect. I expect Owuya to win the number one goalie job at the Ricoh next season and change that. Heck, if the Leafs are actually going to go with a tandem of Reimer and Scrivens next season, I wouldn't mind seeing Owuya get a game or two with the Leafs when the time comes to replace someone for an injury. I mean, if the Leafs run Reimer and Scrivens, it's unlikely they'll make the playoffs, anyway.
PPP remains unconvinced and actually dropped Owuya from 16th to 22nd, but as he appears to be trapped under something at the moment, you'll have to email him to ask why. Update: I AM FREE! Here are my thoughts:
I can't remember how I did my rankings last year but this year's focus was on how close a player was to helping hte Maple Leafs regardless of ceiling. I'm not sure if this is the best way to do it but I'll wait to see how this year plays out before judging (just kidding, there won't be a season). However, looking at the Leafs' goaltending situation, I might have Owuya ranked too low if Burke decides to go with Reimer and Scrivens. I'd put money he'd get some games in that case but I'm foolishly optimistic that Burke has learned his lesson about goaltending (hahaha just kidding he doesn't learn lessons). Otherwise, he'll just spend the year sharing the net with Jussi Rynnas which is fine.
Brian Burke's strategy of "Building From the Net Out" has certainly been unsuccessful at the NHL level, but he and Francois Allaire have been successful in bringing in young goaltenders and developing them to the point of competing for NHL jobs. After Reimer and Scrivens, Owuya looks to be next in line to follow that path.