When it comes to goaltending, the Vancouver Canucks are exceedingly deep. Even after the organization trades Roberto Luongo (as everyone assumes they’ll eventually do), the Canucks will still be stacked between the pipes with the likes of Cory Schneider on the roster, and Eddie Lack and Joe Cannata waiting in the wings.
During Mike Gillis’s tenure as General Manager, he’s employed a particular draft strategy regarding netminders. At every draft since Mike Gillis became GM (until this most recent one in Pittsburgh), the club has selected a goaltender. While that drafting strategy has been one factor shaping the club’s organizational depth in goal, there’s more going on here. Consider that presumptive starter Cory Schneider is a hold-over from the Burke/Nonis era, while the organization’s top-goaltending prospect (Eddie Läck) was initially acquired as an unsigned free-agent. Gillis draftee Joe Cannata has a promising future, but the likes of Morgan Clark and Jonathan Iilahti went unsigned by the club, re-entered the draft, and are no longer considered "prospects."
While the record is mixed, whether Gillis’ approach to drafting goaltenders is seen as a success or a failure in the coming years may hinge on the future development of David Honzik.
Read past the jump.
Big man in the Crease
David Honzik is a mammoth goaltender from the Czech Republic who Gillis selected with a third round pick in the 2011 draft (the highest Gillis has ever selected a goaltender). Honzik’s physical tools are beyond doubt, however, his technique is (and remains) very raw and his development appears to have stalled over the past twelve months. Entering his "contract year" (under the current CBA, if the Canucks choose not to sign Honzik before June 1st 2013, he’ll re-enter the draft) Honzik looks like the definition of a "boom or bust" prospect.
When we profiled David Honzik last August, we were perhaps too enamored with his raw athleticism and his lights-out performance over a small sample of games in the 2011 QMJHL postseason. Honzik’s improvements during the course of the 2011 season had earned him rave reviews from goaltending scouts, and he looked like a potential steal in the third round. Following a really weak showing in the 2011 CHL Prospects Game during his draft year, Honzik appeared to have really figured it out under the tutelage of Victoriaville goaltending coach Daniel Frechette.
Here’s what Justin Goldman (AKA The Goalie Guild) told us about Honzik last August:
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.
It appeared that the sky was the limit for David Honzik in 2011-12, but the Czech netminder’s season got off to a rough start at the Penticton Young Stars Tournament, and Honzik’s continued to tread water during his sophmore campaign in the CHL. With Victoriaville last season, Honzik lost his starting job to Brandon Whitney and his save percentage barely improved (.884 in 2010-11 and .885 in 2011-12). He followed up a concerning regular season with a brutal showing in the QMJHL postseason (3 games played, .804% save percentage), as the Tigres were eliminated in the first round.
In my mind, Honzik was one of the biggest dissapointement in the Q last year. He was so brillant in the 2011 playoffs, but he lacked consistency this past season.
Victoriaville had a top team in the league, but couldn’t get a key saves from either of their goaltenders (Honzik or Brandon Whitney), which lead to their shocking loss in the first round againts Baie-Comeau.
Honzik has got a great physical package, but he needs to work on his mental game, in order to cut down on the soft goals he often allowed. Honzik can make some amazing saves but those soft goals can be killer.
During the summer, David Honzik was traded by Victoriaville to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles where, he’ll go into next season as the presumptive starter. While Honzik’s recent struggles have caused many in the industry to question whether or not the athletic Czech goaler will ever figure it out, he still has several things working in his favour. First off, unlike most of Gillis’ recent draft picks, Honzik remains extremely young – he was among the youngest players drafted in 2011, and he won’t turn 19 for another few days. Secondly, Honzik still possesses that raw athleticism and potential that so impressed scouts last season.
That said, Honzik is entering a "make or break" campaign of sorts. On a new club in Cape Breton, he’s going to need to improve on his consistency and show significant technical improvement, as well. If he doesn’t, I have to think there’s a very real possibility that the Canucks willl allow him to re-enter the 2013 Draft.