In order to win the Memorial Cup, the Oshawa Generals relied on one of the stingiest defenses in the history of major junior hockey. At the center of it was goaltender Ken Appleby.
Appleby, 20, backstopped the Generals to the Memorial Cup, helped Oshawa defeat Connor McDavid’s Erie Otters for the OHL championship and was the OHL’s leader in most goaltending categories. Even still, he couldn’t parlay it into finally getting selected at the draft and was passed over for the third straight season. So, Appleby’s going another route: for the second consecutive year, he’s taking to NHL camps and hoping he can land himself an NHL contract. At present, Appleby’s at prospect camp with the St. Louis Blues.
"Being third year eligible to be drafted, I didn't really expect much,” Appleby told NHL.com’s Louie Korac. “I had heard some talks, but to not be drafted is kind of a good opportunity for me to be able to choose teams like St. Louis or whoever else gives me offers for camps so I can kind of choose which way I want to go. It's a good position."
What helped Appleby get noticed by the Blues was that St. Louis assistant GM Martin Brodeur’s son, Jeremy, was a backup netminder for the Generals this past season.
"He's a big goalie; I think it's hard not to give him a look,” Brodeur told Korac. “He's a kid with success and a track record; that's what it's all about. He's paid his dues sitting behind a goalie in Oshawa and got the job as No. 1. I was interested in him.”
After putting up a 2.08 goals-against average, .924 save percentage, six shutouts and a 38-7-0-4 record, it makes sense why Brodeur was interested. Consider, then, that Appleby posted a 2.24 GAA, .922 SP, two shutouts and a 16-4-1 record in the post-season and you’d be hard pressed to find many teams that have spots open in camp who wouldn’t be interested in the young netminder. That’s exactly why, after St. Louis, Korac reported Appleby will be heading to New Jersey to try his hand at camp with the Devils.
Appleby is also coming off of a 2013-14 campaign that saw him make big strides with a 2.48 GAA, .920 SP and three shutouts in 24 games of backup duty.
The unfortunate thing for Appleby, though, is that he might really need to wow those in charge to land a deal in St. Louis. Behind NHL goaltenders Jake Allen and Brian Elliott, the Blues have Jordan Binnington, Pheonix Copley, Niklas Lundstrom and Luke Opilka under contract for next season. However, only Opilka has a deal running through to 2016-17.
Appleby’s chances could be much better in New Jersey, where a qualifying offer wasn’t extended to netminder Maxime Clermont, and 22-year-old Scott Wedgewood is likely to be backed up by 34-year-old Yann Danis in the AHL next season. New Jersey might need some effective goaltending depth and Appleby could fit the bill.
Of course, nothing’s a sure thing. Appleby knows that, too, telling Korac he can take the experience back to junior if nothing comes of camp. But with a track record like Appleby’s, it might be worth a shot.