Dansk headlines top NHL-drafted goaltenders in the OHL

By Jason Menard

Oscar Dansk - Erie Otters

Photo: Erie Otters goaltender and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Oscar Dansk leads OHL goalies in goals-against average with a 2.15 average in 30 games this season (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

You can judge a fine wine by its vintage. For the next generation of NHL goaltenders, the second and third round of 2012 was a particularly fine year. The top five NHL-drafted netminders currently playing in the OHL were drafted within 52 picks of one another, and all are currently playing key roles in the playoff fortunes of their respective squads.

Oscar Dansk, Erie Otters
NHL Rights: Columbus Blue Jackets (2nd round, 31st overall, 2012)

Dansk, officially, is an import (third overall pick of 2012 CHL Import Draft), but the Swedish-born netminder is quite comfortable on either side of the Atlantic. He spent some time in the noted hockey factory Shattuck-St. Mary’s, and backstopped the Swedish junior squad to silver at this year’s World Junior Championship in front of the home country fans.

This year, he has backstopped the resurgent Erie Otters to the top of the CHL rankings. He’s played in 30 games so far this year, winning 22, losing six, and suffering one overtime loss. He’s done this behind a 2.15 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.

It’s a nice change for the Stockholm-born netminder, who posted an 11-23-3-3 record in 43 games last year. Erie, as a whole, has gone from the outhouse to the penthouse, and Dansk has been a huge part of that move.

Dansk was dominant in the WJC as well, playing in six of Team Sweden’s seven games. Though the club lost to Finland in the finale, Dansk was a standout, posting a 1.79 goals-against average and a save percentage of .929 while winning five games and losing one. He was named the tournament’s top goaltender.

At 6’2” and 185 pounds, Dansk has good size. He’s a steady netminder whose biggest strength may be his ability to control rebounds. He’s positionally sound and doesn’t give up the second shot. He’s a steadying presence on an Otters’ squad that is testing uncharted waters.

Matt Murray, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
NHL Rights: Pittsburgh Penguins (3rd round, 83rd overall, 2012)

Vertically, Murray covers a lot of space. Horizontally? Not so much.

Signed by Pittsburgh to an entry-level contract during the Leafs’ rookie tournament this year, Murray has plenty of time to grow into his 6’5” frame. Currently, he’s hovering around 170 pounds.

But regardless of how much space he occupies physically, he’s proven that he can cover a lot of ground between the pipes. This year, he’s recorded six shutouts for the Greyhounds. Overall, his record is 28-9-1-4 in 42 games so far, with a 2.54 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. Last year, he was a workhorse for the Greyhounds, playing in 53 games and winning 26 of them. He’s somewhat unorthodox in his style, but uses his length and athleticism to keep the puck at bay — something he’s been doing with increasing frequency this season.

Jake Paterson, Saginaw Spirit
NHL Rights: Detroit Red Wings (3rd round, 80th overall, 2012)

Paterson’s numbers may not be where some of the other netminders on this list are, but it’s safe to say that no team wants to face a Paterson-backstopped Spirit squad in the playoffs. Simply put, Paterson can steal a game, or a series.

His numbers this year are good, not great — 18-14-2-0 in 35 games with two shutouts. He has a 3.45 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. Paterson’s value is clear — without him between the pipes, Saginaw is 7-9-2-1.

The brass at Hockey Canada noticed as well — Paterson was named to the World Junior squad, and was the nominal starter going into the tournament. He played in two games for Team Canada, winning one and losing one behind a .870 save percentage and 3.36 goals-against average, before ceding the net to Zach Fucale.

This is likely Paterson’s last year in the OHL, having signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Red Wings earlier this year. Normally, one wouldn’t expect a deep playoff run from the just-north-of-.500 squad in Saginaw. But with Paterson between the pipes, expectations go out the window.

Anthony Stolarz, London Knights
NHL Rights: Philadelphia Flyers (2nd round, 45th overall, 2012)

Stolarz took about half a season to get used to the OHL, coming from the University of Nebraska-Omaha at the mid-point last season to join the London Knights. The nominal starter, he ended up splitting playoff time with Jake Patterson (two T's — not the guy above) as the Knights won the OHL championship but came up short in the Memorial Cup.

This year, Stolarz’s ticket to the Memorial Cup is already punched as London is the host city. And he’s assumed the number-one role in London — although, due to a nasty laceration he’s temporarily ceded it to Patterson during his one-month recovery time.

But up until that bit of misfortune, Stolarz has been incredibly solid. Only 50 games into his OHL career (20 last year), the 6’6” goaltender has only lost seven regular-season games. This season, he has a 21-4-1-1 record with three shutouts behind a 2.58 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.

He was also perfect in his limited exposure at the World Juniors, where he played one game for Team USA as Jon Gillies’ backup, making 15 saves en route to a shutout.

Daniel Altshuller, Oshawa Generals
NHL Rights: Carolina Hurricanes (3rd round, 60th overall, 2012)

Altshuller got an early Christmas present when Carolina signed him to an entry-level deal. But the Hurricanes know what they’re going to get from the 6’4”, 200-pound Nepean, ON native.

Consistency and durability

Last year, Altshuller backstopped the Generals in 58 games, finishing with a 36-18-1-1 record behind a 2.62 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. This season, his numbers look even better. Altshuller has played in 45 of Oshawa’s 54 games, leading the team to the top of the OHL’s Eastern Conference with a 27-10-0-3 record, a 2.45 goals-against average, and a .919 save percentage.

Altshuller brings brains as well as physicality to the mix. In addition to leading the league in wins last season, the netminder took home the Roger Neilson Memorial Award, handed out annually to the top academic player in university or college.

With a wide-open Eastern Conference, Altshuller’s solid play, consistent excellence, and experience could lead the Generals to a Memorial Cup berth.

Follow Jason Menard on Twitter via @JayCMenard