Predicting how a 17-year-old netminder is going to turn out in five years is still very difficult, so NHL teams pass the stress onto the kids when it comes to draft order.
Just to give you an idea of how difficult drafting a goaltender is, I present two classes.
In 2006, NHL teams selected Semyon Varlamov, Jonathan Bernier, Steve Mason, James Reimer, Michal Neuvirth, Jhonas Enroth, plus several others who have played at least a dozen games in the big league.
In 2007, there were 20 netminders selected and only two of them ever made it to The Show: Timo Pielmeier played one game for San Jose in 2010-11, while Allen York suited up 11 times for Columbus a season after that.
So you’ll excuse GMs around the league of being a little gun-shy when it comes to taking a goalie in the draft. But Carey Price went fifth overall and Roberto Luongo went fourth, so you can’t exactly ignore the position until the latter rounds, either – even though that’s where Pekka Rinne (258th) and Henrik Lundqvist (205th) ended up.
All this means that the netminders themselves usually have no idea when they’ll be picked.
“There’s been word that I’ll go first round, second round,” said Alex Nedeljkovic of the Ontario League’s Plymouth Whalers. “But a lot of great goalies have gone in the later rounds or weren’t even drafted.”
Nedeljkovic has one of the best pedigrees in the draft, leading the Whalers on a great playoff run in 2012-13 as an underager and helping Team USA win gold at the world under-18s this season. He won’t be the first goalie taken – Boston College’s Thatcher Demko is a practical lock – but his skills should make him a good candidate to go second or third.
The big knock on the Ohio native is size and it was something he addressed over and over again at the NHL draft combine last month when he interviewed with 20 different teams.
“The one question I think every team asked was ‘How do you deal with being a six-foot tall goalie in a day and age where guys that are 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4, are taking over the league?’,” he said. “You can’t control how tall you are. All you can control is how hard you work with that height. Use that to your advantage; try to work harder than other guys.”
At nearly 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Chase Perry is one of those prototypical new-era goalies. The Minnesota native played in the North American League this season with Wenatchee, putting up great numbers and earning all-rookie team honors. Perry played for Andover High School before that and is committed to play at Colorado College next season.
“I felt going to the NAHL would develop my game the quickest,” he said. “I would face stronger, faster shooters than in high school and I think I made the right decision.”
Ranked 11th among goalies by International Scouting Services and eight among North American goalies by NHL Central Scouting, Perry could go anywhere when the draft actually goes down in Philadelphia this week. He interviewed with 13 teams at the draft combine.
“Hopefully I’ll get my name called,” he said. “I’m really working hard to get to that goal, so we’ll see what happens.”
Perry is one of three NAHL goalies in the draft mix, along with Kasimir Kaskisuo and Logan Halladay. Kaapo Kahkonen, Linus Soderstrom and Jonas Johansson are all available from Europe while the CHL boasts big kids such as Brent Moran and Mason McDonald. Along with Demko and Nedeljkovic, that’s quite a few options right there. But how many will be wearing NHL jerseys in five or six years?
That’s the big question and one of the best storylines to watch for in Philadelphia.