Top 25 Under 25 - #18 Garret Sparks

Paired with a different jersey, you really get a sense of how ugly Guelph's colours are.

The goaltender continues his quick rise up the countdown, but will he be able to continue his success at the professional level?

Trying to place goaltenders on this list is often best done by throwing darts.

There are so many things about the goaltending position that are complete unkowns to the average fan. Even though a good portion of our panel have a better than average history with the game, the goaltending position is largely a mystery. So where with other prospects, we have a lot more information with which to track and make comparisons about their progress, with goalies we are somewhat in the dark.

For this list, we keep it simple. When a goaltender does good things, they get rewarded. When a goaltender does bad things, they get punished.

So for Garret Sparks, a 7th round pick in 2011, to have rocketed up the rankings a second time, we must see him as having done some good things. Sparks checks in at #18.

The biggest contributing factor to Sparks' rise through these rankings has been consistent improvement. Since being drafted, Sparks has gone from backup goaltender to the Guelph Storm to their starting goaltender to nearly stealing a playoff series against a more powerful opponent to one of the top goalies in the OHL. Each year, his Goals Against decreased while his save percentage rose, peaking in his last season with the Storm with a 2.65 GAA and a .917 Save%.

This year, Sparks moves on to the next challenge he faces on the long road to the NHL. He now faces constant competition for playing time, players that are significantly stronger, faster and better shooters, and greater expectations.

Sparks' rookie season as a professional will almost certainly be less busy than his previous two; with veteran goaltender Drew McIntyre retained as the starter (and 3rd on the Leafs depth chart), Sparks and a young Finn in Christopher Gibson will compete for the backup job with the Marlies. It is entirely possible that Sparks could see playing time in Orlando this season, if the Maple Leafs brass prioritizes getting him as much experience as he can.

However, while this season certainly will be challenging, having a veteran partner as a mentor and another young prospect challenging him for his role could be beneficial in the long term.

clrkaitken birky SteveBurtch Chemmy SkinnyFish BowerPower JP Nikota PPP 67Sound Rank
17 24 14 25 8 20 22 24 19 18

EDITION 2 - 26/41
EDITION 1 - 35/45

A backup goalie of the future... probably for some other team.
SkinnyFish

He had a good season in the OHL, but he looked overmatched in the AHL. He still requires a lot of grooming in the AHL. ETA - 2016
birky

Sparks is the first player on our countdown to appear as a unanimous choice inside the Top 25 (by which I mean all nine voters gave him a rank of 25 or better). What's funny is that despite the fact that he made another big jump up the list, that wasn't the consensus. SkinnyFish vaulted him up 16 spots, and my rankings saw him move up 9. But the four other returning voters pretty much kept him where he was before; up 2 for Nikota, up 1 for PPP, holding for Chemmy, and birky actually dropped him 1 place. The three newcomers all put Sparks in their Top 20s, helping move him up.

Sparks' total of 108 points leaves him well clear of Carter Ashton, and a single point shy of the next spot on our list.

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