June 20, 2023

Ranking the top goalies of the 2023 NHL Draft class

At first glimpse, the 2023 NHL Draft might look a little weak between the pipes.

There’s no standout goaltender that’s a surefire first-round bet. There’s not even a general consensus on who the top goalie prospect is. And there’s certainly not, at this stage, a franchise-altering goaltender that’s guaranteed to turn the tides of a team.

But what the 2023 draft lacks in high-end, blue-chip prospects, there’s certainly no shortage of candidates with one or two standout traits that could, with the right combination of development and timing, turn into something special down the road.

“I think this goaltending draft class is shaping up to be one of the more interesting in recent years and may provide more questions than answers,” FCHockey goaltending scout Shaun Richardson said. “I love the fact that there is no clear-cut frontrunner, but the good thing is that there’s a little something for everyone depending on what you value.

“The only thing this draft class doesn’t provide is a guarantee. I can see a future where several of these players fill key roles for their organizations and become high-end No. 1 goaltenders. However, I can also see a future that is filled with unrealized potential. Those two possibilities are not uncommon when you’re trying to project where a goaltender might be years from now, every draft class is like this but perhaps this draft class more so than others.”

Recent history shows that teams haven’t been shy to stock up on tenders at the draft. In the five previous editions, there’s been an average of 22 goalies selected, including seven in the top-100 – roughly the first three rounds, give or take.

Here’s a look at the goaltending position at the NHL Draft, in recent history:

2022: 7 in the top 100, 16 in the top 200. 20 taken overall.
2021: 7 in the top 100, 16 in the top 200. 20 taken overall.
2020: 7 in the top 100, 18 in the top 200. 20 taken overall.
2019: 9 in the top 100, 19 in the top 200. 22 taken overall.
2018: 6 in the top 100, 24 in the top 200. 29 taken overall.

Here’s a look at the top-10 candidates to go at the 2023 draft, as projected by FCHockey’s goalie scouting staff of Richardson and Kellen Eyre:

2023 NHL Draft Guide A

Carson Bjarnason | Brandon (WHL) | 6’3″ | 186
47 GP | 3.08 GAA | .900 SV% | 3 SO
FCHockey rank: 49

Carson Bjarnason is a promising goaltender, demonstrating attributes that should translate well to the NHL. His hybrid style, quick moves around the crease, and proficient up-down movements make him stand out. He’s calm and patient during offensive plays, managing to maintain strong post play and puck control. His wide stance does present a challenge for puck tracking, but it’s instrumental to his impressive butterfly technique, offering balance and control. We’ve seen a notable uptick in Bjarnason’s athleticism, successfully challenging shooters despite his hand movements needing a speed boost. He could benefit from refining his pre-shot stance to better handle high-zone pucks. Bjarnason has immense potential—possibly being a top NHL goalie or forming a dynamic duo with another player. His large frame and assertive style make him commanding in the butterfly position, effectively protecting the top net. Although he’s had some hiccups with glove-side puck control, overall, he’s a strong contender for the top goalie spot in the 2023 draft. Bjarnason’s composed presence in the crease, consistent saves, and efficiency in post play, combined with his effective blocking style, underline his potential for NHL success. That said, he could improve his lateral movement and glove control.

Scout’s quote: “Bjarnason was a breath of fresh air for an otherwise less than average Wheat Kings team. Over the course of the season, I saw great strides in his athleticism, puck-tracking and hand speed. There is a lot to like about his development track and long-term projection.” – Richardson

Trey Augustine | USA U18 (NTDP) | 6’1″ | 183
26 GP | 2.32 GAA | .922 SV% | 1 SO
FCHockey rank: 55

Trey Augustine is a standout goalie, packing in athleticism and a pro-active butterfly style. He’s got a keen eye for tracking pucks and sizing up offensive plays, challenging shooters like a pro. He’s quick and accurate around the crease, and his pre-shot prep is patient and focused. Even though he can whip up a save on the fly, he leans more towards a structured game. He might be just 6-foot-1, but his quick lateral moves and active hands make up for it. As shots come in, he shifts from an upright to a compact stance, maintaining control even when stretching out. He could do better with rebound control and puck playing, but overall, Augustine’s a promising prospect for the 2023 draft thanks to his athleticism and cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor.

