Frozen Four-bound Demko top NHL-drafted goaltender in NCAA in 2015-16

By DJ Powers
Thatcher Demko - Boston College

Photo: Boston College goaltender and Vancouver Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko has posted 10 shutouts so far this season, leading all NCAA netminders in that category (courtesy of John Crouch/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

Thirteen drafted goaltenders played in the NCAA in the 2015-16 season. Hockey’s Future takes a closer look at the top five netminders with NHL ties, all of whom were among the nominees for this year’s Mike Richter Award. This ranking is based on season performance, overall developmental progress, and NHL potential.

1. Thatcher Demko, Junior, Boston College (Hockey East)
Drafted: Second round (36th overall) in 2014 by the Vancouver Canucks

 

Thatcher Demko topped this year’s ranking due in part to his remarkable consistency and resilience throughout the season. In addition, he continually fine-tuned all aspects of his game, making him one of the nation’s most reliable and elite goaltenders.

The San Diego, CA native sports a 27-7-4 record that includes an NCAA-best 10 shutouts appearing in all 38 games to date. Demko also is second in the nation with a .936 save percentage. His 27 wins ranks second among all NCAA netminders. Furthermore, his miniscule 1.85 goals-against average is tied for sixth nationally. Most recently, Demko was named a finalist for both the Mike Richter and Hobey Baker Awards. In addition, he was named the Hockey East Co-Player of the Year and earned a spot on the conference’s All-First Team.

From mid-October to early November, Demko posted shutouts in six of the Eagles seven games during that stretch. He posted two or more consecutive losses just once this season, which came during the month of December. Furthermore, he has allowed four or more goals just three times to date. On Jan. 29th versus Notre Dame, Demko set a new Boston College single-season record with his eighth shutout and has since built on that.

One notable area that has made Demko so good this season is how he has been able to adapt his positioning to developing plays. This has enabled him to square up to shooters more effectively and further limit rebounds and second chances. He has also demonstrated an increased willingness to play the puck and possesses great poise when handling it.

Of the five goaltenders on this list, Demko is the only one still playing as he and his Boston College teammates have advanced to the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four.

2. Jamie Phillips, Senior, Michigan Tech University (WCHA)
Drafted: Seventh round (190th overall) in 2012 by the Winnipeg Jets

 

This season has been sort of a tale of two seasons for Jamie Phillips. His senior campaign got off to a rocky start. Then in January, Phillips found his groove again and everything changed. As a result, the Huskies went on a torrid streak, losing just twice in the 2016 calendar year. Unforunately for Phillips and the Huskies, the second loss came in the WCHA Final Five semifinals to Ferris State, ending Western Michigan’s season.

The Caledonia, ON native was one of the nation’s workhorses in 2015-16. He started in 36 of Michigan Tech’s 37 games to and played in all but 59:50 minutes this season. Phillips sported a 23-8-5 record that included three shutouts. His 23 wins ranked sixth nationally, while his .708 winning percentage ranks eighth. Most recently, Phillips was named the WCHA Student-Athlete of the Year and earned a spot on the conference All-Second Team.

While Phillips struggled with his confidence earlier in the season, it is an area that likely won’t be much of a concern going forward. Phillips plays with great composure and demonstrated yet again that he can be clutch in close games.

Phillips possesses great athleticism and positioning, but this season he took those strengths to a new level. This was perhaps most evident in his improved lateral movement, as he was able to push off the posts more quickly. In addition, he vastly improved his post positioning, which further limited opposing players beating him in situations around the net, such as on wraparounds.

3. Cal Petersen, Sophomore, University of Notre Dame (Hockey East)
Drafted: Fifth round (129th overall) in 2013 by the Buffalo Sabres

 

After a stellar freshman campaign, Cal Petersen built on that base as he has matured and developed in a number of areas into one of the NCAA’s rising stars in net.

Petersen finished with a 19-11-7 record that included one shutout. The Waterloo, IA native was one of the nation’s top workhorses, starting all 37 games for the Fighting Irish while playing all but 18:34 minutes this season. Petersen’s 2231:52 minutes played led all NHL-drafted goaltenders and ranks sixth overall nationally.

Two areas Petersen improved this season were his consistency and his added confidence. This was especially evident from Nov. 28th through Feb. 13th where he backstopped Notre Dame to a 12-game undefeated streak. Petersen also excelled in games where he faced a high number of shots, and demonstrated throughout the season that he could consistently give his team an opportunity to win games.

Another area where Petersen improved was his positioning, as he squared up to shooters more quickly and was more aggressive in challenging shooters. These attributes, along with his great ability to track pucks, allowed him to control rebounds better and further limit second and third opportunities.

4. Merrick Madsen, Sophomore, Harvard University (ECAC)
Drafted: Sixth round (162nd overall) in 2013 by the Philadelphia Flyers

 

After seeing playing time in one game as a freshman, Merrick Madsen was the main man between the Crimson pipes this season. Despite struggling a bit at midseason, he was quite consistent overall for Harvard. The Acton, CA native sported an 18-7-3 record that included four shutouts in 28 appearances. His .931 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average both rank in the top 15 nationally.

At 6’5” and 190 pounds, Madsen is one of the biggest goaltenders in the NCAA. He uses his enormous frame quite effectively in covering the net. He plays with a great deal of composure and doesn’t get rattled easily. Madsen is remarkably athletic and does a very good job of economizing his movements. Furthermore, he has begun to show that he can make clutch saves at key times and win games for his team. This was evident during the Shillelagh Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend where he stopped 60 of 61 combined shots en route to being named the tournament MVP.

At times this season, Madsen struggled with controlling rebounds, but it is an area that he improving upon in the season’s second half. Madsen also possesses an excellent glove and is an adept puck-handler.

One of the most underrated aspects of Madsen’s play is his intelligence – he is remarkably smart in reading and reacting to plays, and tracking pucks, both areas that continually improved throughout the 2015-16 season.

5. Eamon McAdam, Junior, Penn State University (Big Ten)
Drafted: Third round (70th overall) in 2013 by the New York Islanders

 

Eamon McAdam was one of several New York Islanders collegiate prospects that made significant steps in their development this season. For McAdam, it was even more impressive considering that he continued to split time with senior Matt Skoff. Most recently, McAdam’s outstanding season earned him a spot on the All-Big Ten Second Team, but more importantly, McAdam’s season earned him his first pro contract after he signed with the Islanders on Mar. 23rd.

The Perkasie, PA native sported a 13-8-1 record that included one shutout playing in 22 games. McAdam’s shutout, the first of his college career, came back on Nov. 29th versus Vermont where he stopped all 30 shots to lead the Nittany Lions to a 4-0 victory. One of his more interesting stats is the fact that McAdam currently co-leads the nation in scoring among goaltenders with three assists.

The most notable area where McAdam vastly improved and was the key to his success this season was the simplification of his game. He did not try to do too much and was not over-handling the puck. Furthermore, he was more patient in standing his ground which resulted in better rebound control and positioning. McAdam played with added confidence, and was more aggressive in challenging shooters.

McAdam was one of the Big Ten’s best puck-handlers and made remarkably good passes. He did a very good job of steering pucks away from the net and was quite confident in simply playing the puck.

Just missing the cut

Sean Maguire (PIT), Senior, Boston University (Hockey East)
Jason Kasdorf (BUF), Senior, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (ECAC)
Evan Cowley (FLA), Junior, University of Denver (NCHC)

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF