Championships can be won and lost between the pipes, and every season it seems a new goaltender emerges to take a top job or push a longtime starter for the No. 1 role.
It has been more than a decade since the Pittsburgh Penguins made Marc-Andre Fleury the first overall pick, but that doesn’t mean late-round selections and goaltenders taken outside of the draft’s opening round haven’t developed into blue chip prospects and the goaltending futures for their respective clubs. In Vancouver, there might be a 1A and 1B developing before either actually ends up as an NHL starter.
There are several goaltenders who could be taking the reins for their clubs in the next several seasons. Here are the five best goaltending prospects in the world, as ranked by our 2015 Future Watch edition:
5. Jacob Markstrom, 25, Vancouver Canucks
Draft: Second round (31st overall), Florida Panthers
Future Watch: 56th overall
Part of the the Roberto Luongo trade, Markstrom was shocked by the deal, which was magnified by the off-season signing of Ryan Miller. To his credit, Markstrom first honed his game in Vancouver with goalie coach Rollie Melanson. This past season, he was a starter at the AHL All-Star Game and shared MVP honors. He’s learning to control his lanky frame and remain composed. Having a standout season in the AHL increased his value. The Canucks will make room for him.
4. Thatcher Demko, 19, Vancouver Canucks
Draft: Second round (36th overall), Vancouver Canucks
Future Watch: 46th overall
Demko fast-tracked his schooling to get to Boston College early. He’s fascinated by human nature and is studying psychology. It was good prep for the World Junior Championship where he backstopped the U.S. to the quarterfinals. He had a 1.74 goals-against average and .934 save percentage and his relentless work ethic has impressed Vancouver’s goaltender consultant Dan Cloutier. “He still has to polish his game technically, but that comes with experience and he always wants to do more,” Cloutier said.
3. Malcolm Subban, 21, Boston Bruins
Draft: First round (24th overall), Boston Bruins
Future Watch: 41st overall
Subban’s stats in Year 2 at AHL Providence mirrored those of his rookie year, but the Bruins saw enough development in the supremely talented athletic goalie to bring him up in a support role after the all-star break. “He is unique to that position in terms of how athletic he is,” Sweeney said of P.K. Subban’s younger brother. “We’re working with him from a technical standpoint to put those two things together. That third component is the mental piece.”
2. Zach Fucale, 20, Montreal Canadiens
Draft: First round (36th overall), Montreal Canadiens
Future Watch: 32nd overall
Goalies take the longest time to develop, but the Habs like the fact Fucale has won at every level. Said GM Marc Bergevin: “He’s following the same path as Carey Price and Dusitn Tokarski with Memorial Cups and world juniors. He’s the best (junior) goalie in Canada.” Fucale needs to fill out and work on his strength. His competitive spirit was exhibited in the WJC final. He’s at his best when he’s busy but needs to work on his glove hand and rebound control.
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, 21, Tampa Bay Lightning
Draft: First round (19th overall), Tampa Bay Lightning
Future Watch: 8th overall
Vasilevskiy, the first goalie drafted in 2012, is Tampa’s future at the position. He exceeded expectations in his first North American season. He started slowly in the AHL but put together a strong run starting in late November and earned his first call-up to the NHL. He supplanted Evgeni Nabokov as Ben Bishop’s backup by February. “He puts in the work, he wants to be a pro, and he’s a very good pro,” Tampa’s director of player development Stacy Roest said. “He looks more comfortable with every game.”
These player profiles appear in the Future Watch 2015 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.