Coming off a potential Vezina-winning season, Jonathan Quick has continued his standout year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, leading the LA Kings to the Final. The last three Vezinas have gone to Americans (Tim Thomas twice and Ryan Miller). So goaltender has really become a position of strength for the U.S. overall.
It has been said 2012 is a weak year for goaltenders, and that isn’t necessarily wrong, but there are several American netminders that are noteworthy at the very least. One is in his third and final year of eligibility. Another came out of pretty much nowhere to garner quite significant draft buzz. The other two have been on the radar all year. All four should be selected in June.
Coming up after the jump a look at Michael Houser, Anthony Stolarz, Jon Gilles and Collin Olson, as well as catching up on the latest prospect news from the long layoff.
The London Knights netminder has been passed over in not one, but two NHL Entry Drafts. Born in September of 1992, Houser is still eligible for one last kick at the can, only this time he comes into the draft with some hardware.
Houser was named the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player for 2011-12 after appearing in a staggering 62 games, en route to a record-tying 46 wins in net. Houser also posted a 2.47 goals-against average, .925 save percentage and six shutouts. Houser is just the fifth goalie to win the Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s best player and first since Andrew Raycroft in 2000.
Not only that, but Houser helped lead the London Knights to the OHL title and a shot at the Memorial Cup.
In fact, his numbers have only improved in the postseason. Houser put up a 16-2-1 record, 2.25 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in carrying the Knights to the Memorial Cup.
That Houser has not been drafted before is only a moderate surprise. He’s put up tepid numbers on very talented Knights teams, though last year showed glimpses of greater things ahead.
This time around, Houser can’t be ignored. He made sure of that with his breakout performance this year. TSN analyst and former Flames GM Craig Button has listed Houser at No. 50 on his most recent draft ranking. It’s not entirely far fetched after a year like this for Houser.
Houser has good size at 6-2, 195 and now that championship pedigree. Third time should be a charm for the Wexford, Pa., native, who has certainly earned his shot at the NHL with his historic season.
Stolarz quite literally came from out of nowhere. You don’t often see NHL scouts in North American Hockey League buildings anymore, but Stolarz gave them a reason to show up. The big 6-5, 200-pound netminder was stellar in goal for the Corpus Christi Ice Rays, appearing in 50 of his team’s 58 games this year.
Stolarz, a native of Jackson, N.J., posted a modest 23-22-4 record, with a 2.84 goals-against average and sparkling .920 save percentage.
The big netminder impressed to such a degree that NHL Central Scouting ranked him as the fourth best goaltender in North America in its final ranking. Stolarz was slotted 20th at the mid-term. That’s quite a jump.
The thing about a kid like Stolarz, who is committed to the University of Nebraska Omaha, is that you take a chance on that size. Though he’s not playing at an overly high level in the NAHL, the league is still good enough to give scouts a very solid notebook on Stolarz’s strengths and weaknesses. A player that had as much success as he did, at his size, is always going to get drafted.
He’s undoubtedly an intriguing prospect and one to keep a close eye on for the Draft.
Though he’s been leapfrogged by Stolarz as the top-ranked American for the NHL Draft, Gillies is still going to warrant a lot of attention. The big netminder from South Portland, Maine, also has that very projectable frame at 6-5, 215.
Though Indiana was bounced by eventual champ Green Bay in the Clark Cup Playoffs via sweep, Gillies had a very strong season to hang his hat on.
Gillies appeared in 53 of his team’s 60 games this season and posted a 31-11-9 record, a 2.77 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He saw a fair amount of pucks, too, making 1,478 saves this season.
The big fella between the pipes is still pretty raw, but teams aren’t drafting him for what he is right now. That size and his athleticism are attractive qualities that should make him a very enticing option for a lot of teams. Patience will be the key with Gillies.
Gillies also made a bit of news this week when he confirmed that he has committed to Providence College. The big netminder had been committed to Northeastern, but backed out on that in March when Huskies goalie Chris Rawlings decided he’d come back for his senior season. Not wanting to get stashed on the bench, Gillies decided to take his talents elsewhere. Speculation was that elsewhere would be with Patrick Roy and his Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL.
Gillies did his due diligence, visiting Quebec, Notre Dame and Providence before making his final decision. In the end, he went with Providence, which is sure to be a program on the rise with Nate Leaman behind the bench.
