Goalies, voodoo, etc.

I'm not going to pretend to be anything like a goalie scout. I know nothing of their mechanics, I don't know what to look for outside of the basic stats that are available in every league – wins, GAA, save percentage, shutouts, etc.

But, there are some other things I picked up when I tried to analyze the draft history/origins for NHL goalies a few years ago:

Myth Busters: Do you have to draft goalies in the first round?
Goalies are voodoo, but to get an elite one you have to roll the dice at some point

You can read the list of conclusions I drew from that, but some of the main things include: goalies that have any pro experience in their draft year at all, even if it's just one game or two, are more likely to turn into useful NHL goalies. Even if their stats in their pro stints are terrible, the fact that they're getting to that level at their young age is itself a good sign.

The other big one is that North American goalies, especially Canadian ones in the CHL, suck big time. They have been lagging behind European and even American goalies for a while now.

All that said, here are some of the goalie prospects in this year's draft that I've come to like. I am not limiting myself to only guys who are eligible for the NHL draft for the first time. I will include some re-entries as well. This year's crop of goalie prospects is... okay. There's no one that is vying to be a potential first rounder, no super hyped guys like the Askarov or Wallstedt years.

Evan Gardner

  • League(s): WHL
  • Height: 6'2"
  • Weight: 174 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jan 25, 2006

I just talked shit about CHL goalies, and here I am saying that my favourite goalie in this year's draft is a Canadian goalie in the CHL. My liking him may be a byproduct of me seeing him a lot, since he played on Saskatoon and was teammates with Fraser Minten and Brandon Lisowsky.

Gardner had a great season. He started as the backup making his WHL debut, and wound up stealing the starter spot by the end of the season and into the playoffs. He had a 21-5-0 record, with a .927 sv% and four shutouts. That save percentage was the best in the entire WHL, and it wasn't close – the second best goalie had a .919 sv%. Come the playoffs, Saskatoon did go with their established guy to start, but gave it to Gardner after they lost their first game. He took it and ran, and was a big reason why Saskatoon hung in with the eventual WHL champions through seven games and six overtimes.

Again, I'm not a goalie guy. But to me he looks quick, has good positioning, and when he's on he looks like he's playing on easy mode. Even when he isn't sharp, he looks like he can battle through it and have a good game, and make some big saves. He is not ranked anywhere but one public scouting outlet that I've seen, and NHL Central Scouting had him as the 7th best goalie in North America. If he's available come the middle or even later rounds, I'd swing on him if I swing on anyone.

Pavel Moysevich

  • League(s): VHL / KHL
  • Height: 6'5"
  • Weight: 176 lbs
  • Birthdate: Sep 29, 2004

Moysevich is the first re-entry goalie on this list. He's very big – 6'5" but only 176 lbs, making him almost as tall as Hildeby but a lot lankier. His late 2004 birthday makes him pretty old for a goalie prospect, but technically only in his D+1 season. What's enticing about him is that he is one of those goalies who has had pro experience, even in his first draft eligible season.

From Belarus, Moysevich has been playing in Russia's system for years. Last year, he got into four games in the VHL. This year, he played the entirety of the regular season in either the VHL (.927 sv% in 19 games) or the KHL (.942 sv% in 13 games). He had the same save percentage in the VHL as Artur Akhtyamov, but he's 3 years younger. He had the very best save percentage in the KHL among goalies of all ages who played in at least 10 games. He finished the year playing in the MHL playoffs, after his KHL team was eliminated. He had a .946 sv% to help SKA-1946 St. Petersburg win the MHL championship.

A goalie with that much pro experience as a 19 year old is a good sign, especially since he broke into the pros on one of the deepest, most powerful teams in Russia. He may take longer to come over to North America as a result of that, but honestly with his size and track record the past two seasons, and good scouting reports for his speed and reflexes in the crease, and I'm surprised he doesn't have more hype from scouting outlets. He is ranked as the 4th best goalie in Europe by NHL Central Scouting, but he hasn't made it on any public lists – including Bob McKenzie's top 95. Him maybe being available in the 4th or 5th rounds would be a perfect spot to snap him up.

Ilya Nabokov

  • League(s): KHL
  • Height: 6'1"
  • Weight: 179 lbs
  • Birthdate: Mar 27, 2003

Nabokov is another re-entry in Russia, but is about 1.5 years older than Moysevich and is now already 21 years old. On the other hand, he's about 1.5 years younger than Akhtyamov, but he already has a longer and better track record in the KHL. He's listed as 6'1" so he's small for a goalie, but he was a breakout star in the KHL this season becoming the main starter for the KHL champions, Metallurg Magnitogorsk. He played in 43 games and had a .930 sv% in the regular season, then won the KHL playoff MVP with a .942 sv% and 4 shutouts in 23 playoff games. He ranks second on the NHL Central Scouting list for European goalies.

