Prospect Profile: #16 Joe Cannata

Image via Matthew Henderson

Joe Cannata checked in at number 10 on these rankings last year. Was his first year as a professional disappointing enough to bump him down six spots on this list? Perhaps it was, but as we have seen over the last year-and-a-half, goaltenders simply aren’t as valued as they once were across the NHL.

And this goaltender valuation includes prospects. Cannata does have NHL upside and a solid pedigree, considering the fact that he was a sixth round draft pick back in 2009. But will he ever play any meaningful games for the Canucks? And if so… when, exactly?

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Let’s take a closer look at the former Merrimack College standout.

Cannata had a phenomenal four year career at Merrimack, winning a combined 42 games over his final two seasons with the Warriors. As one of the best goaltenders in the nation, he posted a sizzling .925 save percentage and an equally-impressive 2.18 goals-against-average in his senior season (2011-12).

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Struggles As A Pro

He bounced between the ECHL and AHL in 2013, winning three games in the ECHL for Kalamazoo, and winning six games in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves. His numbers in both leagues were mediocre, but it isn’t out of the ordinary for a talented college goaltender to struggle with the adjustment to pro hockey (Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick, for example, know what I’m talking about).

Cannata now finds himself in fourth place on Vancouver’s goaltending depth chart, behind Roberto Luongo, Eddie Lack, and Joacim Ericsson. The Canucks will very likely have Cannata compete for ice time in Utica with Lack or Ericsson (whichever of the two loses the Vancouver backup battle at training camp in just over a month). Cannata would probably benefit from a backup role, even at the AHL level. The big adjustment college goaltenders – and players, in general – make at the professional level is the number of games played, the travel, and the diminished time to recover, train, and practice.

Cannata very likely isn’t ready to carry the starter’s workload for the Comets just yet, but he may be in a year’s time.

Playing Style

I have seen a little bit of Cannata, mostly from his time with Chicago. He plays big in goal and is really square to the shooter; his technique is impressive considering how few games of professional experience he has. And his time in the ECHL last season shouldn’t send any huge red flags out – a number of successful NHL goaltenders spent time at that level to begin their professional careers. There are only two spots for goaltenders on an AHL roster, and they need to play somewhere. And while athleticism isn’t something often read in a Cannata scouting report, he does show some great lateral movement and quick legs in the highlight package below:

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Cannata’s best attribute is probably between his head. He was known throughout the NCAA as a very mentally tough goaltender, and although that may be viewed as an intangible that isn’t easy to rate, it’s very easy to see it. Goaltenders who give up bad goals can react differently to it.

I spoke a bit to’s Kevin Woodley (@KevinIsInGoal) about Cannata, and he shared some interesting tidbits. The Canucks aren’t sure if Utica will have a goaltending coach yet (the Chicago Wolves did), but Dan Cloutier will be working very closely with the goaltenders down there throughout the season. Cloutier’s official role is as Goaltending Consultant, and it will be good to have a second set of eyes on the goaltenders in the organization. Regardless of what you think about his career as a goaltender, he is able to speak from a lot of tough experiences that he went through, and that could help young players as they themselves go through the typical ups and downs associated with hockey. 

Most NHL teams don’t have the luxury of a roving coach in Cloutier’s role, and this should be a benefit to all goaltenders within the organization. Cannata’s major weakness at the college level was playing the puck (he’s a Canuck goaltender, after all), and he needs to continue to work at improving that aspect of his game in Utica this season. The rest of Cannata’s game is straight forward. He’s solid technically, he relies on positioning, using his 6-1 frame and solid rebound control to stop first chances and prevent against second ones.

Here’s a bit more on Cannata from Woodley, in the form of a scouting report and a player comparable:

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Balanced style, neutral positioning, solid technical base, fairly wide butterfly flare, which like Schneider allows for quick, easy lateral recoveries (because skates are out wide, less distance to move for knee and skate before establishing an edge to push from).

Doesn’t appear quite as wide as Cory, but certainly some elements of Schneider there, which shouldn’t be surprising given they share a goalie coach in Brian Daccord back home … just hard to tell is there is quite as much quickness as Cory has.

Does appear patient on his skates, and recovers to them when he has time rather than staying on his knees every time, both of which are good qualities … technique alone usually not enough to be good NHL goalie — harder to judge (without seeing him play more beyond clips at least) things like how well he reads and anticipates the play and even just shots (appears to read those well off stick given some of the high handy saves i saw, rather than default drop and block).

You can really see Cannata’s efficiency in movement at the 0:40 mark of this clip:

The Future

What’s next for him? The team would like to see a strong season from him as the 1B goaltender in Utica, and perhaps for him to emerge as or at least challenge for the starter’s role there in 2014-15. We should now know to expect the unexpected when it comes to the present – and future – of goaltending in Vancouver, so speculating when Cannata may be ready for the NHL doesn’t really serve much of a purpose.

As for his placement on this list, he drops down moreso due to the Canucks landing several strong prospects at the 2013 Draft, the Ericsson signing, and the fact that goaltenders have become the NHL’s black sheep over the past few years.

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Hockey East Reporter Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonCHN) shared a very in-depth scouting report with CanucksArmy last year – for more information on Cannata, check it out.

Other Prospect Profiles in This Series:

  • I’ve been quite high on Cannata for a good 3-4 years now. I think he projects well as an NHL goaltender. His numbers in the AHL were actually better than might be expected givin his situation. Climie played 12+ games in a row on more on more than one occasion. The vast majority of his apparances were on nights where the team was either terrible or dead tired… He did not get many “normal” games (where it wasn’t 3 games in 3 nights or Climie was pulled). The coach is notorious for doing this, even when he has a reliable backup, so it isn’t due to Cannata’s struggles.

    I think with an increased role, he should perform much better and I look for an increased ranking on this list next year.

  • The Cloutch is loose in Utica! Cannata has a good chance of being the starter in Utica in 20014/15 if Lou struggles this year. Canucks still have a compliance buyout in their pocket and if the goaltending is average and say Ericsson or Lck plays well I could see a buyout being a way to give the Team flexibility

  • Cannata is going to be much better than I’d think his draft position would’ve made me think. Likely an AHL-starter, NHL-backup, possible job-share in a tandem (obviously not with Luongo). I saw him play in college several times, including against future NHL’ers like Viktor Stalberg, Charlie Coyle, Stephane da Costa (on his team) and he held up really well. I was especially impressed with how calm and confident he seemed, despite in each game I saw him play being extremely under siege. As the post suggests, the transition from college to the pros is a tough one — Schneider’s first season in the AHL was pretty mediocre for the first half and I still remember his horrific debut against the Sharks where he gave up maybe four goals in the first, but like Schneider, I think Cannata is going to be a very good one.