Jarry, Comrie lead solid group of drafted WHL goaltenders

By Glen Erickson

Tristan Jarry - Edmonton Oil Kings

Photo: Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Tristan Jarry is leading WHL goaltenders in both goals-against average and minutes played in the 2013-14 season (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Our list of drafted goaltenders playing in the Western Hockey League includes prototypical workhorses, netminders who in most cases are tending the pipes over 80 percent of the time that their teams take the ice.

Two of the goalies are imports, something that will soon be extinct in Canadian Major Junior Hockey. A pair of the keepers have NHL lineage, one with two brothers that have played before him and another whose father had a lengthy, successful career as a goaltender.

While it will be some time before any of the goalies on our list assume a regular role in the NHL, they are all very key players with their current teams today. Cumulatively, these goaltenders also have significant international experience under their belts.

For this ranking, the criteria we used ranks drafted and/or signed prospects currently playing in the WHL.

Tristan Jarry (PIT), Edmonton Oil Kings

Like many of the veteran, drafted goaltenders in the WHL, Jarry is shouldering the load for his team this season, having appeared in 55 of the Oil Kings’ first 60 games. Edmonton leads the Eastern Conference and, through February 25th, the Oil Kings have surrendered a league-low 149 goals.

Jarry broke into the WHL behind stalwart Laurent Brossoit (EDM) in Edmonton and has enjoyed team success in recent years, including a WHL Championship and a trip to the Memorial Cup two seasons ago. Regarded as an even-keeled netminder, Jarry has developed good technical skills and balance through his WHL career. This season, he has compiled a 38-12-1-1 record with a 2.18 goals against average and a .914 save percentage with seven shutouts.

He checks in at 6’2” and 180 pounds. Selected in the second round, 44th overall, by the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2013 NHL Draft, Jarry hails from Delta, BC. He signed an entry-level contract on September 4th, 2013.

Jarry, along with Matt Murray of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, gives the Penguins a pair of solid goaltenders among their stable of prospects that remain in the junior ranks.

Eric Comrie (WPG), Tri-City Americans

Comrie burst onto the WHL scene as a 16-year-old after starring for the Los Angeles Selects program. The Tri-City Americans opted to part with some veteran goaltenders to make room for the youngster, an Edmonton, AB native.

The Americans would later make another difficult decision when last year, they shut Comrie down in February after he underwent surgery to repair an ailing hip. Despite the limited body of work, which consisted of 37 appearances, he made a lasting impression on the Winnipeg Jets' scouting staff.

Selected in the second round, 59th overall, by the Jets in last year's draft, Comrie has rebounded this season, answering any durability concerns with 53 appearances in the Amerks first 62 games. He has a sparkling .923 save percentage, along with a 2.59 goals-against average. He celebrated the holiday season by signing an entry-level contract with Winnipeg on December 24th, 2013.

Sound technically, he is still only 18 years of age and checks in at 6’1” and 170 pounds. He shared goaltending duties with Jarry for Team Pacific at the 2011 World U17 Hockey Challenge. He also collected a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, where he shared duties with Zach Fucale (MTL) of the Halifax Mooseheads.

Patrik Bartosak (LAK), Red Deer Rebels

Like Comrie, Bartosak has felt the sting of a season-ending injury during his WHL career. In January of 2012, his shoulder required surgery, which spelled the end of his rookie year with the Rebels after 25 appearances. The 2011-2012 season was also his draft year. He was ranked eighth among goaltenders in North America prior to the 2012 NHL Draft festivities in Pittsburgh, where he was not selected.

An acrobatic goaltender, Bartosak bounced back last year. Appearing in 55 games, he was virtually unbeatable in shootouts while posting a 33-14-5 record with five shutouts, a 2.26 goals-against average and a league-best .935 save percentage. He was honoured during Memorial Cup week in Saskatoon, receiving the CHL Goaltender of the Year award. A month later, he was selected in the fifth round, 146th overall, by the Los Angeles Kings at the 2013 NHL Draft.

