2008-09: Garret Sparks played 18 games for Team Illinois U-16 and was 9-6-2 with a 3.05 GAA and .879 save percentage. Sparks was selected by the Guelph Storm in the 8th round (160th overall) of the OHL Priority Draft and was one of 24 goalies invited to participate in USA Hockey’s Warren Strelow national goaltending camp. Sparks attended USA Hockey’s U-17 tryout camp.
2009-10: Sparks and goaltending partner Eric Garavaglia combined to lead Chicago Mission to the 2010 USA Hockey Tier 1 U-18 championship. Sparks appeared in 27 games and had a record of 19-7 and 3 shutouts with a 1.98 GAA and .907 save percentage. Sparks was in net for the championship game and stopped 24 of 25 shots in a 7-1 win over the Philadelphia Junior Flyers.
2010-11: Sparks appeared in 19 games as an OHL rookie behind Guelph Storm starter Brandon Foote. Among the season highlights for Sparks were a 38-save, 5-3 win over high-powered Windsor in November (his second OHL start) and a string of games between Jan 23 and Feb 21 when Sparks won six of seven starts. Overall, he finished with a record of 8-6 with one shootout loss and posted a 3.64 GAA with an .890 save percentage. Guelph finished fourth in the Midwest division but Sparks did not see any action in the playoffs as Foote was in net for all six games of the Storm’s first-round series loss to Saginaw. Sparks was ranked 17th among North American goaltenders by Central Scouting and was selected by the Maple Leafs in the 7th round (190th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.
2011-12: Sparks assumed the lion’s share of the goaltending duties for the OHL’s Guelph Storm after splitting time with 20-year-old Brandon Foote early in the season. He played a career-high 59 games and was 27-25-4 with 5 shutouts and had a 3.11 goals against and .907 save percentage. Sparks started all six games in the Storm’s playoff series with Plymouth and was 2-4 with a 4.45 goals against and .881 save percentage. Sparks participated in USA Hockey’s U20 Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid in August, 2012.
2012-13: Sparks signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs in March of 2013 and made his pro hockey debut with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies following his third season with the OHL’s Guelph Storm. He was 2-0-1 in three regular season games for the Marlies with a 2.53 goals against and .895 save percentage. Toronto finished first in the North Division and reached the second round in the AHL playoffs. Sparks made one playoff appearance, stopping 9 of 10 shots in 14 minutes of action. He was 36-17-4 with 7 shutouts in 60 games for Guelph and had a 2.65 goals against and .917 save percentage. The Storm finished fourth in the Midwest Division, Sparks was 1-4 with a 3.05 goals against and .920 save percentage in the five-game playoff series with Kitchener. He won a gold medal at the 2013 U20 World Junior Championship in Ufa but did not see any action as the USA’s third goalie behind John Gibson (Anaheim) and Jon Gillies (Calgary).
2013-14: Sparks played in 21 games for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies in his first pro season as a backup to veteran Drew MacIntyre and also skated for the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL. He was 11-6-1 for the Marlies with a 2.63 goals against and .915 save percentage. Toronto finished first in the North Division and reached the Western Conference finals — falling to Texas in a seven-game series. Sparks did not see any action in the playoffs. In 10 ECHL games with Orlando he was 4-6 with one shutout and had a 2.82 goals against and .916 save percentage.
Sparks is a large player whose frame allows him to be a very good blocking goaltender. He cuts down the angles well and is able to track play through traffic. Sparks steadily showed gained more consistency during his junior career and has shown promise early in his pro career — though he been set back by injuries.
Sparks missed much of the Leafs' training camp due to injury and was subsequently assigned to the ECHL's Orlando Solar Bears to start the 2014-15 season. He played four games with Orlando before suffering a lower-body injury which kept him out for another month. Now healthy, he appeared in two games during a call- up with the AHL's Toronto Marlies and is seeing consistent time with the Solar Bears. While his injuries have set him back, Sparks has the size and skill set that suggest he can be an effective NHL goaltender one day. As with most 21-year-old goalies, figuring out the ceiling of his potential is merely speculation.