That changed quickly when the Calgary Flames selected Mason McDonald of the Charlottetown Islanders in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the fourth pick of the second round, setting off a run on goalies which saw four goalies taken in a span of six picks.
The New York Rangers added Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds goaltender Brandon Halverson with the next-to-last pick of the second round (59th overall) as a total of five of the 21 goalies taken in the draft were selected in that round. The 21 goaltenders chosen was the same number chosen at the 2013 NHL Draft.
“I knew once one team took a goalie that it would kind of go like that,” said McDonald. “I didn’t know that many in so little picks would happen, but it happened and it’s kind of cool.”
McDonald was ranked second amongst North American goalies behind Demko heading into the draft but impressed Calgary scouts both with his play for the bronze medal-winning Canada team at the 2014 U18 World Championship and in a recent Hockey Canada camp.
“I was a little surprised. I knew I had a chance at it but I wasn’t sure that it was going to happen,” said McDonald of being the first goalie taken. “When it happened I was relieved and really happy about that. I guess they really wanted me. I’m really happy to be picked by them.”
With the Calgary goaltending situation in a state of flux the past few seasons it would appear that McDonald could have an opportunity sooner rather than later.
“I know that they went into last year, they had no idea who was going to be the starting goalie,” McDonald said. “They traded (Reto) Berra at the deadline. I know they have a few goalies there now. I’m not looking at next year I’m looking at being the goalie there down the road in a few years time.”
With McDonald off the board the Canucks wasted little time in snagging Demko two players later with the 36th overall pick.
“Since I lived in Boston this last year I’ve seen him play like 10 or 12 times, so I got a lot of good views of him,” said new Canucks general manager Jim Benning. “We feel that we’re going to develop him properly but we feel he can be a goaltender that you can win with. We’re excited to get him where we did.”
Ironically, the old regime in Vancouver traded former Boston College goalie Cory Schneider to New Jersey last year.
“I don’t,” said Demko, when asked if he knows BC alum Schneider at all. “He works out at BC during the summer so I’ve kind of been in the same room as him a couple of times. He kind of skates and leaves his gear in the room so I’m seeing him once in a while. He seems like a good guy. He’s always talking to some of the players we have now. I’l just kind of ask him about the organization.”
Demko, who won a silver medal with the USA U18 team in 2013, jumped into the lineup for Boston College as a freshman as the Eagles won the regular season Hockey East title and were one of the top-ranked teams in the country for much of the season.
“It wasn’t too bad,” he said when asked about being the youngest player on the team. “My teammates and coaches just treated me like another guy. I didn’t feel like the youngest guy in the room. They just treated me like another player. I just kind of fit right in.”
Demko enjoyed this visit to the Wells Fargo Center much more than his previous trip — when Boston College lost to eventual national champion Union College in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals in April.
“I didn’t have great luck in Philly the first time,” smiled the California native when one of the writers brought that up. “Luckily it’s going a little bit better this go round.”
Nedeljkovic was a workhorse for the Whalers, appearing in 61 games during the regular season where he posted a 1.84 goals-against average in six games at the 2014 U18 World Championship as Team USA captured the gold medal.
“It was an incredible season,” said Nedeljkovic of his season with the Whalers. “We got off to a little shaky start but as the season went on the guys got used to each other and I got better as it went on. We got better as a team and I think that it was just an incredible learning season for everybody all around.”
Both the Hurricanes and Whalers are owned by Peter Karmanos, Jr., with Nedeljkovic having special praise for Plymouth head coach Mike Vellucci in getting him to this point.
“I can’t say enough about Coach Vellucci. He’ s done a lot for me the past two years being in Plymouth,” said Nedeljkovic. “I don’t know how much of a say he had in picking me, but for whatever he did it’s been awesome the past two years. I wouldn’t be here without what he’s done with me.”
The Washington Capitals selected the first international goalie two picks later, grabbing Vitek Vanecek from the Liberec junior team in the Czech Republic. The Capitals traded with the Buffalo Sabres to move up for the purpose of landing Vanecek.
Vanecek was rated the eighth-best international goalie in the final Central Scouting rankings. He played for the Czech Republic U19 team at the World Junior A Challenge in Canada and was also the Czech U18 goalie at both the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and 2014 U18 World Championship tournaments. The Czech Republic lost to the USA 5-2 in the gold medal game at the U18 with Vanecek posting a 2.74 goals-against and .897 save percentage.
Halverson was the first of two goalies selected by the Rangers in the 2014 draft as they also added goalie Igor Shesterkin from the Spartak junior team in the fourth round (118th overall). Clearly, Henrik Lundqvist, who backstopped New York to the Stanley Cup finals against Los Angeles, is not leaving New York anytime soon but there is no heir apparent in the Rangers’ system.
This year’s draft was the second straight in which no goalie was taken in the first round, but the five goalies selected in the second round marked the most goalies taken in the first two rounds of a draft since 2008.
In 2008, the Nashville Predators selected Chet Pickard 18th overall and Detroit selected Tom McCollum with the final pick of the first round, followed by four goalies being chosen in the second round. The fact that none of those six is an established starter in the NHL yet indicates how tricky it can be selecting goalies early.
In terms of NHL games played, Braden Holtby, a fourth round pick by Washington that year, is the leader with 105 while Nashville seventh-round pick Anders Lindback, now with the Lightning, has played 85 NHL games.
Lundqvist, incidentally, was a seventh-round pick and the 205th player taken in the 2000 NHL Draft. In that same draft, Rick DiPietro was the first overall selection (by the New York Islanders) and the Calgary Flames selected Calgary Hitmen goalie Brent Krahn ninth overall.
Follow Tony Piscotta on Twitter via @HockeyNJ12