This season, Bartosak is second in minutes played in the WHL, behind Jarry but ahead of Comrie. In 56 appearances, he has compiled a 27-24-1-3 record with a 2.96 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and five shoutouts. Now 20 years of age, Bartosak has built a resume that includes plenty of international experience as a member of the Czech national team, including a stint at the 2013 WJC where he appeared in five games.

Chris Driedger (OTT), Calgary Hitmen

Driedger has provided stability for the Hitmen over the past couple of seasons, although the coaching staff has also shown confidence in backup keeper Mack Shields.

Driedger, from Winnipeg, MB, has appeared in 42 games this season, posting a 2.65 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. He has compiled a 22-13-3-4 record with three shutouts. He was busier last season, appearing in 54 games.

Selected in the third round, 76th overall, by the Ottawa Senators at the 2012 NHL Draft, the 6’3”, 200-pound Driedger covers the net well and is at his best when he stays in balance and challenges shooters. He continues to improve his rebound control and puckhandling.

At the 2012 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, Driedger was the only goaltender that didn’t surrender a goal, making 14 stops for Team Orr in its 2-1 win over Team Cherry. Earlier this month, the 19-year-old was the first goaltender in ten years in the WHL to be credited with a goal, albeit in a 5-2 loss to the Kootenay Ice.

Mackenzie Skapski (NYR), Kootenay Ice

The Ice has been a perennial playoff team for more that a decade now, due in part to reliable goaltending. Skapski has been a workhorse in Cranbrook, where he has appeared in 109 (and counting) regular season games over the past two seasons. He led the WHL with 65 appearances last year. Now in his third full season, Skapski has been a key contributor to helping the Ice extend its current streak to 15 straight WHL seasons with at least a .500 record.

Selected in the sixth round, 170th overall, by the New York Rangers at the 2013 NHL Draft, the Abbotsford, BC native has compiled a 2.69 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 44 appearances this season, with a record of 25-15-2-1. At 6’3” and 192 pounds, he fits the bill as NHL teams continue to stock up on goalies with big frames. His development with Kootenay was aided by a trip with the team to the 2011 Memorial Cup as a 16-year-old.

Skapski is already considered a hockey success story of sorts, as he made news a few years ago during his midget hockey days. He was seriously injured when his team’s bus was involved in an accident on wintery roads in British Columbia, but has rebounded to give himself a realistic shot at a career in pro hockey.

Brendan Burke (PHX), Portland Winterhawks

Burke took over between the pipes in Portland this season when the club graduated Mac Carruth (CHI), who backstopped the team to a WHL Championship as a 20-year-old.

Burke, the son of former NHL goaltender Sean Burke, checks in at 6’4” and 185 pounds. Born in Scottsdale, AZ, Burke was chosen in the sixth round, 163rd overall, by the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2013 NHL Draft. In 45 appearances this season, he has compiled a 2.85 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

Burke has shouldered a big workload for the Winterhawks this season, after appearing in 33 games last season. However, at the trade deadline, Portland acquired 20-year-old Corbin Boes to either add insurance or push Burke to further elevate his game. Unfortunately, Burke has been sidelined of late in with an undisclosed illness.

Marek Langhamer (PHX), Medicine Hat Tigers

Following the departure of Tyler Bunz (EDM), it has taken the Tigers some time to establish another sure-fire number one goaltender. Over the past two seasons, the likes of Nick Schneider, Cam Lanigan and Dawson MacAuley have come and gone, with Langhamer seemingly checking in now as the go-to guy.

Selected in the seventh round, 184th overall, by the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2012 NHL Draft, Langhamer was a key player at the 2014 WJC for the Czech Republic. In 33 WHL games this season, he has complied an 19-11-2-0 record with two shutouts, a 2.42 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.

At 6’2” and 188 pounds, the 19-year-old Langhamer has good size and mobility, is very athletic, and sports a confident glove hand. Like Burke, he is a late-round Coyotes pick who would appear to be a long shot at this point in Phoenix.

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