Scout’s quote: “Augustine is as smooth as silk and has elite level lateral mobility. The ease at which he navigates the crease immediately jumps out at you. Combine that with a patient, technical skill set and the ability to stay puck centered while moving, and you have an extremely solid base to build on.” – Richardson

Michael Hrabal | Omaha (USHL) | 6’6″ | 209
31 GP | 2.86 GAA | .908 SV% | 3 SO
FCHockey rank: 61

Michael Hrabal has some impressive components to his game, using his towering height to block the shooter’s line of sight for the twine. He’s great at tracking pucks and snuffing out low-risk shots but struggles a bit with high-danger ones. His movements around the crease are accurate but not super-fast. His big size makes quick butterfly mobility tough, so he plays deep in his net, but that sometimes opens up gaps in his defense. As a butterfly-style goalie, he stays big in the net, but he tends to lower his glove and blocker, leaving the top corners open. His size does give him a clear view over traffic in front of the net, though. His rebound control is decent but can get messy. He’s got some issues with wide-angle shots and catching pucks, but his huge frame, natural composure, and smart play make him an ideal goalie. He’s got some work, but has some promise as well.

Scout’s quote: “When Hrabal is on his game he is almost impenetrable but when he’s forced to make quick lateral movements it takes a lot for him to get up to speed and reposition. I see Hrabal as a guy who may need a longer development path but there could be a pot of gold at the end of that journey.” – Richardson

Jacob Fowler | Youngstown (USHL) | 6’1″ | 212
38 GP | 2.35 GAA | .919 SV% | 5 SO
FCHockey rank: 71

Jacob Fowler is a hybrid-style goalie with a quiet, upright stance, and is known for his excellent puck tracking, solid rebound control, and top-notch timing. Amongst this class, he’s got stellar lateral movement, always keeping square to the shooter and staying in position. He sets up shop at the top of his crease, reading shot threats like a pro and getting to his spots early. He’s smooth in his movements, with hiccups coming mostly from quick adjustments that open up his form. Fowler plays deep in his crease, so his lateral moves are fast over short distances. He’s patient and in control near his posts, and only uses his RVH when needed. Fowler’s great at rebound control and tracking the puck through traffic without losing his positioning. He’s not a whiz outside the crease, but he’s reliable at stopping rims and setting up pucks for his defensemen. Fowler’s a top goalie prospect thanks to his controlled movements, solid positioning, and super puck tracking.

Scout’s quote: “Everybody loves to add a winner to their lineup, and that’s exactly what Fowler is. I really like his on-ice IQ and ability to read the attack and respond with the appropriate save selections.” – Richardson

Adam Gajan | Chippewa (NAHL) | 6’3″ | 167
34 GP | 2.57 GAA | .917 SV% | 1 SO
FCHockey rank: 76

Adam Gajan, running through the draft a second time, boasts prototypical size and a hybrid style, pairing athleticism with speedy lateral movements. He cuts down the net aggressively, limits shooting space, and hustles around his crease, actively tracking pucks. His stance is broad, and his high glove showcases a controlled butterfly style. He seals the ice quickly and his rebound control is solid, despite some blocker-side stiffness. However, his hunched-over stance can leave the net’s top more open than it should be for a tall goalie. He’s not great at puckhandling either, but can stop rims and set the puck up for his defense. He occasionally gets a bit wild, sliding past the play and off his angles, but his VH and RVH techniques are good. Despite needing some tweaks, Gajan’s hardworking attitude and ability to block shots make him a goalie to keep an eye on.

Scout’s quote: “Gajan might be the most athletic goaltender in the class. I look at him like a quarterback who likes to make things happen with his feet rather than take a seven-step drop and stay in the pocket. He has a willingness to venture far from his crease to play the puck amidst a pressure forecheck and the ice water running through his veins to thread a pass between opponents to a teammate.” – Richardson

Scott Ratzlaff | Seattle (WHL) | 6’1″ | 175
34 GP | 2.15 GAA | .918 SV% | 5 SO
FCHockey rank: 81

Scott Ratzlaff is a high-stakes performer with an athletic, upright stance and patient play style. His economy of movement in his hybrid-style approach and excellent positioning ensure he stays square to the shooter, rarely opening up or sliding past. His compact stance helps him keep a clear line of sight to the puck, and his rebound control is impressive. Despite slightly weak puck-playing skills and a blocker side that needs work, Ratzlaff is dedicated to continual improvement. His headiness under pressure, superb positioning, and sharp reflexes make him a solid prospect for the upcoming draft. His skill set and commitment to development make him a reliable and resilient goalie worth checking out.

