Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are soaking up the spotlight heading into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, but with so much talent between the pipes up for grabs, this could end up being remembered as the year of the goaltender.
Finnish prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is the only goaltender projected to be taken in the first round by International Scouting Services, but every one of this year’s top 15 puckstoppers boasts a strong case for a future in the NHL.
Straight from the Scandinavian goaltender factory known as Finland, Luukkonen is coming off a tremendous year with the Junior A SM-Liiga’s Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho, or HPK. The 6-foot-5, 196-pound netminder posted a league-best 1.78 goals against average with a .917 save percentage before backing HPK to the championship with a consistent effort through the postseason. In nine games en route to the title, Luukkonen produced a .915 save percentage with another league best 2.01 goals against average. The Espoo product also backed his country to gold at the 2017 IIHF world under-18 championship.
Following behind Luukkonen will likely be Boston University netminder Jake Oettinger. The Lakeville, Minn. product opted out of the Western Hockey League to pursue an NCAA career and a place with the US national team’s development program, and it seems to have paid off.
The 6-foot-4, 203-pound Oettinger posted a 2.11 goals against average and a staggering .927 save percentage in his 35 games as a freshman this season, enough to earn him a nod on the NCAA Hockey East all-rookie team as well as the second all-star team.
The Canadian Hockey League gets into the mix at No. 3 with another standout in Lethbridge Hurricanes netminder Stuart Skinner. The Edmonton product has been a go-to guy for the Hurricanes ever since making the roster as a 16-year-old in 2014-15. While his GAA from last summer isn’t too pretty at 3.26, the ’Canes tend to play a run-and-gun style of hockey that left Skinner out to dry on a number of occasions this year. The 6-foot-5, 196-pound Skinner still managed to post a .905 save percentage with a 34-18-3-2 record before helping his team to within two wins of the WHL final this postseason.
Fellow WHLer Ian Scott keeps the ball rolling after another strong year on the struggling Prince Albert Raiders. Scott’s 12-31-3-0 record this year is in no way reflective of his skills between the pipes. The 6-foot-4, 169-pound Calgarian boasts great rebound control with a flashy glove and should provide an NHL team with some serious starting potential in the coming years. While he only managed a 3.69 goals against average and an .895 save percentage in Prince Albert this season, Scott represented his league at the CHL top prospects game and his country at the IIHF under-18 world championship.
Over in Ontario Hockey League, Windsor Spitfires goaltender Michael DiPietro has built a legitimate case for himself with a Memorial Cup title. DiPietro was near unbeatable at the Memorial Cup, finishing his four wins with a 2.00 goals against average and a .932 save percentage in his hometown of Windsor.
The 6-foot, 196-pound goaltender boasts ridiculous speed in the crease and that cool, calm and collected nature NHL teams tend to swoon over, leaving him as one of the more NHL-ready netminders at this year’s draft.
New Jersey’s Cayden Primeau is another potential top five netminder up for grabs. Primeau posted a 3.16 goals against average and an .895 save percentage with the United States Hockey League’s Lincoln Stars. The 6-foot-3, 179-pound goaltender boasts a strong hockey pedigree as well, as he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father, NHL alumnus Keith Primeau.
Other notables in the top 15 include USHL netminders Keith Petruzzelli, of the Muskegon Lumberjacks, and Zhukov Maksim, of the Green Bay Gamblers and Tomas Vomacka out of the North American Hockey League’s Corpus Christi Ice Rays — all of whom posted sub-three goals against averages and plus-900 save percentages with their respective squads this season.
It may take a while for these names to reach households on Hockey Night in Canada, but on June 23 and 24 at Chicago’s United Centre, many will take a big step in the right direction.
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