August 18 2011 02:30PM
When it comes to goaltenders, the Canucks are stacked. The organization boasts Roberto Luongo - signed through the rest of this century, Cory Schneider - a bluechip young NHLer, and Eddie Lack - perhaps the best goalie in the AHL. So when Mike Gillis used his second draft pick at the 2010-11 NHL Draft to select 6,3 Czech netminder David Honzik, some fans were confused.
Last season, David Honzik was a QMJHL rookie with the Victoriaville Tigers. He struggled mightily with the transition and put up subar regular season stats. By seasons end, however, he'd won the starting job from veteran goaltender Antonio Masopietro and posted spectacular numbers in the QMJHL playoffs.
Honzik was one of my favorite prospects in the Q this year. I’m not an expert in goalie prospects, but I have a good feeling that Honzik could be a good one at the next level. Great size, moves well in net, and he’s got a great glove hand as well. He had a really tough first half of the season, and a weak performance in the CHL prospects game. But he bounced back and had a good second half, and a great playoff run with Victoriaville. He won the team’s starting job by seasons-end over veteran Antonio Mastropietro. Another thing about Honzik, he was one of the youngest prospect available in the 2011 draft. Victoriaville expect big thing from him this year as they hope to contend with Saint-John and Shawinigan.
Honzik was born in August 1993, so he is extremely young. He's also extremely raw - which, serves to explain why he struggled in the first parts of his QMJHL rookie season. For a young European netminder - moving to Quebec and playing in the Q is understandably a pretty significant adjustment from both a hockey perspective, as well as a cultural one. Nonetheless, based on the way Jerome was raving about him, it's clear that Honzik impressed observers (and the Canucks brass) in his rookie season.
I decided to get a pro goalie scout's take on Honzik, so I got at Justin Goldman (AKA The Goalie Guild) and asked him what he thought about Honzik's performance and potential ceiling. Here's what Justin had to say:
Before this season started, Honzik had never had real quality goalie coaching before in his life. So when you talk about "raw skilled goalies" – he is as raw as you can possibly get. For him to go from being this completely anonymous, raw skilled kid coming out the Czech Republic who really struggled in the first couple months of the season - he was a fish out of water on most nights – then getting that solid goalie coaching from Daniel Frechette, and for him to absorb all of this information that was thrown at him on a daily basis, and really push Antonio Mastropietro - who I personally think is a terrific goalie - then really take over and put it all together in the playoffs… Well, that’s why Vancouver drafted him so high.
Honzik took his game to a totally different world from where he was to begin the season. And a lot of scouts will say – you take two goalies, one of them is really technically sound and plays really well, but then the other is completely raw skilled, but can compete as well as the goalie with the technically sound skill set – which one do you take? Well you take the one with the raw skill, because imagine how good he’ll be when he actually adds the technique to his game. And that was probably part of Vancouver’s thinking – look where he was to start the season, and look where he ended off – being one of the best Q goalies in the playoffs. I went into the draft with 3 sleepers and he was my first one... I think Vancouver got a good goalie, with really great potential.
What is emerging from these two observers critiques is a basic portrait of a young netminder: Honzik may be lacking in experience and polish - but the guy is young, has demonstrated an enormous capacity for improvement, and has the "raw" tools to be a really good NHL goaltender. He's a project, and a long way off from being NHL ready, but with the organizational depth that Vancouver has got at Honzik's position - the Canucks can afford to wait. Based on what Honzik has shown so far in his young QMJHL career, however, he's worth watching closely - because he's definitely got the upside, and may well be considered a major steal in a few years time.
We'll end the post with some highlights from this years QMJHL playoffs, in this particular game Honzik made 39 saves in a losing cause against the loaded St. John's Sea Dogs - who eventually went on to win the Memorial Cup.