Since he doesn't have the size to rely on taking up as much space in the net as someone like Moysevich, Nabokov makes his stops by being both quick in the crease, being athletic and explosive when he needs to be, but otherwise calm and smart positionally. Among the other main starting goalies in the KHL, Nabokov had the 4th best save percentage. He'd be a bit more of a gamble as a goalie prospect, but I think he'd also be more likely to fall to the later rounds where Toronto has a lot of picks this year.

Marcus Gidlöf

  • League(s): Sweden U20 / SHL
  • Height: 6'6"
  • Weight: 212 lbs
  • Birthdate: Sep 28, 2005

Hey, the last time Toronto drafted a 6'6" behemoth goalie out of Sweden, we all came to love Hildebeast! Unlike him, Gidlöf is not a re-entry – his late 2005 birthday makes him one of the oldest first time draft eligible prospects, but he's still a couple of years younger than Hildeby was when Toronto drafted him. So he has more room for his development before he even gets to the same point.

The advantage of Gidlöf is that, despite being younger, he got into one SHL game. Even that one game is a good signal for his future, and it also helps that he led the entire U20 junior league in Sweden with a .923 sv%. He does look like a younger Hildeby with the way he moves around in the crease and makes saves, though I haven't watched him all that much. He was listed as the 10th best goalie prospect in Europe by NHL Central Scouting, but like others on this list has not been ranked by any public outlet. If he's available in the 7th round, when Toronto has two picks, I'd swing on him.

Eemil Vinni

  • League(s): Mestis
  • Height: 6'2"
  • Weight: 185 lbs
  • Birthdate: Dec 18, 2005

Vinni is likely the top Finnish goalie in this draft. He has a late 2005 birthday, so like Gidlöf he's on the older side for the first time draft eligible goalies this year. But he also has a lot more pro experience under his belt. He made his Liiga debut in Finland last year, playing in two games. This year, he was loaned to a team in the Mestis league, which is Finland's second tier pro league. He played his whole season there, including 37 regular season games and 7 playoff games. He has also been Finland's main goalie in international tournaments the past few years, where he's done pretty well considering Finland in his age group has not been a real powerhouse country.

Vinni has an average size for a goalie, but he's been a somewhat hyped goalie for the past two seasons that I've seen. In some scouting reports I've read of him, he gets good marks for his speed in the crease and his technique/mechanics. I've also seen reports say when he struggles it is because he loses the discipline of staying in his butterfly and starts looking wild in the crease. Sounds about right, couldn't tell you if this is simple youth and immaturity that he can easily fix in time or if its a glaring flaw! He may be one of the goalies taken first.

Kim Saarinen

  • League(s): Finland U18 / Finland U20 / Liiga
  • Height: 6'4"
  • Weight: 181 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jul 22, 2006

Saarinen is a goalie from Finland I like a bit more, though not for much reason you can hang your hat on. He's bigger than Vinni at 6'4" and he's seven months younger too. He doesn't have as much pro experience, but did get into two Liiga games this season after putting up the second best sv% of all goalies at the U20 junior league in Finland. Because he's a 2006 birthday, he was also part of Finland's U18 roster for the big tournaments like the Hlinka, Five Nations Cup, and World U18s. He seems to have been used initially as the backup, but has good stats against weaker teams, while Finland rested their main starter.

From scouting reports I've read, Saarinen gets good marks for his quickness, reflexes and good rebound control. He does not come out of his mechanics and look wild, like Vinni. His issues seem more to do with tracking pucks through traffic and not having his angles right when facing shots. So sounds like an issue with positioning, but take that for what it's worth.

Martin Haronik

  • League(s): Slovakia U20 / Slovakia2 (second tier pro)
  • Height: 6'5"
  • Weight: 205 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jul 26, 2006

Haronik was one of Slovakia's top young goalies this year. He played in 7 games in their U20 junior league, where he had very strong numbers. He also played in 18 combined games in Slovakia's second tier pro league – see above for how playing at all at a pro league as a draft year goalie is a good sign. On the international front, he in a 1A/1B goalie situation for Slovakia's U18 teams with another guy. Whether he was the 1A or the 1B seemed to change from tournament to tournament. His numbers don't look rosy, but none of their goalies did – Slovakia's U18 age group this year was not very strong.

From what I can tell in his scouting reports, Haronik has the kind of size you'd like for a goalie where he takes up a lot of the net just by sitting still. It sounds like his skating is a bit wonky, so he's not the most mobile in the crease. That can cause issues when he gets nervous happy feet, so he can get caught out of position at times. But he is generally getting good marks for using his size well, and keeping his movements calm and simple. If he can improve his mobility and refine his positioning, he has all the tools to be a solid goalie.

