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Top ranked goalies at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft

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Where do the top goalies fit into the expected draft order this year?

2017 Memorial Cup - Championship
Nothing raises your draft profile like hoisting a cup three weeks before.
Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Nearly all of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft discussion this year, as in most others, is about skaters. The goalies usually get ignored.

NHL Central Scouting ranks goaltenders in two separate lists. One for players in North American leagues and one for European leagues, just as they do for skaters. Fitting the goalies into a combined draft ranking is very difficult. The job of comparing a forward in the Liiga with a defeceman in the WHL seems tame compared to trying to rate either next to a goalie.

Travis Yost looked at drafting goalies last year and said this:

That brings us to goaltenders, which are far and away the most unpredictable. I think there are many reasons for this – I attribute a good portion of the blame to frequent changes in positional development, poor statistical measurements and generally poor scouting. But again, whatever theory you subscribe to, it doesn’t change reality: We as a hockey community, from general managers to fans, have done an exceedingly poor job at differentiating between skill sets of NHL-bound goalies.

I don’t subscribe to the “goalies are voodoo” idea that the position is just inherently unpredictable and unknowable. I also think unadjusted all-situations save percentage, the single statistic available most of the time, is nearly useless compared to qualified scouting. However, I also agree with Yost that most scouts are simply poorly equipped to judge goaltending. The common belief that goaltenders take longer to develop is one I’m not convinced of. Truer, perhaps, to say that goaltenders take longer to get an NHL starter’s job.

Yost also compiled a “bust rate” for all positions.

This should remind us of two things: the overwhelming majority of players taken in the third round or later never play in the NHL, most second rounders don’t, and the historical drafting record of goalies in the first round is very poor.

Yost concludes that one should never draft a goalie early, other than an obvious sure thing, because the risk is too high. That is not how I would apply those statistics. I would say that unless your team prioritizes goalie scouting in a meaningful and effective way, don’t draft goalies early or maybe even at all.

There is no early first round, can’t miss, sure thing goalie in this year’s draft. But many teams, especially the Maple Leafs, have very weak goalie depth and will be looking to address that need somewhere in the draft. The Leafs have one prospect outside of their three Marlies goalies — last year’s 62nd pick, Joseph Woll.

European Goalies

The top three European goalies on the NHL’s list this year are likely to go in the draft before the late rounds.

2017 NHL CS European Goalies - top three

NHL CS Ranking Name Height Weight 2016/17 Team League Save %
NHL CS Ranking Name Height Weight 2016/17 Team League Save %
1 Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen 6'4" 196 HPK J20 Finland J20 0.917
2 Olle Eriksson Ek 6'2" 183 Färjestad BK J20 Sweden J20 0.924
3 Adam Åhman 6'0" 163 HV71 J20 Sweden J20 0.927

Luukkonen is ranked 40th by Future Considerations (the only recently updated public list that goes deep enough to be of use here), Eriksson Ek is 73 and Åhman is not ranked in their top 100.

Bob McKenzie’s January list had Luukkonen at 40, Daniil Tarasov at 52 and Eriksson Ek as an honourable mention outside the top 80. Tarasov was ranked third on the NHL list at that time, and has since fallen to 10th.

North American Goalies

There are more North American goalies ranked in the top rounds, and more than one might go in the first round.

2017 NHL CS North American Goalies - top 5

NHL CS Ranking Name Height Weight 2016/17 Team League Save %
NHL CS Ranking Name Height Weight 2016/17 Team League Save %
1 Jake Oettinger 6' 4" 212 Boston Univ. NCAA 0.927
2 Keith Petruzzelli 6' 5" 180 Muskegon Lumberjacks USHL 0.918
3 Ian Scott 6' 3" 172 Prince Alber Raiders WHL 0.895
4 Michael DiPietro 6' 0" 200 Windsor Spitfires OHL 0.917
5 Stuart Skinner 6' 3" 205 Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL 0.905

Oettinger seems to be most people’s choice of top goalie in the draft, although DiPietro has the most buzz right now. Future Considerations has Oettinger 28th and McKenzie has him 25th, but many other rankers have him outside the first round.

Petruzzelli is ranked 78th by FC, but 41st by McKenzie. McKenzie had Ian Scott at 40th, while FC had him at 60th, so there is divergence there from the NHL rankings as well as from each other.

DiPietro is a name on everyone’s lips right now because he just won the Memorial Cup (and no, he’s no relation to Rick DiPietro), so he might shoot up in rankings. One tournament shouldn’t do that, but it often does. FC already has him at 25th, ahead of Oettinger, but McKenzie has him at 49th, below Cayden Primeau, who has dropped to seventh on the NHL’s newer list.

Skinner is at 57th on McKenzie’s list and 81 on FC’s.

McKenzie also had Maksim Zhukov in at 62, while FC has him at 90. NHL Central Scouting has him now at nine, down from five earlier. He’s a N.A. Goalie, despite the name.

Conclusion

It’s not unusual for player outside the top round to be ranked far apart on various lists. This isn’t unique to goalies. Outside of Oettinger and DiPietro, none of these players are likely to go in the first round, and those two might drop as well. It depends who is picking and what they think their best use of the pick is.

DiPietro, Åhman and even Eriksson Ek may drop due to their height.

The Leafs, with their pick at 59, might want to consider the best goalie available still, if they think they have the scouting department who can tell them who that is. Their next choice after that is their fourth round pick, so picking a goalie there would need to come from very extensive scouting and a lot of luck as the historical bust rate for fourth round goalies is nearly 90%.