A lot of American goaltenders are probably looking at the development track of Jonathan Quick, who took a pretty direct route to the NHL through college.
Gillies said this to Andrew Weiss of Future Considerations:
“As a goalie [going to Providence] allows me more time to develop if needed,” Gillies said.
That extra time is likely needed and this could end up being a savvy move on Gillies’ part. Too many players are in a rush to get to the NHL as soon as possible. Goalies don’t have that luxury. They typically take several years to make it to the NHL level. Like whichever team drafts Gillies will have to be patient, he’ll have to be as well. Sounds like that’s just fine with him.
Olson’s directorate-award-winning performance at the World Under-18 Championship has built up some buzz surrounding the U.S. National Under-18 Team goaltender.
Olson had slipped from ninth to 21st on Central Scouting’s final ranking, raising questions about whether the big netminder would even get drafted at all. Based on what he did in the Czech Republic in April — allowing just four goals in five starts, posting three shutouts, a 0.80 goals-against average and .965 save percentage — those doubts can take a hike.
Olson’s defensemen will get a lot of credit, too, but you can’t discount the performance the Apple Valley, Minn., native put together. His best game was against Sweden in the gold-medal game where he stopped 27 shots en route to the 7-0 victory, making several huge saves when the game was still close.
Grant Sonier of ESPN Insider’s NHL Draft Blog mentioned that Olson may have rocketed himself into second-round consideration (subs. required) after his World Championship performance.
It’s a stunning turnaround for a goaltender that entered the tournament with doubts he’d even get drafted at all. Even if it’s not in the second round, Olson is a lock to get picked up.
Wednesday night, the USHL’s playoff champion will be crowned in Green Bay.
The Gamblers and Waterloo Black Hawks will play the decisive Game 5 tonight, in what is expected to be a jam-packed Resch Center.
NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman previewed Game 5.
Green Bay has been incredible all season long, but Waterloo has truly battled through these playoffs. The Black Hawks have suffered a lot of injury woes, including losing certain 2012 draftee Vince Hinostroza for the entirety of the playoffs.
Two really good hockey clubs will go at it tonight. Game time is set for 8:05 p.m. EDT and will air on FASTHockey.com.
There are quite a few draft-eligible players to keep an eye on, if you’re going to take in the game tonight, as well as some guys to know for the future.
Jordan Schmaltz — It’s been a roller coaster of a year for for Schmaltz’s draft stock, but the offensive defenseman has put together a pretty solid playoff run. Though he’s almost certainly slipped out of first-round consideration, Schmaltz has put up seven points and a plus-11 rating in 11 playoff tilts.
Alex Kile — The average-sized forward slipped a bunch in the CSS rankings — from 82 to 168 — but has four goals in the playoffs. The University of Michigan commit is an intriguing option for the latter-half of the draft after his breakout season.
Dakota Mermis — CSS has Mermis listed at No. 84 on its final ranking, but he may project lower than that in the draft. For an undersized defenseman, Mermis has only collected an assist in the playoffs. When he’s on his game, he’s a pretty gifted puck-mover.
A.J. Michaelson — Michaelson was considered one of the best players in his age group at one time, but has fallen back to earth a bit and is ranked 87th by central scouting. The tools are there. Michaelson has good speed, good size and has shown flashes of offensive prowess. He has seven points in 14 playoff games for the Black Hawks.
Stephon Williams – Williams was ranked 34th among North American goaltenders in Central Scouting’s final ranking. He’s a decently sized goaltender that had a pretty fair season, but he has really shone in the playoffs with a 2.15 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. Adding a Clark Cup could go a long way to raising that stock in his second year of draft eligibility.
Taylor Cammarata — He’s not draft eligible until 2013, but as the leading scorer of the Black Hawks in both the regular season and the playoffs, he’s worth mentioning. The USHL’s Rookie of the Year has posted 15 points in 14 games including eight goals. The diminutive dynamo has dazzling skill and good speed. He really is a thrilling player to watch.
Ian McCoshen — Also not draft eligible until 2013, McCoshen has played a very mature two-way game on defense for Waterloo. He has seven points and a plus-6 rating. With his great size (6-3, 205) and advanced game, McCoshen should garner a lot of attention next year.
As we approach the NHL Draft, the American Prospect Update should pick up over the next few weeks, and may even show up a few times a week before the big day in Pittsburgh June 22.