The last several years have seen strong Canadian entries at the World Juniors. When it comes to the talent of their forwards and defensemen, Team Canada has access to riches unparalleled in any other country in the world.
The situation is a little different in net, where the uncertain tandem of Mark Visentin and Scott Wedgewood will backstop this year’s team.
In fact, since the 2007 tournament – where Canadian goaltender Carey Price posted a 0.961 SV% and allowed just three even-strength goals against in six games – Canada has been without a star goaltending prospect between the pipes. Five goaltenders have played at least three games for Canada over that span; they are as follows:
|2011||CAN||Mark Visentin||4||0.923||27th overall, 2010|
|2011||CAN||Olivier Roy||3||0.875||133rd overall, 2009|
|2010||CAN||Jake Allen||5||0.902||34th overall, 2008|
|2009||CAN||Dustin Tokarski||4||0.906||122nd overall, 2008|
|2008||CAN||Steve Mason||5||0.951||69th overall, 2006|
Of that group, just Steve Mason had a strong tournament – Visentin looked good early after replacing Olivier Roy but then bore much of the blame for the Canadians’ collapse in the gold medal game. There’s no sure-fire stars in this group, no Price’s or Fleury’s or Luongo’s, just a bunch of maybes.
Yet, this is hardly an area where Canada alone has struggled. Among other teams at the tournament, only two – the United States and Sweden – have always employed NHL-drafted goalies between the pipes. Outside of Visentin, only three first round picks have represented one of the big six countries (Canada, the USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic): Riku Helenius, Thomas McCollum and Jack Campbell. No guaranteed stars in that group – even Campbell, who went 11th overall in 2010, is only now starting to emerge from a disastrous 2010-11 season in Windsor.
The Czechs have had Michal Neuvirth as their only decent goalie in the last four years – not only was he the only one drafted, but he’s also the only one to crack the lofty 0.900 SV% mark at the tournament. The Finns have run hot and cold – twice seeing goalies exceed the 0.930 SV% mark, three times seeing them fall below 0.880 SV%. The Russians have had strong performances by mostly undrafted players – only one of whom, Sergei Bobrovsky, has since played in the NHL. The Swedish and American entries both boast talent, but in both of their teams combined they’ve only had two really exceptional goaltending performances in the last four years – Jacob Markstrom for Sweden and Jack Campbell for the U.S.
It’s a far cry from the 2007 tournament, the last time we saw a really strong crop of NHL goalies. Carey Price represented Canada, Semyon Varlamov tended net for Russia, Tuukka Rask played for Finland and Ondrej Pavelec rounded out a strong quartet for the Czech Republic.
For whatever reason, the goaltending crop has been weak pretty much across the board over the last four seasons.