Mikus Vecvanags

  • League(s): Latvia U18 / Latvia Pro
  • Height: 6'3"
  • Weight: 159 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jan 17, 2006

Vecvanags is a bit more unusual, in terms of his path as a goalie prospect. He's from Latvia, and has split his time over the past 4-5 years between Latvia's junior/pro system and Sweden. This year, he returned to Latvia and played 8 games in their U18 junior leagues, but played the bulk of the season in their second tier (16 games) and top tier (9 games) pro leagues. He even got into three playoff games at the top pro league.

Again, the fact that he's playing so many games in a pro league is meaningful to me. Even if Latvia's pro league is not at the level of Russia, Sweden, Finland, or even Switzerland, that's still true for me. He also seems to have been Latvia's main goalie in international play, being used as their main starter at the World U18s, where he had respectable numbers for a team that was greatly outmatched by most of their opponents.

Scouting wise, he gets very strong reviews for his general positioning and being square to the shooters. He also gets good marks for his rebound control, getting the description of him "swallowing" pucks instead of bouncing off him back into dangerous areas. On the bad side, like others mentioned above he also got noted for his weaknesses in his vision and tracking of play when things get messy around him.

Christian Kirsch

  • League(s): Swiss U20
  • Height: 6'4"
  • Weight: 190 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jun 18, 2006

Kirsch is a bigger goalie from Switzerland with dual citizenship with Germany. He plays for Switzerland's international teams, and in their junior system. He's been Switzerland's main starting goalie in all their international play, including at the Hlinka, the Five Nations, the World U18s, and other miscellaneous games or tournaments. His numbers don't look great, but honestly compared to other goalies on the lower ranked countries they look pretty good. In Switzerland's junior league, they don't even have save percentage as a stat to use because they don't keep track of shots – at least not that I can see. But he did lead the league in wins, and helped his team win the U20 league championship.

Kirsch is actually set to join the USHL next year, with a commitment to UMass in the NCAA starting in the 2025/26 season. That will make for a much better assessment of his abilities than in a hard to watch junior league that doesn't have great statistics. Scouting wise, he gets good marks for his use of his size and length, his quickness in the crease, and his discipline in the use of the butterfly. Though the same scout also said he may rely on the butterfly too much and it affects his reaction time on some shots, so who knows! I sure don't. But he sounds neat, maybe as a late round pick.

Kam Hendrickson

  • League(s): US Minnesota High School / USHL
  • Height: 6'2"
  • Weight: 185 lbs
  • Birthdate: Jan 9, 2006

Hendrickson is an interesting one. He played mostly in Minnesota high school this year, with a 7 game stint in the USHL. Among his peers in high school, he had the best save percentage (.951 in 29 games) while being one of the most heavily played goalies. He was the captain of his team, his team was not a traditional powerhouse in the high school circuit, and by some accounts he was the main reason they were as good as they were this season and made some of the big tournaments at the end of the year. For reference, they defeated the top seeded team in their circuit who were 25-1-2 on the season. Hendrickson stopped 44 of 45 shots in that game. They made it all the way to the Minnesota State High School Championship tournament, where they lost in the final game. He won numerous awards for US high school goalies, including best goalie by his high school circuit, and first team goalie for all of US high school.

To finish the year, Hendrickson got into 7 games for Omaha in the USHL. Omaha was the worst team in the league by 12 points. Their main goalie for the season, Mikhail Yegorov, is getting some hype as one of the better goalies in this draft by some scouts. He had a .892 sv% in 43 games while facing 30+ shots per game. Hendrickson, for comparison, faced around 38 shots per game and had a .924 sv% in that short stint. So it is a small sample, but all he's done is stop pucks.

As far as what scouts say, Hendrickson gets good reviews for his movement and athleticism. One called him one of the fastest post-to-post movers in the crease, and calls him aggressive with his butterfly. He also is referred to as high competitive, never giving up on plays and being able to make some incredible recovery saves off second chances, rebounds, deflections, and so on. On the negative side, he is apparently not great at rebound control – maybe why he's had to be so good at recovery saves. He also is said to have a weak blocker, which I'll have to just accept at face value.

So Hendrickson's situation is a bit weird. He was the top goalie in high school, but not in the top prep school circuit that has the likes of Shattuck St Mary's. Minnesota is definitely up there, but high school is still a weaker league for competition. He got into part of one game for Team USA at the Hlinka last summer, so he is good enough to be on their radar – but they don't take their top roster including US NTDP players for that tournament. He has quite good numbers in the USHL, but only a small sample. He also is, as of now, not committed to any NCAA team so his future progression is not known. His stats and profile do sound intriguing as a late round guy.

Thanks for reading!

I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, NCAA, USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, The Athletic, and more.

Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!

PPP Leafs Runs on Your Subscriptions

Consider making a commitment today.

Support PPP