Scout’s quote: “He’s the most intriguing goalie in the draft class for me as he has the most potential if he hits. His level increases as the stage gets bigger. Extremely calm and confident in his ability.” – Eyre

Carsen Musser | USA U18 (NTDP ) | 6’4″ | 215
25 GP | 3.17 GAA | .890 SV% | 0 SO
FCHockey rank: 93

Carsen Musser is a tall goalie who usually plays from a butterfly stance, and he uses his size to block shots and cut down angles. Although not the fastest mover, he stays focused on the puck and slides well. His rebound control could be better, but he’s good at recovering for second saves. The main concern is he drops too early, exposing the top of his net. And, his height creates larger holes when his stance isn’t tight. To improve, he’ll need more active hands and better reactionary saves. While his size might make him a coveted pick, the NHL’s emphasis on quick movements could make him a later-round choice. Requiring considerable development, Musser’s potential lies in addressing his vulnerabilities. With the right support, he could develop into a valuable NHL asset.

Scout’s quote: “Musser is extremely raw, but has the size that every team looks for in a goaltender. Biggest asset other than size is his ability to track the puck. Has a lot of time to develop as he committed to Colorado College.” – Eyre

Yegor Zavragin | Khanty-Mansiysk (MHL) | 6’3″ | 183
21 GP | 2.49 GAA | .920 SV% | 1 SO
FCHockey rank: 98

Yegor Zavragin, a hybrid goalie, sports a wide-legged, compact stance, favoring his agility in the crease. His pre-shot prep and solid puck tracking ensure he’s square to shooters and well-placed. His standout trait is patience, waiting out shooters and maintaining his stance. He’s also lauded for his quick lateral moves, sliding post-to-post with impressive speed. Despite occasional struggles with rebounds and puck control, his first-save ability is commendable. Despite needing some polish, his potential is evident. With the right development, Zavragin could become one of the top goalies out of this class, making him an intriguing prospect for teams looking for a talented keeper.

Scout’s quote: “He combines good size with above average agility. Zavragin is still very raw but has a ton of potential. He’ll be a nice pick if he taps into even 80% of his potential.” – Eyre

Riley Mercer | Drummondville (QMJHL) | 6’2″ | 203
47 GP | 3.07 GAA | .902 SV% | 1 SO
FCHockey rank: 122

Riley Mercer is a dynamic hybrid-style goalie. With active hands and speedy footwork, he cuts an imposing figure in the net, making life hard for shooters. His lateral mobility is a highlight – he sticks with the puck, even when dragged across the crease. His puck tracking is top-notch, always staying focused and square to the shooter. He excels in transitioning from the butterfly position back to his feet and resetting his position, effectively managing his outward depth. While his mobility is commendable, he tends to hold the RVH position longer than expected. His hand-eye coordination is stellar, and his glove reactions are impressive. Mercer’s game screams confidence and focus, making him a solid prospect for teams seeking a reliable goalie.

Scout’s quote: “Athleticism and power come to mind when I see Mercer play. Rather than barging through the front door, Mercer seems to be sneaking more into the draft conversation, but this guy has a ton of potential and the team that selects him could look pretty clever a few years down the road.” – Richardson

Ian Blomqvist | Vasteras (Allsvenskan) | 6’3″ | 187
17 GP | 2.97 GAA | .904 SV% | 1 SO
FCHockey rank: 138

Ian Blomquist, in his final year of eligibility, showcases notable size and skills. His calm demeanor and fluid mobility, particularly when he drops to his butterfly, combined with excellent puck-tracking ability, stand out. He maintains a tall pre-shot stance, efficiently navigating around traffic and tracking pucks. His maturity balances out criticism of lacking a standout skill. Despite concerns over his reverse-vertical-horizontal technique, Blomquist comfortably transitions in and out of post play. His situational reading and use of overlap technique are admirable. His glove work and speed to spots need improvement, as they can lead to soft goals and overcompensation on opposite-direction passes. Despite his age, Blomquist’s ongoing improvement and potential as a depth piece make him a valuable prospect for the 2023 draft.

Scout’s quote: “Blomquist has a well-rounded game but what impresses me most is how smooth he is. He has a great stance and glides through the crease like he’s floating on air. As one of the more seasoned goaltenders available you can see Blomquist’s maturity in how he adjusts his positioning and tracks the play.” – Richardson

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