The Detroit Red Wings tandem of Chris Osgood and Manny Legace is finally healthy, after periodic injuries to both led to call-up duty from Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald. The result in AHL affiliate Grand Rapids was a goalie-competitive environment where the Griffins saw duty from three different netminders in a single week. Ultimately, five goalies saw time in Grand Rapids; Drew MacIntyre, Osgood and Legace both for conditioning, Howard, and MacDonald.
The dust has settled, and MacDonald and Howard are back in Grand Rapids, while MacIntyre returned to the ECHL’s Toledo Storm where an injured Logan Koopmans also resides.
The future of the Red Wings’ goalie position is likely to be headed for change, as both Osgood and Legace are contracted with Detroit for only one season. Osgood is 33, and Legace will be 33 as well this week. Howard is the heir apparent, but looking beyond him the cupboard is thin. No goaltending prospects were selected in the 2004 or 2005 drafts, thus no one in the 18 and 19-year-old age group. This is an area that will have to be addressed in the upcoming draft.
Below are the prospect goaltenders for the Wings and each netminder’s statistics for the first half of this season. MacDonald and Stefan Liv are no longer prospects according to Hockey’s Future criteria due to age.
6’0, 218lbs, Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL
Drafted by Detroit 2nd round, 64th overall in 2003
The most talented goaltender in Detroit’s system, Howard has the skill to become the Red Wings’ top goaltender. A decorated netminder from the University of Maine and former Team USA U-18 gold medal winner, Howard earned a reputation as a big-game goalie who can keep a level head under pressure. Like many young goaltenders, Howard uses a combination of butterfly and stand-up styles but knows when to play up and when to hit the ice.
Injuries to Osgood, Legace, and MacDonald gave the first-year pro Howard a backup role in Detroit for much of the first half of the season, and he saw time in four games. For a stretch in November, he earned the starting nod over Osgood. Though back to splitting time with the soon to be 26-year-old MacDonald in Grand Rapids, he is on a developmental track to become a No. 1 netminder in the NHL. He should benefit from a few years as a starter the AHL. MacDonald is a good mentor for Howard, and is himself not out of the picture for a role in Detroit next season.
Howard can be streaky, if not a bit inconsistent, but his overall skill set means that Detroit looks to him to fill the top spot in the future. Howard will be 22 in March.
6’1,190lbs, Toledo Storm, ECHL
Drafted by Detroit in the fourth round, 121st overall in 2001
With Howard back in Grand Rapids, there was less playing time for MacIntyre, who found himself assigned back to the ECHL’s Toledo Storm on Jan. 2. MacIntyre plays an aggressive stand-up style and who beats opponents with quick reflexes and positioning. This season, in 12 games with the Griffins, he has shown he can be successful at the triple-A level. However, this is the last year of the 22-year-old’s contract, and being back in the ECHL for a third year is probably a bad indicator for his future role with the organization.
6’2, 180lbs, Toledo Storm, ECHL
Detroit’s fifth round pick, 166nd overall, in 2002
Koopmans has struggled with injuries this season. He has played in only eight games and is currently on the IR with a shoulder injury that will keep him out until late March. In his sophomore season as a pro, Koopmans was poised to take over the top spot with the departure of Scott Fankhouser to Europe. The Storm have used seven goaltenders this season in the meantime.
Koopmans is a quick reflex goalie who is comfortable in the butterfly but needs to improve his positional play and control rebounds. Koopmans maintained a 2.82 GAA in 25 games his rookie year and has decent numbers in the few games he has played this year. His next step is to establish himself as Toledo’s No. 1 goalie. Depending on what happens with in Detroit, Koopmans may get some ice time in Grand Rapids next season.
Koopmans, born six days before Howard, has one year remaining on his rookie contract.
Though beyond prospect age, 25-year-old Stefan Liv currently has the best numbers in the Swedish Elite League and will back up Henrik Lundqvist in Tourino in a few weeks. Look for the Red Wings to sign him this summer.
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