It’s no secret that it’s been a long time since the Leafs have had a good pipeline of goalies. The last home-grown goalie they developed who was NHL-capable was Reimer and Scrivens. Sparks at least made the NHL, but wasn’t great. Ditto Bibeau or Kaskisuo.
They do now have Akhtyamov, who is doing well over in Russia, but outside of him we just have question marks. Woll struggled his rookie year in the AHL, and Ian Scott hasn’t been healthy since the 1920’s.
What can be done to fix this?
Well, Dubas helped by swinging a trade to acquire Veini Vehvilainen from Columbus, who is kind of in the Woll-situation as far as struggling since coming to the AHL but has good numbers in Europe before that.
That can be a hint to what else the Leafs can do. I recently looked at some younger NHL goalies who are interesting to target in the off-season. They should also look at getting some other good goalie prospects into their system, closer to the NHL.
Recently, Tony Ferrari — who is the managing editor and head scout at Dobber Prospects, wrote a nice piece for The Leafs Nation looking at NCAA free agents. He listed three goalies that could be had as free agents:
Strauss Mann, Michigan, 6’0” had a .930 sv% this year and a .939 sv% last year. He’s a shorter goalie, which may explain why he was never drafted despite having strong numbers in the USHL during his draft year. He’s 22 years old now, which is the same age as Joseph Woll. He lacks the size and length of Woll, but Mann is said to be very good at tracking pucks and playing very positionally sound.
Adam Scheel, North Dakota, 6’3” had a .928 sv% this year but just okay numbers the previous two seasons in North Dakota. However, he’s also a year younger than Mann at 21, and also is taller. He won NCHC goalie of the year award for his NCAA conference as well, but there are some concerns that his numbers look good because he played with a very strong team in front of him. I’ll bet you he’s more sought after than Mann, though.
Dryden McKay, Minnesota State, 5’11” is a shorter goalie than even Mann, and older than both of the other two at 23 years old. However, McKay also just stops pucks and always has in the NCAA. His freshman year he had a .927 sv%, then had a .942 sv% last year, and a .930 sv% this year. He is noted to have no weakness as a goalie aside from being shorter, which is good because if you’re not big enough to stop pucks by taking up the whole net, you better be quick, positionally sound, good rebound control, and be able to track pucks and anticipate shots.
Then there are European free agent goalies, like The Monster from days of yore.
Arvid Söderblom, Skelleftea-SHL, 6’3” has a .922 sv% in the SHL this year which is good for 3rd in the entire league. He also had a .924 sv% in the second tier men’s league last year, but before that had not great numbers in the third tier men’s league and a history of mediocre numbers throughout the junior levels. He’s 21 years old until August, and has some good reviews for his play. If he did take a big development leap the past two years, eh could be an interesting option.
Christoffer Rifalk, Rogle-SHL, 6’2” is 24 years old so on the older side, but coming off of back to back seasons in the SHL with a .916 sv% for Rogle, which was 5th best in the SHL this year. His numbers the previous two seasons in the second and third tier men’s leagues were also strong, so he seems to have developed slowly. He’s probably a longer shot to make the NHL, but could be interesting if they miss on everyone else.
Dmitri Shugayev, Severstal Cherepovets-KHL, 6’2” is 22 years old until September, and at any league or level he’s played in he just stops pucks. In 105 MHL games he has a career .923 sv%. In 20 VHL games he has a .941 sv%. In 27 KHL games he has a .917 sv%. Goalie numbers in Russian leagues can be a bit more crazy, but those are good. He’s relatively obscure, maybe because of the teams he’s played for, but that means there isn’t a lot written about him. He’s at least someone to keep an eye out for, once rumours start circulating about him potentially signing an ELC with an NHL team.
Getting one of these top free agent goalies would be a good way to quickly add to their pipeline for next season. Who knows what the minor leagues will be like then, but there’s a chance the ECHL is back. You can split Woll and Scott between the AHL and ECHL, especially since it’s been so long since Scott has played. You can add one of the above goalies to the AHL, or ECHL if you re-sign someone like Hutchinson.
And the Leafs need to draft another good goalie, for the love of god. Akhtyamov is great and all, but they can get others. I’ve mentioned a few goalies in the draft watch lists I’ve published, but there are some others. Vsevolod Skotnikov is a 2001 birthday who went undrafted the last two years despite very strong numbers in the MHL, VHL and KHL. He could be drafted and be closer to coming over to North America.
The point is, Kyle, you’ve done a great job with the rest of the prospect pipeline... it’s time to do something about the goalies.
ONTO THE LINKS
Is a Mikael Granlund trade imminent for the Leafs? | by Jon Steitzer at TLN
Nick Robertson starts skating, Rasmus Sandin close to skating, Leafs prospects in quarantine | by Nick Barden at TLN
Dubas scouting some Canadian teams, including one who is quickly falling further out of the playoffs:
AROUND THE HOCKEY WORLD
What players, coaches say about referees, game management, make up calls | by Rory Boylen at Sportsnet
Thank you, Bobby - Blues legend Bobby Plager passed away Wednesday at age 78. | by St. Louis Game Time
Have a great Thursday!