Prospects can be a difficult thing to rank. They come from all kinds of different leagues, levels and teams. Each position demands different kinds of play. Performances can vary depending on ice time or health. Global pandemics wipe out entire seasons for some. It’s difficult to really project a prospect and how good they may become if all goes well (and it seldom does) compared to guys of different ages and stages in their development.
And then there are goalies. Most people have a difficult time assessing a fully mature goalie in the NHL, much less also factoring in being a prospect and trying to guess how good they may be.
So... Joseph Woll. He’s arguably been the best goalie prospect in the Leafs’ system for most of his time as a Leafs prospect. On the one hand, that’s been a very low bar to clear given how bad the Leafs’ goalie pipeline has been for a long time. The last one to even get a long run in the NHL was Sparks. After that, it was a barren wasteland until this year when both Källgren and Woll got shorter stints.
That’s likely why this year there are two goalies to just crack the top 25. We had Hildeby at 24, and now we have Woll at 23. That’s a sign we may have two decent options for the NHL one day, even if it’s only as backups. But it’s also a sign that none of the voters really trust them.
Let’s dig into Woll a bit more.
Joseph Woll has been around for a long time. Originally a 2016 draft pick, this makes his sixth year of eligibility for the T25U25 — though he hasn’t always been ranked. However, he has often seemed to be at the border of being interesting, with good numbers in the NCAA and time on Team USA in major international events. He finished a three year NCAA career with a .916 sv%.
But after two seasons in the AHL with not great numbers (career .890 sv% in 62 games across three seasons) on not great teams, it seemed like whatever hype he had may have fizzled away. This past season, he saw a bit of an improvement to his stats (.907 sv%). More importantly, he got a taste of NHL action with four games and a .911 sv%, including a shutout. So while his teams have gotten better and he’s gotten older, his stats have been better.
That’s likely a big reason why he once again cracked the top 25 after going unranked last season.
But this does seem like a make or break year for Woll. He’s 24 years old, and will be for all of this coming season. The Leafs are trying to build a better and deeper pipeline of good goalie prospects. With Murray and Samsonov blocking his way to the NHL, while healthy. He’s also going to be competing for the 3rd spot on the depth chart with Erik Källgren, with undrafted free agent signings in Dryden McKay, Keith Petruzzeli and Luke Cavallin wanting to take his spot in the AHL.
With Hildeby, Akthyamov and Peksa over in Europe for maybe another couple of years, suddenly the system seems a bit more crowded.
Will Woll soon be ready for the NHL? He is 24, and a good season in the AHL this year would go a long way to making that more certain in the event of an injury to either Matt Murray or Ilya Samsonov. But another bad or mediocre season and he may see his role in the organization start declining.
Six of the nine voters ranked Woll in their top 25. Only two of them had him better than 20th. I was one of those to not rank him, mostly because I’m swearing off goalies this year unless one of them can blow me away and become one of the best goalies in whatever pro league they play in this year. Junior goalies need not apply.
Woll also needs to stay healthy, which is another common problem for goalie prospects in the Leafs’ system the past few years.
Joseph Woll Votes
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|The Decline and Fall of the Roman Polak||24|
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Here’s what other voters had to say about him:
dhammm: Woll actually saw action with the Leafs this year and played about as competently as you could hope a developing goalie thrust onto NHL ice could. His ceiling is likely that of a back-up, and that’s if he can stay healthy, which has been a big if for his pro career so far, but he’s close to the NHL and that’s not nothing. A season splitting starts with Källgren in which he avoids injury would do well to bump his stock.
Hardev: When it comes to goalies, either they’re established (this has yet to happen) or they have potential, so I often give votes to the younger goalies or the one that have shown themselves rising through their systems; like Hildeby this year. When it comes to Woll, yes he played a couple NHL games, but I think he’s very clearly topped out as an AHL starter-ish. It’s hard to tell where Woll really is in relation to the AHL because the Marlies coaching was so bad defensively, but I don’t think he’s quick enough to stand up to NHLers.
TomK421: The Brick Woll gets the highest goalie vote, almost entirely based on actually having played NHL games. He wasn’t great, he wasn’t awful, but it’s still an accomplishment to make it that far. I think Källgren will be taking the majority of the Marlies starts this season and by the time we do this list again next year he’ll have been passed by Hildeby and McKay on the depth chart as well. Goalies though so hey, who knows!
Katya: I ranked Woll. I’m not even sure why beyond the aura of some emergency NHL starts. I’ve never bought in on him, and it’s always been hard because he’s so personable, so obviously smart, so ready to be in hockey management and be the next Kyle Dubas. I just don’t quite think he’s going to have a glorious NHL career first.
So, do you think Woll can be the real deal? Will he cement himself as the 3rd best goalie in the organization, and next in line as the first callup in the event of an injury? You can vote in the poll about Joe Woll and comment below to let us know.
Who is the best goalie prospect in the Leafs’ system?