Penguins goaltending pipeline

By Alan Saunders





Between the pipes for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005-06 and beyond








At the
start of the 2005-06 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins will
have two goaltenders under one-way contracts.  They acquired 30-year-old Jocelyn Thibault
during the offseason from Chicago, and have 25-year-old Sebastian Caron as well.  The Pens let 2003-04 starter
Jean-Sebastian Aubin become a free agent. Beyond the
tandem above, the Penguins have several young prospects waiting in the wings.

 

Marc-Andre Fleury,
Drafted 1st overall – 2003 NHL Entry Draft

 

Marc-Andre Fleury is the goaltender of the future for Pittsburgh.  He will start the 2005-06 season third on the organization’s depth chart at
goaltender, following Thibault and Caron.  Expect Fleury
to compete for a roster spot during training camp.  This forces the
Penguins to either keep three goalies, trade Caron, or decide to give Fleury another year in the AHL.

 

Fleury has
a tall frame at 6’2 and long arms that allow him to be in proper position to
make a quick save.  He also has
great poise when he is being crowded from the front of his net, but has been
known to give up weak goals occasionally.


 

In 2004-05,
he played the bulk of the season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
(AHL) Penguins, and though he had only at .901 save percentage and 2.52 GAA, he
set new team records for wins, shutouts, and games played.  However, when it came to playoff time,
his GAA ballooned to 4.36 and Andy
Chiodo
and Dany Sabourin
replaced him.  This is a trend that
has been present throughout his career.

 

Season

Team

League

W-L-T

GAA

SPCT

2000 – 01

Cape Breton

QMJHL

12-13-2

4.05

.886

2001 – 02

Cape Breton

QMJHL

26-14-8

2.78

.915

2002 – 03

Cape Breton

QMJHL

17-24-6

3.36

.910

2003 – 04

Cape Breton

QMJHL

8-1-1

1.98

.933

 

Pittsburgh

NHL

4-14-2

3.64

.896

2004 – 05

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

AHL

26-19-4

2.52

.901

 

In 2003-04,
Fleury made Pittsburgh’s
roster out of the gates during his first season a pro, but struggled and
received little defensive help.  He
was sent back to his junior team in a move that was monetarily motivated.  Fleury
performed exceptionally well while playing for Team Canada in the 2003-04 WJC
until the infamous gold medal game when he conceded three third period goals to
drop the game 4-3 to Team USA .  He
had a record of 4-1 and a GAA of 1.81.

 

Perhaps
another year of being the starter in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
will help the development of this young prospect.  Along with 2004 second overall pick
Evgeni Malkin and 2005 first overall pick Sidney Crosby, Fleury
is poised to become a fixture in a very talented Penguins locker room.

 

Andy Chiodo, Drafted 199th
overall – 2003 NHL Entry Draft

 

Andy Chiodo
has been a nice surprise for the Penguins, adding much needed depth in their
system behind fellow 2003 draft choice Fleury.  He will begin 2005-06 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. 
He will either be the everyday starter, if Fleury
makes the Pittsburgh
lineup, or he will back Fleury up.  This will be Chiodo’s third season as a
pro after spending his junior career with Toronto St. Michael’s of the OHL.

 

In 2004-05,
he split time between the WBS Penguins and the Wheeling Nailers
of the ECHL, so that he could get more playing time.  As a rookie in 2003-04, he made eight
NHL appearances, where he went 3-4-1 with a 3.46 GAA.  He finished his season as the starter
for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s playoff run.

 

Season

Team

League

W-L-T

GAA

SPCT

2003-04

Wheeling

ECHL

0-2-0

6.26

.786

2003-04

WBS

AHL

18-19-2

2.40

.908

2003-04

Pittsburgh

NHL

3-4-1

3.46

.892

2004
Playoffs

WBS

AHL

 

2.18

 

2004-05

Wheeling

ECHL

9-10-2

2.24

.926

2004-05

WBS

AHL

5-7-1

3.27

.879

2005
Playoffs

WBS

AHL

 

2.48

 

 

Chiodo is
a small, quick, and flexible goaltender. 
He has shown a knack for catching fire in the playoffs, and has helped
push the Baby Pens deep into the playoffs the last two seasons.  Assuming his positive development
continues, he should join Fleury in Pittsburgh when Thibault’s
contract expires at the end of the 2006-07 season.

