Joseph Woll played two games at the 2017 World Junior Championship. He won them both, and the New Year’s Eve game against Canada was not an easy outing for the US, facing the Canadians on home ice.
He’d like a second try at WJC glory, and I’m betting he’d like to be the starter. He might get half of what he wants, as it seems that Team USA might repeat the tandem method they used to win gold this year.
NHL.com has a feature on the goalie choice, and quotes coach Bob Motzko on the 2017 tandem experience.
"We knew we had to get two goalies going because it's a long tournament," he said. "You want to make sure going in that you have two goalies playing minutes, and it's really how they play that dictates the next decision. I think it will be the same type of situation this year.
Right now Woll is making his mark at the World Junior Summer Showcase. After being held out of a lot of the Leafs development camp action because of a minor injury, this is his first serious playing time since his season ended in college. He doesn’t look rusty.
At the WJC, he was behind Tyler Parsons, who played most of the games, including the gold-medal game, and ahead of cross-town NCAA rival Jake Oettinger, who didn’t see game time. Parsons is too old for the WJC now, but Oettinger is now the man who was taken 26th overall by the Dallas Stars at the draft in June.
Woll’s .913 save percentage as a freshman starter at Boston College was good, but Oettinger’s .927 over a similar number of games for Boston University was top ten in all of the NCAA. Oettinger is only five months younger, so he’s a year behind in the draft only, not in his college career.
Team USA is lucky to have two top goalies (and two more rookies nipping at their heels) contesting for the job at the 2018 WJC, but unless an injury or something strange happens between now and January, Woll and Oettinger look to be the duo for the USA.
Who is A and who is B? That age old goalie controversy will haunt Team USA like it does any team that wants to run a tandem.
Both of these goaltenders have gotten some attention recently, some from an unlikely source. USA Today decided to try to find a goalie for the men’s Olympic team. This is going to be a problem, as very few American goalies play in Europe. The other options are AHL-contracted players or NCAA and CHL players. Both Oettinger and Woll made their shortlist, but I’m not sure that is very plausible. They’d need to have a very exciting WJC to get the call.
They also need to get there first, and with Team USA cut down to a single squad now, one of them will likely play today against Sweden.
So far, Woll has been very good, posting a .931 save percentage in the one full game he played yesterday. Unfortunately for the USA, the Canadian split squad they played featured Carter Hart and Michael DiPietro, and they teamed up for a .968 (Hart doing the heavy lifting), and Canada won the game.
The highlights are the goals only, so you can see Woll’s two failures and none of his successes. Who’d be a goalie, anyway?
In the other game featuring the other halves of the split squads, Oettinger registered .917 in a 8-2 blowout over Canada.
But you don’t decide your goalie on one game of save percentage, or even a dozen in this coming NCAA season. You don’t decide on draft position either, but I bet that affects the perception. Team USA will need to keep scouting these two top prospects to decide who is the A and who is the B. And when December comes, we’ll get to see Woll in Buffalo, that’s as certain as it can be right now.
Today, at 4 p.m. USA plays Sweden, and maybe if we’re lucky, Woll will be in net. We will update you on that closer to game time.