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Is this the best goaltender in the 2015 NHL draft?

Ryan Kennedy
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Samuel Montembeault (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

News

Is this the best goaltender in the 2015 NHL draft?

Ryan Kennedy
By:

Samuel Montembeault of the Quebec League's Blainville-Boisbriand Armada has scouts very excited and though he might not be the first netminder taken this summer, he may turn out to be the best. Find out how the youngster got such a sick glove hand.

While Barrie's Mackenzie Blackwood and Magnitogorsk's Ilya Samsonov are the most likely netminders to be taken first off the board in Florida this summer, scouts are also very excited about Samuel Montembeault.

The starter for Blainville-Boisbriand in the Quebec League has an interesting family history in sports and his physical talents – particularly his glove hand – have talent hawks intrigued.

"Montembeault is one of the best goalies in this draft, might be the best when it’s all said and done," said one scout. "He’s big, athletic and calm…he’s got it all."

Born in Quebec City, you might assume that the 6-foot-3 netminder was raised in a hockey-mad environment, but that's not the case.

“In my family," Montembeault said, "I’m the only one who knows how to skate.”

Baseball is actually the clan's passion and Montembeault's father was recruited to play college ball at Florida State, though ultimately he did not end up going to Tallahassee. And even though the family hails from Quebec, Samuel wasn't an Expos fan.

“When I was younger I cheered for the Boston Red Sox, now I just watch games on TV," he said. "I only went to one game in Montreal and they lost like, 11-0.”

Needless to say, playing catch was a big pastime around the house and Samuel played while he was growing up as well. And befitting an athlete who would don a mask on the ice, he played catcher. To this day, he will sometimes turn his glove inward to snatch a puck that he could have blocked with his chest.

And perhaps his high-pressure experience as a catcher, where he needed to be locked in for every pitch, helped make Montembeault the goalie he is today.

“One of my biggest strengths is that I’m calm," he said. "I manage the stress very well and that helps during the game. I’d like to work on my play around the net, help my defensemen out. As a puckhandler I have a good shot, but I have to work on my decision-making.”

Fundamentally, scouts don't have a lot of beef with the Armada netminder. He got starter's minutes in the 'Q' this year after mentoring under veteran Etienne Marcoux (now in the ECHL) last season. The only real critique was that Montembeault needs to cut down on his goals-against – but at least that's not structural.

Since goalies don't go early in the first round anymore – and sometimes none are taken on the Friday night – the draft is always a little more amorphous for the masked avengers. That doesn't concern Montembeault, however. He just wants to get picked and he'll go from there.

“I have watched Henrik Lundqvist since I was young and he was a seventh-round pick; now he’s one of the best in the world," he said. "So I have no real expectation for the draft.”

Invited to Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence goalie camp, which begins later this week, Montembeault is clearly regarded highly. It will be interesting to see who gets the crease jobs for Canada at the 2016 world juniors in Finland, since the only currently drafted player at the POE camp is Calgary Flames pick Mason McDonald and there is no incumbent.

Could Montembeault make his case? His flashy glove hand certainly won't hurt.

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Is this the best goaltender in the 2015 NHL draft?