It’s not a deep pool, but when it comes to NHL-drafted goaltenders in the OHL, quantity takes a back seat to quality.
The OHL is graced by two elite netminders atop the rankings, another one knocking on that lofty door, one middling prospect, and a potentially quality prospect who, unfortunately, has to take an incomplete grade due to an injury.
1. Jake Paterson – Kitchener Rangers (DET)
Chosen in the third round (80th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft
After spending parts of five seasons with the Saginaw Spirit, the overaged Jake Paterson was traded to the Kitchener Rangers in an attempt to shore up their playoff chances (despite those same Rangers trading their two top scorers in earlier deals).
Since joining the Rangers, Paterson has been the All-World junior goaltender that he’s been known to be. In 18 games with the Rangers, he’s posted a 2.38 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage — numbers that are markedly better than his 3.48/.905 split with the Spirit in 24 games to start the season.
Paterson is one of the few goalies in the league who can regularly steal a game. He’s proving it again keeping Kitchener in playoff contention.
2. Alex Nedeljkovic – Plymouth Whalers (CAR)
Chosen in the second round (37th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft
The Parma, OH native has played in 45 games and has faced a veritable barrage of shots. Only Justin Nichols has faced more and he’s played in five more games.
Nedeljkovic’s goals-against average is significantly higher than his previous two seasons (3.14 as opposed to 2.88 and 2.28), and his 17-24-4 record pales in comparison to his rookie campaign where he went 19-2-2. His save percentage is .914 (again, down from last year’s .925), but he’s been doing this in the face of a rebuilding Whalers’ franchise that had been mired in transfer rumors all season — rumors that proved true when the club announced that it was moving to Flint, MI.
On a team in transition and turmoil, Alex Nedeljkovic has been the one constant foundational rock that has kept things from crumbling.
3. Brandon Halverson – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (NYR)
Chosen in the second round (59th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft
In his first year as a starter, the 6’4”, 180-pound Traverse City, MI native has backstopped the Soo Greyhounds to first place in the OHL’s Western Conference and has them primed for a lengthy run in the OHL playoffs.
In a league that is known for leaning on goalies old enough to drink (note: the legal drinking age in Ontario is 19), it’s impressive that Halverson is shouldering such a burden when he won’t be able to down his first legal beer until the end of March.
Brandon Halverson has played well and often is overlooked due to the strength of the team that he plays behind. But he’s stood tall when called upon and has been a steadying presence on a championship-caliber Greyhound squad. And he’s the primary reason why the Greyhounds project to be very competitive next season despite the anticipated loss of so many premier players.
4. Brent Moran – Niagara IceDogs (DAL)
Chosen in the fourth round (115th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft
Relegated to backup duty with the arrival by trade of overager Brandon Hope, the 6’3” Brent Moran has not inspired a great deal of confidence in his play. With a middling 3.51 goals-against average and .892 save percentage, the 18-year-old netminder is progressing slowly. After posting a 3.85 goals-against last season in 40 games, more was hoped for from the Dallas Stars’ prospect.
The veteran Hope will be gone next season so Moran will have to step up and prove that he can be the man between the pipes for Niagara. The IceDogs are poised to be an interesting, potentially noise-making, presence in the postseason, though it’s still up in the air as to how much Moran will play.
5. Spencer Martin – Mississauga Steelheads (COL)
Chosen in the third round (63rd overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft
Martin’s season ended prematurely this year when he suffered a knee injury just before Christmas. Prior to that, he had been playing relatively well, with a 15-13-1 record in 31 games, behind a .921 save percentage and 2.98 goals-against average.
Despite the injury, Martin’s earned the reputation of being a workhorse goaltender, appearing in 64 games last season and getting the bulk of the workload this year before his Dec. 21st injury.
Follow Jason Menard on Twitter via @JayCMenard