NHL Draft Primer: A look at intriguing North American goaltenders available in 2015

By David Hahn
Mackenzie Blackwood - Barrie Colts

Photo: Barrie Colts goaltender and 2015 prospect Mackenzie Blackwood was fourth in wins in the OHL with 33 during the 2014-15 regular season, and he added five more in the 2015 OHL playoffs (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

 

 

There are a number of quality goaltenders available in the 2015 NHL Draft, with a wide range of prospects available with size, maneuverability, and determination. It’s a particularly strong group from North American junior leagues, with the USHL and NAHL well represented. At the top of the list, a pair of QMJHL goaltenders vie for the top spot, while another from the OHL could be the first goaltender to hear his name called in late June.

23. Evan Smith, Austin Bruins (NAHL)
6’6″, 174 pounds, Parker, CO

With his stature and performance this season, Evan Smith is turning heads and climbing up the draft board rapidly. Following an unsuccessful stint with the Victoria Royals in the WHL, Smith wound up with the Austin Bruins, one of the NAHL’s best teams.

He compiled a 12-1-2 record with a 1.73 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. Already drawing comparisons to Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a team take a shot on Smith, giving him time to develop and add size to his frame.

14. Rylan Toth, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
6’1″, 179 pounds, Saskatoon, SK

Just one year removed from playing mid-level midget hockey, Rylan Toth was handed the keys to the Red Deer Rebels crease and never relinquished the job. Toth finished with a 2.84 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage for the season, and was named as February’s Vaughn WHL Goaltender of the Month, guiding the Rebels to five wins where he allowed less than two goals in all of them.

Toth stepped up his game in the playoffs, and was certainly not at fault as the Rebels fell to the Medicine Hat Tigers. Toth finished the playoffs with a sparkling .934 save percentage, showing that he is capable of battling in the face of adversity.

10. Joel Daccord, Cushing Academy (USHS)
6’3″, 190 pounds, North Andover, MA

Many quality goaltenders have been through the Stop It Goaltending School, hosted by Brian Daccord, Joel’s father. The younger Daccord is poised for the NHL after being named as Cushing’s Athlete of the Year, thanks to not only his hockey prowess, but his multi-sport background in soccer and tennis.

On the ice, however, Daccord’s clean butterfly style pushed him to be a standout, especially during showcase events like the Beantown Spring Classic. He is an accomplished goaltender headed to the USHL before going to Arizona State in 2016-17.

5. Matej Tomek, Topeka Roadrunners (NAHL)
6’3″, 181 pounds, Bratislava, SVK

Matej Tomek stands tall as one of most highly regarded prospects to come out of the NAHL this season. Tomek left his native Slovakia in an effort to gain exposure, and that decision sure paid off.

Tomek compiled a record of 24-7-0 with a 1.83 goals-against average, a .928 save percentage, and finished second in the NAHL with six shutouts. It was a banner year for Tomek, who is a throwback goaltender who has the requisite talent to be among the first goaltenders off the board. Tomek will head to the University of North Dakota next season.

4. Adin Hill, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
6’3″, 185 pounds, Calgary, AB

Adin Hill patiently awaited his chance to earn playing time in Portland behind WHL veterans Corbin Boes and Brendan Burke, the latter of whom was traded to make room for Hill. The athletic goaltender rewarded that decision by finishing the season with a .921 save percentage, the highest mark in the WHL.

Portland has long been known as a team that churns out offensive talent, but it’s Hill’s underrated ability to steal games that really was their catalyst. In the playoffs, Hill led Portland deep into the third round, where the team fell to eventual WHL champion, the Kelowna Rockets. Hill’s confidence in net exuded naturally, which wore off on his teammates and helped to elevate their games as well, traits that NHL scouts gravitate towards.

3. Samuel Montembeault, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
6’3″, 165 pounds, Quebec, QC

The well-poised and consistent Samuel Montembeault has battled fellow QMJHL draft-eligible Callum Booth for top billing as the best goaltender from the league. He reads plays effectively, and has incredible lower-body reflexes that resulted in numerous highlight reel saves.

He will certainly need to fill out, but Montembeault projects as a top option for the NHL Draft thanks to his calm nature in net. He had the second-best goals-against average this season, finishing with a 2.59 mark. The Armada fell apart in the playoffs, and Montembeault was left hanging on a number of occasions. Despite the setback, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Montembeault off the board in the first 100 picks.

2. Callum Booth, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
6’3″, 196 pounds, Montreal, QC

Booth began the year as the incumbent starter for Quebec, but Zach Fucale’s arrival severely limited his playing time. He finished the season with a 3.05 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. It would have been nice to see Booth get a shot to be a starter in the playoffs, but his time is coming.

Booth covers the bottom of the net better than most, but is susceptible to giving up an odd goal over his shoulders, which may have been why the Memorial Cup host team decided to upgrade. Booth still is a quality goaltender and worthy of a look, perhaps as early as the second round.

1. Mackenzie Blackwood, Barrie Colts (OHL)
6’4″, 205 pounds, Thunder Bay, ON

The 2015 NHL Draft first round will be littered with skaters, but if any goaltender has a chance to sneak into the first round, it’s Mackenzie Blackwood. Blackwood struggled with consistency this season, but when he is on, he is a significant challenge for any opposition.

Blackwood has consistently improved in the OHL, and reacts well through traffic and when challenged from sharp angles. One trait that scouts are enamored with is his ability to look ahead and worry about the next shot, instead of focusing so much on why he gave up a goal. He plays the puck very well, and is capable of directing play from behind the net or making an outlet pass himself. Blackwood is the consensus top goaltender available, so it will be a treat to watch his development for a surging Colts squad.

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