Flames Goaltending depth

By HF Staff

This is a great little article by one of our regulars – thanks for the input Edward Lau!!!

Presently, as the situation stands, Roman Turek is to be the starter for the Flames for the coming years with Jamie McLennan as his backup. Turek, 32, signed a multi-year deal with the Flames in November 2001 to make him presently the highest Calgary Flame player of all time, which will most likely change when NHL leading scorer and point getter Jarome Iginla signs his contract. Acquired at the 2002 draft for Daniel Tkaczuk, Sergei Varlamov and Fred Brathwaite, Turek immediately stabilized the Flames goaltending situation that had plagued them for many years. Before the Turek era, the likes of Ken Wregget, Grant Fuhr, Fred Brathwaite, Rick Tabaracci and Mike Vernon could not give the Flames consistent goaltending. Turek consistently has put up above .900 save percentages in his career, last year posting a respectable .905. In Turek, the Flames have a former Jennings trophy winner who has post-season experience, bringing the St. Louis Blues to the Conference finals once. Turek is the answer in goal for the next couple years, but after then? When Turek’s contract expires, he will be in his middle 30’s and on the downside of his career. Jamie McLennan, the current backup is 31 and not the answer. The former Masterton trophy winner last season played in the Houston of the AHL last season in the Wild NHL organization, also posting consistent above .900 save percentages as well, and also posting a .905 last season. But after that?

Here is a look at 5 of the top goalie prospects in the Flames organization.

Brent Krahn

Krahn is a big goaltender standing 6’4 and weighing in a 200 pounds. Krahn is a former 1st round draft pick of the Calgary Flames who plays for the Hitman. Because of a few set backs of knee injuries, his development has been slowed and is poised to return to the Calgary Hitman next season as a overeager. Krahn is a technical goalie who uses his good reflexes to stop the puck, good lateral movement and is very poised. He can be described as “technically right.” His style is textbook perfect. He has the size, the reflexes, the talent, the knowledge, the work ethic and the poise to be a very good goalie in the league. While his style has been compared to Trevor Kidd, Krahn can defiantly be better. Krahn also has the cool to be a NHL, as pressure doesn’t shake him. While it is hard to analyze his play since he has been drafted, Krahn still did his homework while he was injured. While he was injured, Krahn worked with goaltending development coaches such as Wendell Young to improve his style and make it less likely to injure his knees. Before Krahn got injured, when he would go post to post, he would put a lot of pressure on his knees. Now when he goes post to post, he spreads out the pressure more so its not focused on his knees. Little things like that have improved Krahn’s overall game while he has been injured to make him a better goalie. His off ice work as been impressive, though he has only tried out his new tricks in practice, not in actual game situations. While the change is not noticeable in a game, when comparing tape, you will see the difference. One of the biggest things about a prospect is that he has to learn, and Krahn does that better then most prospects, if not all. In the long run, we may just see Krahn’s injuries as a good thing for his game. Krahn is the Flames top goalie prospect with a strong future ahead of him.

Levente Szuper

Szuper is the first Hungarian player to play in the NHL, and his style mirrors that of Hasek. As Eric Duhatchuk put it, his middle name is “Determination.” It’s hard to get a good reading on what this guy’s upside is, because he may just be as good as Hasek. Or, this is the best that he can be. The former 4th round pick in the 2000 draft plays for the Saint John Flames, where he will be a starter next year. In his junior year, Szuper lead his Ottawa 67’s team to the Memorial Cup where CHL coaching legend Brian Kilrea described Szuper as the “best goalie (he) has ever coached.” Szuper plays a very unorthodox style, but quite effective. Szuper has improved each year since he has been drafted, and should he continue at that rate, we may see him backing up Turek in the near future.

