Though he was brought into Toronto to be a backup, he was supposed to be an NHL backup. But 5-foot-10 Jhonas Enroth is heading to Anaheim’s AHL team and it’s no surprise
In the wee hours of the night, the Anaheim Ducks acquired goaltender Jhonas Enroth from Toronto in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2018 – one step above “future considerations” on the trade prize ladder.
Enroth was in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies and he will be assigned to the Ducks’ affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. According to beat writer Eric Stephens, Gulls starter Dustin Tokarski is banged up and Enroth will provide insurance on the farm.
Signed as a free agent by the Maple Leafs in the summer, Enroth made four starts with the NHL squad, giving up at least three goals in each appearance and never winning a game. So not a banner start to his season, to be sure. Hopefully Enroth finds success in the AHL, but the trade does bring up something I’ve been thinking about lately: the rapid extinction of the short goalie.
Of course, “short” is a relative term in pro hockey. Enroth is 5-foot-10, which is completely average among the general populace. But in the current NHL, netminders tend to be in the 6-foot-3 range, shooting up even taller when you’re talking about the Ben Bishops and Pekka Rinnes of the world.
The one outlier in the NHL is thought to be Los Angeles stalwart Jonathan Quick, who relies on freak athleticism to dominate (when he’s healthy). But even Quick is 6-foot-1.
In an era of butterfly goalies, the size bias is all too understanding; taller guys cover more net when they’re on their knees and elite shooters can pick exposed top corners on the shorter goalies.
And this is not a secret; just look at the NHL draft. Carter Hart was the first netminder off the board in 2016 and the Philadelphia pick is 6-foot-2. Washington took the first goalie in 2015 when the Capitals drafted 6-foot-4 Ilya Samsonov in the first round and Russia found out just how good that pick was at the world juniors this year.
Meanwhile, one of the top goalies in college’s NCHC conference is 5-foot-10 Ben Blacker of Western Michigan. Blacker wasn’t drafted in 2015 or 2016, despite always putting up good stats. As one scout told me back then, it’s not fair, but the height was a hang-up. What is his pro upside? It’s hard to forecast. Even drafted goalies on the short side have a tough hill to climb. Carolina prospect Alex Nedeljkovic was an incredible junior player in the OHL and helped win a bronze medal for Team USA at the world juniors last year, but the six-footer is still finding his footing in the pros. Nedeljkovic is currently playing for the ECHL’s Florida Everblades and trying to keep pace with his team’s other netminders.
Denmark had a 5-foot-9 goalie at the world juniors this year in Kasper Krog and he played out of his mind, but so did 5-foot-9 Slovakian Denis Godla a couple years back. And even Godla got strafed by some of the better teams in that tournament.
Now, perhaps this trend will reverse itself and a shorter goalie will show us all the light. Will the butterfly reign forever? Nothing stays the same in hockey forever. And 5-foot-11 Juuse Saros is off to a good start with Nashville, though opponents don’t have a book on him yet. But shooters are only getting better and barring an unforeseen development, tall netminders will provide NHL teams with the best last defense possible. That’s bad news for netminders like Enroth – but hey, at least he gets to live in San Diego for the rest of the winter.