McDonald, Fucale the upper tier among NHL-drafted QMJHL goaltenders

By Chris Roberts
Zach Fucale - Team Canada - IIHF 2015 World Junior Tournament

Photo: Quebec Remparts goaltender and Montreal Canadiens prospect Zach Fucale was the starter in 5 of 7 games for the gold medal-winning Team Canada squad at the 2015 World Junior Championship (courtesy of Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

 

There are just six NHL-drafted goaltenders playing in the QMJHL this season, a relatively low number for the league once known for producing some of the top goaltenders in the NHL. At most, there is three netminders with some combination of pedigree and talent, while the others are unlikely to advance far in pro hockey.

1. Mason McDonald, Charlottetown Islanders
Drafted: 2nd round, 34th overall, 2014 (CGY)

At 6’4 and 186 pounds, it isn’t hard to see why McDonald was the first goaltender selected in the 2014 NHL Draft. The Halifax native had a size advantage over most of his 18-year-old counterparts and, after a mid-season trade from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan last year, posted a solid .907 save percentage in 16 games with Charlottetown.

It has been an up-and-down 2014-15 season for both McDonald and his Islanders teammates, but, over the long run, the lanky netminder has been one of the league’s best. His goals-against average – 3.07 – is seventh-best among QMJHL goaltenders, while his .906 save percentage is third-best in the league. McDonald’s season got off to a great start, and in the month of October he posted a .915 save percentage. His save percentage the next two months was .886 and .900, but in January McDonald posted his first shutout to go along with a 2.30 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. He’ll likely be a candidate for the Canadian World Junior team next year with Zach Fucale and Eric Comrie no longer eligible.

2. Zach Fucale, Quebec Remparts
Drafted: 2nd round, 36th overall, 2013 (MTL)

Fucale certainly has a higher profile than Mason McDonald, but the former Canadian World Junior goaltender has struggled this season in the QMJHL. Prior to joining a bulked-up Remparts line-up for a playoff push, Fucale was performing admirably for a middling Halifax Mooseheads team, posting a 13-9-2 record to go along with a 3.20 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage.

But he hasn’t quite provided Quebec with the quality of goaltending expected. Fucale owns a 7-5 record since the trade, but has posted a .872 save percentage during that time. The acquisition of Fucale pushed 17-year-old Callum Booth to the backup position, but Booth’s numbers look much better than Fucale’s across the board.

3. Philippe Desrosiers, Rimouski Oceanic
Drafted: 2nd round, 54th overall, 2013 (DAL)

Playing for one of the top teams in the CHL has been beneficial for Desrosiers’ numbers this season, but the goaltender has helped steal some games when required. He has four shutouts in 38 games this season and has also given up just one goal on four occasions.

He has been fairly consistent throughout the 2014-15 season, but February was by far his best month. After giving up just nine goals in his first four games, Desrosiers ended the month by recording back-to-back shutouts, stopping all 44 shots he faced. He doesn’t quite have the international pedigree that Fucale has, but, on a night-to-night basis in the QMJHL, Desrosiers is neck-and-neck with the Montreal Canadiens‘ goaltending prospect.

4. Alexandre Belanger, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Drafted: 7th round, 200th overall, 2013 (MIN)

Owning a sub-.900 save percentage over the past four seasons in the QMJHL, the numbers aren’t necessarily kind to Alexandre Belanger. However, the 19-year-old was traded to Cape Breton prior to the deadline and has provided stable goaltending for the surging club. In 12 appearances, Belanger is 6-5 with a .899 save percentage and a 3.17 goals-against average. He has one shutout this season, which was recorded with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

The problem with Belanger all season has been his consistency. He surrendered two goals or less in 18 of his 31 starts, but has given up more than four goals in 10 appearances. Given the lack of goaltending depth in Iowa (AHL), Belanger may yet be offered an NHL contract by the Minnesota Wild before June.

5. Anthony Brodeur, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Drafted: 7th round, 208th overall, 2013 (NJD)

Despite a solid rookie season with Gatineau in 2013-14, Anthony Brodeur has been among the bottom tier of QMJHL goaltenders this season. The 2.90 goals-against average he posted in 2012-13 ballooned to 3.72 in 16 games with the Olympiques this season. He was traded to Drummondville before the deadline, but not much has changed.

Through 12 starts with the Voltiguers, Brodeur has a 2-5-1 record with a 3.73 goals-against average and a .887 save percentage. The Voltigeurs are one of the league’s weaker teams, but Broduer hasn’t even done enough to steal starts from undrafted New Jersey native Joe Fleschler; in fact, Brodeur has given up 24 goals over his last six appearances.

Follow Chris Roberts on Twitter via @ChrisRoberts_7