Andrei Medvedev

One of the biggest things about Medvedev when you first see him is that he is a bit overweight. Well, “a bit” is an understatement. Last listed as 6’1, 224 pounds, Medvedev looks bigger then that. All jokes aside, Medvedev is a very talented goalie, but lacks the work ethic and isn’t in all that great shape. In response to the many jokes Gord Miller had to say about his prospect, Button said, “”You can make jokes but we have a great prospect.” For a player of that size, Medvedev is surprisingly quick and agile, who is good at cutting off angles and challenging shooters. His glove hand is superb and his leg reflexes are second to none, making good toe saves. However, his positioning isn’t that great and his lack of conditioning wears on him on a heavy schedule. Button had this to say about his conditioning, “”Sure, he’s got to get conditioned to be able to go through the rigors of playing every night but you watch him play and there’s no problem.” Medvedev has good hockey sense and reads plays real well. Though Medvedev is a little on the chubby side, he uses his size to cover much of the net. Medvedev’s mental game is questionable. Though calm when the games count, he doesn’t seem to be a bit of a problem child, once leaving Spartak because he wasn’t getting enough ice time. Drafted in the 2nd round last year by the Flames, Medvedev will need some guidance if the Flames hope to see him play in the NHL. If he does make it to the NHL, Medvedev has the talent to carry a team for short stretches before he tires out, depending on his conditioning. Medvedev could be Gump Worsley or a bus driver. As Button said in an interview, “In my opinion, with his skill level and his ability, if he was a slim, trim player, he would have gone in the first 12 or 15 picks, no question in my mind.” Part of Russia’s WJC gold medal winning team, Medvedev was pulled in favor of Mylnikov, who ended up having a stellar performance to help Russia capture gold. Medvedev is generally considered to be the top goalie in international play for Russia in such tournaments as U20 and U18 tournaments. Medvedev will return to Russia’s Senior League to play for Spartak next year where he has played last season while having Flame development coaches like Mike Sands and Wendell Young work with him. Medvedev has the talent to be a star in the NHL, but he will need a major attitude adjustment and a conditioning program to handle the heavy NHL schedule. As Button has said, “We’re ready to dig in with him and realize his potential.”

Dany Sabourin

Sabourin has spent the better part of his career in the ECHL playing behind Szuper and veteran goalies like Broshu and Whitemore, but next season, The former 4th round pick in the 1998 draft is penciled into being the backup to Szuper in Saint John.

Matt Underhill

Matt Underhill recently finished his 4 years at Cornell University where he played in the NCAA league. A former 6th round pick of the Calgary Flames, in the 2001-02 season, Underhill was one of the top goalies in the NCAA with a 3rd in the league in goals against average and 4th in the league in save percentage, among the best of all time. His .928 save percentage was 4th in team history and his 1.88 GAA was 5th. It was the first time since 1970 that a Cornell goalie had posted a below 2.00 GAA, being only the 4th CU goalie to accomplish it. Last season, again Underhill posted impressive numbers with a .922 save percentage and a 1.80 goals against average. Standing 6’2, 220 pounds, Underhill plays with poise and confidence. “Matt is really mentally tough, where if he gave up a goal he’d bounce right back and close out the other team for the rest of the game.” said Underhill’s head coach. “His size and competitiveness are his obvious attributes, but his mental toughness is really what allows him to get on a roll and have a lot of confidence in himself.” One of the most important things about a good prospect is that he must have a good attitude and work ethic. “Matt’s work ethic is probably higher than anybody on the team. He’s our hardest worker by far. He’s usually the first guy on the ice and the last guy off and really strives to better himself.” said assistant coach and goalie specialist Brent Brekke. Underhill’s teammates also had nothing but good things to say about their goaltender. Said teammate Doug Murray, “I really admire him. He’s very focused and he’s a workaholic. He’s just a great player to have on your team, you can never ask for more than he does. His preparation, what he does around the rink, and just everything about him, he does everything at 110 percent. You don’t pick goalies as captain but if you did, he would have been one.” With Turek and McLennan destined to be in Calgary, and Szuper and Sabourin to play on the farm, look for Underhill to start off in the ECHL.With an Ivy League education and a positive attitude, Underhill could turn out to be quite a player. And if he doesn’t, he can always fall back on his Ivy League education.