Carruth heads short list of WHL goaltenders owned by NHL clubs

By Glen Erickson

Mac Carruth - Portland Winterhawks

Photo: Portland Winterhawks goaltender and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Mac Carruth has his team in the hunt for another run to the WHL Championship (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

For purposes of this list, we assessed potential as NHL prospects using the criteria whereby we ranked only NHL drafted or signed goalies currently playing in the WHL.

Because the current list is so short, consisting of only four netminders at this point, Hockey’s Future is also providing a glimpse into the WHL’s future, a brief compilation associated with some emerging talent between the pipes.

Mac Carruth (CHI), Portland Winterhawks

The Winterhawks have been the beneficiaries of Carruth’s steady play for the past three seasons.

For two consecutive years, Portland has appeared in the WHL Championship Series, only to lose to the Kootenay Ice, then the Edmonton Oil Kings. This season, Portland is again a front runner, currently sitting atop the entire WHL standings.

With Carruth backstopping the Winterhawks, posting a 2.02 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage in 36 appearances so far, the team has pretty much been on a roll from Day One. He is among the league leaders with a record of 28-6-0-2, including seven shutouts. With Carruth’s junior career winding down, his presence has also allowed the organization to work backup goaltender Brendan Burke into the fold. Burke, now 18, has appeared in 27 games so far this season.

The 20-year-old Carruth checks in at 6’3” and 180 pounds. He is capable of covering the net with efficiency, nor is he shy about protecting his crease when called upon to do so. As a solid puck handler, the native of Shorewood, MN is able to buy time for the group of experienced and productive rearguards in Portland.

The Chicago Blackhawks selected Carruth in round seven, 191st overall, at the 2010 NHL Draft. He was signed in May of 2012.

Andrey Makarov, (BUF), Saskatoon Blades

Perhaps the biggest surprise among WHL goalies occurred when Andrey Makarov of the Saskatoon Blades was overlooked at the NHL Draft. However, it was the Buffalo Sabres who locked up Makarov by signing him as a free agent prior to the current campaign.

This season, after the Blades slow start, the 19-year-old Makarov has backstopped the club through its current 17-game winning streak. As a rookie last season in Saskatoon, he appeared in 54 games and garnered the Blades’ MVP Award. He has already appeared in 54 games this season, compiling a 34-16-0-3 record with a 2.40 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and seven shutouts.

At 6’1” and 190 pounds he is not big by modern day standards, which likely contributed to the obvious hesitancy displayed at the draft by NHL teams. Perhaps to his detriment, Makarov is also considered a bit of a “flopper”. However, this is a style that happened to serve Dominik Hasek, a former Sabres goaltender, quite well. For now, there are certainly no complaints in Saskatoon.

He is no stranger to Canadian junior hockey fans, given his presence and big-time play at the past two WJC’s as a member of Team Russia. Makarov is from Kazan, Russia.

Laurent Brossoit (CGY), Edmonton Oil Kings

Brossoit has been the backbone of a very successful Oil Kings team over the past couple of years. While there is no question that deep playoff runs and championship seasons provide valuable experience and exposure, Brossoit will have a battle on his hands in pro hockey once he leaves the WHL for the Flames organization.

This season, Brossoit has been outstanding, posting a 2.28 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 45 appearances. He will be hard pressed to register 42 wins this season, as he did last year, due to the emergence of backup keeper Tristan Jarry. However, the 6’3”, 200-pound Brossoit may benefit physically from fewer appearances. Including the post season last year, Brossoit was very busy, appearing in 81 games.

Selected by the Calgary Flames in the sixth round, 164th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft, Brossoit is an athletic, butterfly-style goalie with a long reach. His body of work this season includes a 30-8-2-3 record. If there was one potential negative this season for Brossoit, now 19, it was an unsuccessful bid for a spot on the Team Canada roster for the 2013 WJC. However, the native of Surrey, BC would surely welcome another Memorial Cup appearance instead.

Chris Driedger (OTT), Calgary Hitmen

Driedger arrived in Calgary via the trade route, coming over from the Tri-City Americans prior to the 2011-2012 season. He appeared in 45 games during his first season with the Hitmen.

Selected in the third round, 76th overall, by the Ottawa Senators at the 2012 NHL Draft, Driedger has been a workhorse in Calgary this season. The Winnipeg, MB native has collected 30 wins in 47 appearances, posting a 2.46 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. His record is 30-13-1-3.

At 6’3” and 193 pounds, Driedger brings size and quickness to the mix. Despite being a three-year veteran in the WHL, Driedger has yet to make an impact in the playoffs. With the Hitmen among the league leaders in the WHL standings, Driedger is destined to cut his teeth in the post-season next month.

2013 Eligibles

A handful of goaltenders are honing their craft in the WHL this season as they endeavour to shine in anticipation of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In Tri-City, the Americans looked to ride the skill set of Eric Comrie this season, until the native of Newport Beach, CA was sidelined with a hip injury. He underwent surgery in early February. Ranked as the top goaltending prospect in the WHL by Central Scouting, Comrie was actually the Amerks starter last season as a 16-year-old. He was unable to attend the 2013 Top Prospects Game due to the nagging hip ailment. Prior to being shut down for the season, Comrie appeared in 37 games, posting a 2.62 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

In Edmonton, Tristan Jarry has been efficient for the Oil Kings behind Brossoit, earning a spot on Team Cherry at the 2013 Top Prospects Game in January. His competence has in part enabled the team to use Brossoit more sparingly. Jarry, 17, is from Delta, BC. Last season, he appeared in 14 games. This year, in 24 appearances, he has posted 1.69 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage while compiling a 15-7 record that includes six shutouts.

In Everett, Austin Lotz is splitting time in the Silvertips net with Daniel Cotton. He has posted a 3.45 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.  Lotz, from St. Adolphe, MB, had a week to remember in late January, collecting three wins and an overtime loss in four starts while facing an average of 47 shots per game. In the OT loss to Kamloops, Lotz allowed four goals and made 65 saves.

In Portland, Brendan Burke has played behind Carruth again this season, after the same assignment last year when he appeared in 18 games as a 16-year-old. This season, Burke has made 27 appearances, compiling a 2.57 goals-against average, a .909 save percentage and a record of 20-4-1-0 with four shutouts. At 6’3” and 175 pounds, Burke adequately fills the net. Burke has the bloodlines that will ensure a long look by NHL scouts as he is the son of long-time NHL goaltender, Sean Burke.

In Kelowna, Jackson Whistle has played second fiddle to veteran Jordan Cooke since coming over from the Vancouver Giants in an early season trade. Whistle checks in at 6’1” and 185 pounds, and appears to have room to grow. He has become a much more mobile keeper in Kelowna this season and has posted outstanding numbers in 19 appearances. Whistle has compiled a 13-2-1-0 record, with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. He has flown well below the radar this season, absent from the WHL goaltending statistics as he is just shy of the current 1,200-minute minimum required to qualify.