 

Chiodo is
the last goalie the Penguins have signed to a professional contract, with the
exception of Dany Sabourin, who will likely spend this year with Wheeling but has the NHL
experience to make a good depth goaltender if injuries or bad form affect those
above him.  The next three netminders all play in the NCAA and have two years of
eligibility remaining.  Their
arrival on the professional scene will coincide with the Thibault
and Caron contracts expiring.  Look
for these three to get a shot in 2006-07.

 

 

Bobby Goepfert,
Drafted 171st overall – 2002 NHL Entry Draft

 

Bobby Goepfert is the highest drafted of the three NCAA goalies
the Penguins have in their system. 
He spent two years at Providence
College, but sat out the 2004-05
season because of a transfer to St.
Cloud
State
.  He will spend the next two years with
the Huskies.  He is a very talented
player with a strong glove hand. 

 

Season

Team

League

W-L-T

GAA

SPCT

2002-03

Providence

Hockey
East (NCAA)

6-6-1

2.39

.924

2003-04

Providence

Hockey
East (NCAA)

15-9-3

2.53

.918

2004-05

St. Cloud St.

WCHA
(NCAA)

 

 

Brandon Crawford-West, Drafted 250th
overall – 2001 NHL Entry Draft

 

Brandon
Crawford-West is a prospect whose development has taken a strange turn.  He was taken in the eighth round in 2001
as a depth goaltender with some upside potential.  He spent the next two seasons in the
juniors, bouncing around from Texas of the
NAHL to Bozeman
of the AWHL and finally Tri-City of the USHL.  In 2003-04 it appeared he was ready to
sign a professional contract and play the season for the Wheeling Nailers. 
Instead, he decided to go to college and play for Miami of Ohio.  He has performed well with Miami, but when he
graduates, he will be 25 years old, and that may not help him find a spot.

 

Season

Team

League

W-L-T

GAA

SPCT

2003-04

Miami

CCHA
(NCAA)

 

2.50

.924

2004-05

Miami

CCHA
(NCAA)

11-16-5

2.48

.918

 

 

Dave Brown, Drafted 228th
overall – 2004 NHL Entry Draft

 

Dave Brown
has really opened some eyes following his first two seasons at Notre Dame.  The former eighth round draft pick was
sixth in all of the NCAA with a .925 save percentage as a freshman.  In 2004-05, his numbers, and his playing
time suffered as Notre Dame struggled. 
If Brown can find consistency and regain his form of 2003-04, he is a
legitimate NHL candidate down the road. 
He is a smart goalie, always setting up on the right angles, and isn’t
afraid to come out after a shooter.

 

Season

Team

League

W-L-T

GAA

SPCT

SO

2003-04

Notre
Dame

CCHA
(NCAA)

14-7-3

2.32

 

4

2004-05

Notre
Dame

CCHA
(NCAA)

2-10-1

4.30

.870

0

 

 

Following
that trio of NCAA goaltenders are two overage Europeans whose rights the
Penguins still hold.  They are Mika Lehto,
26, who was taken 224th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, and Tomas Duba, 24, who was taken 217th
overall in the 2001 Draft.  Lehto has spent the last seven years playing in the Finnish
league.  Duba spent two years in the
Finnish league and has now played two seasons in the Czech Extraleague.  It appears unlikely that either of these
players will come to North America and join
the Penguins.

 

The
Penguins appear to be well stocked at goaltender for some time to come, but
expect GM Craig Patrick and his team to continue to add young talent to this
already deep crop of players.

 


Pittsburgh Penguins


DJ Powers and Adrian Barclay contributed to this
article.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate
without permission of the editorial staff.