NHL Draft: It's tough to figure out those quirky goalies

 

NHL draft: Canucks happy with their netminders and not sure if they’ll pick another on Sunday

 
 
 
 
Zachary Fucale of the Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads is a consensus top-20 pick for Sunday’s NHL draft.
 

Zachary Fucale of the Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads is a consensus top-20 pick for Sunday’s NHL draft.

Photograph by: Liam Richards, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Far from an exact science, the NHL draft is akin to combining combustible skill and will and hoping the mixture doesn’t blow up in your face.

And when it comes to the last line of defence, the first thought is you need to select a goaltender nearly every year because there are no guarantees in a position that continues to evolve through conditioning, positioning and equipment.

The quirky nature of crease crusaders, who are wired differently and can having alarming swings in physical and mental exertion, makes NHL Combine interviewing as important as season-long scouting.

Seven stoppers could go in the first three rounds of the 2013 draft on Sunday in Newark, N.J.

Zachary Fucale of the Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads is a consensus top-20 pick. He’s followed by projected second-rounders Eric Comrie of Tri-City (WHL), who had season-ending hip surgery, Delta native Tristan Jarry of Edmonton (WHL) and Philippe Desrosiers of Rimouski (QMJHL). On paper, they all look good. In reality, who knows?

“That’s the hardest position to figure out and we’re not very good at figuring out most of the positions,” admitted an NHL director of amateur scouting. “You try to bring in goalie consultants and coaches and try and get some knowledge in what they’re seeing in techniques and the biggest thing is mentally — meeting them and getting to know them. You try to find out about their work ethic and their drive more than anything.

“They have to have that competitive drive and that focus.”

The significance of selecting a stopper has reached the level to where Hockey Canada runs a pre-draft goalie camp so NHL coaches and scouts can get one last look at who they may select. And drafting a goalie has become more of a necessity than an option for most NHL clubs in any draft.

“Absolutely,” said the scout. “We’re looking to draft a goalie — no doubt.”

First-overall picks Marc-Andre Fleury (2003), Rick DiPietro (2000) and Michel Plasse (1968) have ridden roller-coasters of execution and emotion. Fleury won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 but lost his playoff starting job to Tomas Vokoun this spring.

Aside from an eye-popping 15-year contract, a string of injuries led to to the moniker of Rickety DiPietro. He played just three games this season and was placed on waivers before being sent to the minors. Plasse won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1973 and played for six teams.

So what does this all mean for the Vancouver Canucks?

While signing Swedish free agent Joacim Eriksson, 23, to a two-year, two-way entry level contract on June 17 could be the prelude to battling the 25-year-old Eddie Lack for the backup job to Cory Schneider — once Roberto Luongo is finally dealt — it’s no certainty.

Is Eriksson is ready to face NHL rubber and will Lack will be fully recovered from January hip surgery and has he had enough AHL seasoning? One will pair with Joe Cannata, 23, to backstop the Utica Comets. David Honzik could have also been in the development mix, but fell so far off the 2011 post-draft radar that he wasn’t signed by the June 1 deadline. Which tells you a lot about the picking process.

When the Canucks selected WHL goaltender Morgan Clark in the seventh round of the 2008 draft, they passed on Eriksson, who went 25 picks later. Eleven selections after that, the Nashville Predators took Anders Lindback and traded the Swede to Tampa Bay, where he’s now the Lightning backup. As for this draft, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis isn’t sure whether he’ll draft by position or by the best player available with six picks (Nos. 24,85,115,145,175 and 205) on Sunday. He’s of the mind that his goaltending is good, if not deep.

“We’re really secure with our goaltending,” said Gillis. “Adding Eriksson is a huge piece for us and with Lack, we feel we have three mature goaltenders who can play and Cannata coming along. I’m not sure whether we’ll draft a goalie or not. Perhaps, but we’ll see what’s available.

“Historically, we have looked at positions along with the best player available. I don’t feel a need to move up (from No. 24) and it’s very difficult to do but if there’s an opportunity — we’ll look at it.”

The Canucks were high on goalie John Gibson in the 2011 draft and interviewed the Pittsburgh native several times, but he went 39th overall to the Anaheim Ducks. The Canucks then sent the 60th pick to the Wild so Minnesota native winger Mario Lucia could be selected in exchange for 71st and 101st picks. The Canucks then took Honzik based largely on the goalie’s 6-foot-3 size and potential. However, injury-plagued and bothered by a troublesome shoulder, the Czech native was 4-23-1 this season with a bloated 4.40 goals-against average and .873 saves percentage for Cape Breton of the QMJHL.

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Gibson outshone Ben Bishop as the U.S won bronze at the world championship last month and was also the 2013 world junior most valuable player for the gold medal winning Americans — recording a 1.38 GAA and 95.5 saves percentage. With Jonas Hiller, 31, entering the final year of his deal and Victor Fasth, 30, getting an extension, there’s to reason to rush Gibson unless the Ducks eventually move one of their goalies to get younger.

bkuzma@theprovince.com

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NET RETURNS

Gillis Regime

2011: Third Round: David Honzik, Victoriaville, QMJHL, was not signed.

2010: Sixth Round: Jonathan Iilahiti, Espoo Blues, Finnish Elite League, was not signed.

2009: Sixth Round: Joe Cannata, Merrimack College, Hockey East.

2008: Seventh Round: Morgan Clark, Red Deer (WHL), was not signed.

Pre-Gillis Regime

2005: Fourth Round: Alexandre Vincent, Chicoutimi Sagueneens.

2004: First Round: Cory Schneider, Phillips Academy (Mass).

2004: Sixth Round: Julien Ellis, Shawinigan, Cataractes, QMJHL.

2002: Third Round: Lukas Mensator, HC Energie Karlovy Vary (Czech).

2002: Eighth Round: Matt Violin, Lake Superior State (NCAA).

 
 
 
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Zachary Fucale of the Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads is a consensus top-20 pick for Sunday’s NHL draft.
 

Zachary Fucale of the Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads is a consensus top-20 pick for Sunday’s NHL draft.

Photograph by: Liam Richards, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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