Chicago Blackhawks goaltending prospect Corey Crawford was picked 52nd overall in the 2003 Entry Draft. The 20-year-old netminder has played the duration of his junior career with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats. In his time with the Wildcats, Crawford has showed improvement every year and has continued to progress this season, where he has been identified by most QMJHL writers and fans as the best goaltender the league has to offer. The technically strong goaltender is an extremely good positional goaltender, making the most difficult saves look routine by keeping himself square to the puck at all times.
Crawford has demonstrated himself to be a true workhorse between the pipes, starting in a huge number of games over the past several seasons. In 37 games in this, his overage, season, Crawford has posted a 2.28 GAA, accompanying it with an impressive .925 save percentage, both place him second in the league among starting goaltenders. The only bump in Crawford’s season was being handed a five-game suspension for throwing his stick into the crowd during a game in Halifax.
Crawford spoke with HF’s Matt MacInnis following a 2-2 with the Drummondville Voltigeurs on January 29. Crawford stopped 24 of 26 shots on the night as they team managed a tie with three of its four top forwards out of the line-up.
HF: Obviously the team has struggled since Christmas, why do you think this is?
CC: Obvious missing the marquee guys due to injury, and there’s a lot of guys still playing that are injured so that kind of catches up with you. It’s tough too mentally when guys are missing, especially your big guns. But we’ve still been playing hard and giving one hundred percent every night.
HF: I know you’re getting asked about this a lot, but I can’t not ask you about it. What happened with the incident in Halifax, because normally scouts talk about how cool you are.
CC: Oh, it was just an accident. Like, you know, I let go of the stick too late. It’s not as if I intentionally whipped it at the fans or anything.
HF: Who made the decision for you to stay in the QMJHL this season?
CC: The Blackhawks. They called me like a week before I came here and said go back to junior.
HF: You probably know that The Hockey News has you penned in as the QMJHL MVP thus far. What do you think of that, ahead of some of the bigger named guys in the league?
CC: (smiling) Ahead of (Sidney) Crosby? That’s pretty big. Obviously it’s a confidence booster. It’s a big honor to be named like that, especially in the middle of the season considering all the good players that there are in this year. Definitely it’s a confidence booster.
HF: Earlier in the year there were some talks about you being traded because theoretically Moncton was going to be building for next year. How did you deal with that?
CC: Well you know I didn’t really think that. I thought we had a good team coming into this year. Especially with all the guys we had last year and another year of experience. I was feeling really confident about this team. The first half was really good, fell back a bit, but I think we’ll pick it up.
HF: The Wildcats are one of the top teams in the country right now. Do you spend any time following the other leagues to see who you may meet in the Memorial Cup?
CC: Not really. I watch games on TV, on SportsNet here and there. I look in the paper, at stats and stuff, but I’m more focused on our league.
HF: This is your last year in the Q. Where will you be next season?
CC: I’m hoping AHL.
HF: Has Chicago given any indication what their plans are with you?
CC: Well it’s tough to say with the lockout and you never know. They have two young goalies in Norfolk right now. My goal is to sign after the season. It’s really tough with the lockout year, you never know what’s going to happen, or where you’re going to be. It’s really tough to say.
HF: How do you describe your style of play in net?
CC: Well I’m a technical goalie. I rely on power and positioning more than anything else. I feel I have good reflexes too when the time comes.
HF: Is there an NHL goalie right now you’d say you play a similar style to?
CC: That’s tough. Some people say it’s like Marc Denis. Some other people said it was like Roberto Luongo. It’s…I don’t know.
HF: A lot of people are going to compare you to past Q goalies.
CC: Yeah. Bits and parts of those goalies.
HF: The NHL is proposing to restrict goaltenders pads. How much do you think this will effect you as a more technical goalie?
CC: I don’t think it’ll effect all that much. I don’t think it’ll make that much of a difference. The goals that go in that are two inches off, that rarely happens when a goal is just over a pad. I don’t imagine they’re going to go through with it, but I don’t think it’ll effect anything.
HF: You sort of touched on it earlier about how many young goalies the Blackhawks have in their system. Do you think that’ll be an advantage or disadvantage for you, with them all being around a similar age?
CC: Well, I like to compete. The more guys there are, it’s just an opportunity for me to go out and show myself and prove that I can be at that level, even if there are that many goalies.
HF: Do you follow how other Blackhawk prospects are doing in the season?
CC: I haven’t much. I watched (Brent) Seabrook a bit during the World Juniors and (Dave) Bolland for London has been doing pretty good. Other than that I haven’t checked up really.
HF: A lot players I’ve spoken to whether they be on your team or visiting teams this year have identified you as the best goalie in the league. Who do you consider the top goalie in the league?
CC: Well there are a couple of good goalies. I think (Martin) Houle has been one of the top ones the past couple of years. Especially on a team like Cape Breton he’s still one of the top guys. In Quebec there’s always a lot of good ones.
HF: Which three scorers have been the toughest on you this season?
CC: Oh, definitely Crosby. Probably uh (looks at Steve Bernier)
Steve Bernier: (Dany) Roussin!
CC: Roussin. Yeah, Roussin is good too.
HF: (to Bernier) Your good friend!
CC: It’s hard to say. Roussin is good too. (Asking Bernier) Who is from Lewiston?
SB: (Alexandre) Picard?
SB: (Alex) Bourret?
CC: Yeah, Bourret. He’s scored a couple times on me too.
HF: I’m sure playing against this guy (Bernier) in practice helps you too.
CC: Oh yeah, definitely! There’s so many good players it’s hard to choose. Crosby is probably the best.
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