August 3, 2020

Uncertainty abounds in 2020 goalie depth

There’s a clear cut hierarchy among the goaltending class in the 2020 NHL Draft.

After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

“After the top-five it gets a little bit messy,” FC Hockey goaltending scout Simon Roulliard said. “There are a lot of possibilities, and whether a team will take a chance on them or not still up in the air. Included in this would be Nick Malik, Brock Gould, Juho Markkanen, Jan Bednar, Garin Bjorklund, Dylan Garand, Calle Clang, Amir Miftakhov, and Will Cranley.

“Of all those names, the ones that I like are Malik, Markkanen and Bjorklund.”

They are the best of the rest, following Iaroslav Askarov‘s first-round expectation, and Joel Blomqvist, Nico Daws, Samuel Hlavaj and Drew Commesso rounding out the best of the rest.

Malik, the No. 110 prospect on FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2020 draft, split the season between HC Frydek-Mistek of the Czech2 league and the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He was also the backup netminder for the Czech national team at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.

“He’s just so competitive,” Roulliard started. “I responded to one of our readers in the FC Hockey Mailbag that Malik could be the steal of the draft in later rounds. I compare him to Petr Mrazek, as they’re both extremely competitive. He never gives up on a play and his commitment to excellence is strong. At the 2018 World Under-17 Challenge he put on a show and in a brief relief at the World Juniors, he didn’t look out place.

“With the Greyhounds, I think he proved he could belong with the best. I’m a fan.”

Markkanen is one of the more under-the-radar prospects in the draft.

He played for SaiPa, mainly in the U20 SM-sarja this season. FCHockey’s 151st-ranked prospect also played two games in the Mestis.

“Markkanen could be a surprise,” Roulliard said. “His decision-making is not always sharp, but as with a lot of Finnish goaltenders, he has sound technical skills and is more advanced than most of his colleagues in the draft. He’s very active in the crease. He can be the guy to make a sprawling save or stay composed and be the backbone of your defense.

“He has quick lateral movement, is very fluid, and he catches the puck very, very well.”

Bjorklund is another favorite of Rouillard’s. The Alberta native came into the season supposed to be the backup for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, but ended up playing 28 games in his first full season in the league. He’s ranked No. 161.

“He’s very athletic goaltender,” Roulliard said. “He’s not overly big but he offsets that with quality reflexes. He can save the day for you and could be among the risers of the draft. I think he has untapped potential. I wouldn’t be afraid to take a flyer on him if I have a late pick, a poor pool of goaltending prospects in my pipeline. Keep an eye on him.

“I’ve even said in two years he could be among the invitees for the World Juniors camp despite the fact the 2021 class looks very strong for Canada.”

In this group, there are also a few goaltenders that Roulliard thinks NHL teams should be wary of heading into the draft.

He noted that those netminders that give him pause are Bednar, Cranley, and Miftakhov.

Starting with Bednar, he split time this season between the Czech and Czech2 leagues, playing the majority in the Czech2.

Ranked No. 155 by FC Hockey, he also backstopped Team Czech Republic at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

“Bednar is a very weird goaltender,” Roulliard said. “He’s almost a throwback from the ‘80s in the way he plays. He challenges shooters way too high. I think his butterfly style can be a positive but can also hurt him at the same time. He goes down on way too many occasions. He needs to add another dimension to his game. To me, he doesn’t look to have a good awareness or anticipation of play. Don’t’ be fooled by his good skating in net.”

The second goalie mentioned is Cranley.

The goaltender for arguably the best team in the entire Canadian Hockey League, the Ottawa 67’s, Cranley came in FC Hockey’s Final ranking at No. 184.

“I think my comparison for Cranley is on point: Mike Condon,” Roulliard declared. “Both don’t have a lot of speed, are not overly athletic, and rely on their reads and positioning to make saves. His best asset is the way he can vacuum up pucks and rarely allow second chances.

“I do wonder if he will ever play pro. If he does, it’s a long shot.”

Another that Roulliard is wary of is Miftakhov.

Playing in the VHL for Bars Kazan, Miftakhov was on everyone’s mind after the 2020 World Juniors where he outplayed Askarov, and helped Team Russia to a silver medal in the tournament.

“So, with Miftakhov, you know he’s coming off that Russian factory that emphases on athleticism, speed and agility in the net,” Roulliard started. “However, his radar is not always on, he is not always able to recognize scoring opportunities surrounding him and can be taken out of position on many occasions. This is a small detail, but he’s an inch too wide on the left, so he has to that make that extra effort to reach the far right side. It’s might mainly due to his very slim frame, which can put him in a tricky spot. His mental side of the game is not very advanced either.

“Overall, to me, there’s just not enough to fall in love with him.”

The 2020 draft, at its core, is one of uncertainty.

Goaltenders are not exempt from this, and may have even more uncertainty around them as they are very difficult to project.

Projecting to where one is taken, to where one will be in his development in five years is tricky at best.

“You just can’t be sure of anything with a goalie,” Rouillard said.

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