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Drafting and developing goalies hasn't really been something the Toronto Maple Leafs have been into for a long time. The last goalie they drafted and developed in their own system that became an NHL regular was James Reimer in 2006. The year before they drafted Tuukka Rask, but decided he wasn't their guy when faced with the decision to keep Rask or Justin Pogge. Yeah.

After James Reimer we have to go back 16 years before they picked another goalie who would become a household name, when they picked Felix Potvin 31st overall in 1990.

That makes only two goalies they Maple Leafs have drafted and developed for themselves in nearly a quarter century. They thought they hit a couple times recently; Garrett Sparks pitched a shutout in his first NHL game and won a Calder Cup with the Marlies before fizzling out. Ian Scott was considered a good chance to make it, but injuries forced an early retirement on him. Everyone else? Traded, got a few games, or never came to the NHL.

Now, we have Joseph Woll.

Joseph Woll Vitals
Age as of July 1 24.97
Position G
Height 6'3"
Weight (lbs) 203
Shoots L
Draft Year 2016
Draft Number 62

The Player

Drafted with the first pick of the third round, and like other picks that year he was overshadowed by the arrival of Auston Matthews. He was at the back of our minds as NCAA players often are, and he spent three seasons at Boston College before turning pro. He joined the Toronto Marlies for the 2019-20 season, where he platooned with Kasimir Kaskisuo. Since then he's played 11 regular season NHL games and four playoff games for the Maple Leafs. You would expect his AHL playing time to be the bulk of his experience, but injuries and pandemics have made it hard to get back to the 32 AHL games played from his rookie season.

2019-20: 32 GP - Rookie season
2020-21: 15GP - Covid ended season
2021-22: 15GP - Shoulder & Ankle injuries
2022-23: 21GP - Shoulder & Ankle injuries continued

Joseph Woll makes long-awaited return to Marlies after being out almost eight months
“It’s been a long time coming.” Nearly eight months to the day, Jos…

What we've seen of Woll in one season of play hasn't been enough to get a real understanding of him as a goalie. Factor in rotating defenders in front of him in the AHL as well and the numbers on his stat sheet fluctuate more than the numbers on my bathroom scale.

So, what becomes of Woll this season? My assumption was he would back up Samsonov with Murray expected to be on LTIR for the start or entire season. Now they've signed Martin Jones. That's changed my mind on this. With Jones' NHL experience I think he's been chosen as the back up. Woll will probably get the chance to be the starting goalie for the Marlies, and hopefully play more than 30 games this season. Or, Jones and Woll will get a lot of pre-season opportunities to take the job from the other. It's not often the back up goalie choice is the big story of training camp, but that may be it this year.

Before we get to who we think Joseph Woll is, let's look at the votes.

Voter Vote
adam 3
Brian 7
Hardev 3
Cathy 6
Catch-67 8
Species 4
dhammm 6
Zone Entry 5
bballgordie 3
The Bag 3
Weighted Average 4.8
Max Vote 8
Min Vote 3

I ranked him third myself because it's a bit of a tossup among the group making spots 2-5. He has NHL experience, even if some of it was desperation because Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov were injured. I wasn't the only one to have him up high, Hardev and TheBag and bballgordie all agreed with me, so clearly majority rules.

He ranged from 3rd to 8th, and everyone else can explain their thinking.

Brian: I was one of the lowest on Woll, because I want some more proof he can be a capable NHL backup. I don’t entirely buy single seasons from any goalie, especially when the rest of their careers at their level were just meh. Show me another good year in the NHL and I’ll start believing it wasn’t a flash in the pan.

dhammm: All I know right now is Joseph Woll is an NHL goalie of some description. He ended the season strong, so it might be tough to recall he began the season on the mend from yet another injury, this time requiring surgery. Whether he's going to develop into a starter or whether he'll eke out a career as a capable backup remains to be seen. It's a nice little story for the Leafs, who were getting carved this time last year for not drafting or developing goalies, and a helpful reminder that a player can countenance rotten injury luck and still come out the other side as a capable player.

Cathy: Who even is this guy? I have never ranked him in any T25, and I don’t actually think that’s wrong. A 10-game stretch in the NHL can make any basic AHLer look like a star, and it can also reveal a goalie of some level of NHL ability. What is Woll? “Some goalies are just bad in the AHL because, whaaaa whaaa whaa.” Sure, okay. Just cause. Gimmee the list, okay? He’s obviously very smart, very dedicated, a lot better when he’s not injured, and I still wonder if he should be ranked below Akhtyamov! I’m throwing my hands up. I tried to place every player above him I could plausibly put there after I cringed at my first ranking of second. I’m too dazzled by the scale of the uncertainty to make a decision here.

Zone Entry: Joseph Woll contributed more than any other player to the system I devised for coming up with my rankings, because I kept bouncing back and forth on where to put him, and whenever I tried a new formula, I’d see where that put Woll to see if I was happy with it.  I scored him high on NHL potential, and being one of our most critical prospects at this time (given how hard it is to acquire good goaltending at a reasonable cost), and then scored him a big round zero for Projectability, because even by goalie standards it’s hard to predict his future with any confidence. I was tempted to put him at #2, though, solely on the strength of “with which player would it sting the most if he became a superstar for another team?”

Catch-67: I really don’t buy that Woll’s going to be a great NHL contributor long term. Sparks looked pretty good in his first call-up, and he had won awards for his AHL play. That said, goalies make no sense, and I’ll admit that I felt more confident with him in net last season than I thought I would. Because of those games, I moved him back and forth in my list a bunch of times, trying to figure out where I could reasonably put him. Anyway, I hope he outplays Jones in the preseason for the backup spot, and I’m happy to be wrong on this one. Plus I remember him playing ping pong in Kaskisuo’s 2020 playoff bubble vlogs, and he seemed like a very likable guy. 

Species: I can't believe I'm ranking a goalie this high at all, and it's Joe Woll? He impressed me last season and he definitely earned that AHL All-Star nod. I'm going with the momentum pick here; if he can keep up the pace of his development into an NHL-calibre goalie then we have a hidden gem here. I'm going for the high return, but also high risk ranking placing him at #4, it will either be my big gloat, or my big regret in the list this round. One thing certain now is that he's going to have the opportunity this season to prove to all of us what he really can do.

The Bag: Woll is a goalie I’ve never particularly believed in, and I’m evidently not alone. Even when he was a younger prospect, the Smart Money was to put him behind Ian Scott. Anyway, a fun thing to do is to go to and look at which goalies during the regular season last year a) played more games than Woll and b) had better Goals Saved Above Expected/60 results than Woll. Yes, it was only 7 NHL games, but…they were very good! In those 7 games, Woll put up nearly 1 WAR (again, I’m ranking these players based on expected value above replacement while they are with the Leafs. He’s already delivered real value, and I can’t say he won’t do it again. Even if he never plays another NHL game, he will have had more on-ice value to the Leafs than most players on this list. Just ask yourself: if he weren’t a goalie—if we were talking about any other prospect on this list coming in at the end of a season and having two stellar weeks, what would we say about them?

Joseph Woll. A rare diamond of a Leafs draft pick or just another grain of sand in the beach of Maple Leafs goalie whiffs?

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