Photo Credit: NHL.com

The Canucks Should Select a Goalie at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft

In Vancouver, the Canucks’ crease is a topic that gets air time seemingly constantly. Allow me to add another submission. The Canucks should be targeting a goaltender at some point in the upcoming  NHL Entry Draft.

I made this same suggestion last year, and the response was that the Canucks have Thatcher Demko, Michael Garteig, Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom, so they shouldn’t worry.

Here we are a year later, and the suggestion remains. The points I made still apply to this year but with slight adjustments.

Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent, and could be re-signed, but is 37-years-old and the Canucks have to replace him at some point. Markstrom still hasn’t won over the crease as Vancouver’s number one goaltender, so there are still questions about his ceiling. Demko had a bit of an up and down season but is still trending towards being an NHL goalie. Garteig didn’t win a game at the AHL level and had unimpressive numbers at the ECHL. Lastly, Richard Bachman is a good third goalie, but shouldn’t be expected to help carry this team.

The pipeline is okay at the moment, but that can change quickly. As is, the pipeline relies heavily on Demko reaching his potential. If he isn’t able to become an above average starter, there won’t be anyone there to help him along.

Furthermore, Demko has just completed his first year in the AHL, in two years time he will be expected to be in the NHL. Thus selecting a goalie in this draft will allow them to follow the same year by year trajectory and take over for Demko in the AHL when he graduates.

If you look across the league, there are teams with multiple goalie prospects at all levels. Some goalie just don’t take that next step. Having multiple prospects only improves the odds. If you are placing all your eggs in one basket, you run the risk of being left with nothing.

Yes, always take the best player available and don’t draft based on need. But this is still something to consider when entering the draft as there is a bit of gamesmanship to maximizing your selections where they are.

With that, let’s take a look at some of the goalies who the Canucks could target.

Jake Oettinger (NHL CSS: 1st N.A.)

Image: NHL.com
  • Age: 18-years-old, 1998-12-18
  • Birthplace: Lakeville, MN, USA
  • Catches: L
  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 205 lbs
  • Draft Year Team: Boston University (NCAA)

Oettinger is one of the top goaltending prospects in this draft class and cracked our Top 55. We already have an in-depth profile completed on him already here. Greg Balloch from InGoal Magazine has a fantastic scouting report on Oettinger in that post.

There isn’t a point in going over everything in the profile, but Oettinger is an excellent option if he doesn’t cross the stage before the 33rd overall pick. The Canucks have shown a track record of American players, so it’s conceivable that Oettinger is someone who they would covet.

I wouldn’t expect Oettinger to last until the Canucks 55th overall or 64th overall picks. If they want him, it has to be at 33rd.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (NHL CSS: 1st EU)

Image: IIHF
  • Age: 18-years-old, 1999-03-19
  • Birthplace: Espoo, FIN
  • Catches: L
  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 195 lbs
  • Draft Year Team: HPK U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)

If the Canucks don’t select Oettinger, then Luukkonen is a possible option with their late second or early third round pick. Luukkonen was our 76th ranked prospect for this draft class.

A big framed goaltender who has played well in Finnish junior leagues but has struggled at times on the international stage. His calling card is his cool, calm demeanour and technically sound game.

He is expected to return to Finland next season and push himself up to the SM-Liiga for HPK

Keith Petruzzelli (NHL CSS: 2nd N.A.)

Image: NHL.com
  • Age: 18-years-old, 1999-02-09
  • Birthplace: Lakeville, MN, USA
  • Catches: R
  • Height: 6’6″
  • Weight: 190 lbs
  • Draft Year Team: Muskegon Lumberjacks  (USHL)

The 6’6″ netminder was ranked first amongst North American goalies in the mid-term ranking but fell to second for the final one. He was named the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game MVP after not allowing a goalie in 27 minutes of action.

Al Jensen from NHL Central Scouting with a scouting report on the American netminder:

“He has shown steady improvement since the beginning of the season and has turned into an excellent NHL goalie prospect,”

“His style resembles the way [Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender] Matt Murray plays. He’s good on his angles, is square to the shots. He’s tough to beat low as he seals the ice and five-hole with his leg extensions. He has good rebound control with the soft pads and he absorbs the higher shots well into his body.”

He will need to work on his rebound control and consistency as he progresses up the ladder. He is committed to Quinnipiac University for next season.

Olle Eriksson Ek (NHL CSS: 2nd EU)

Image: VF.Se
  • Age: 17-years-old, 1999-06-22
  • Birthplace: Karlstad, SWE
  • Catches: L
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 187 lbs
  • Draft Year Team: Farjestad BK (SuperElit)

Another goalie to crack our top 100 prospects was Olle Eriksson Ek, who came in as the 90th ranked prospect in the upcoming draft class.

Here’s what I had to say about the young netminder in the prospect profile:

The younger brother of Minnesota Wild prospect Joel Eriksson Ek, Olle enters the draft as the second ranked European goalie by CSS. He had a strong showing at the Ivan Hlinka tournament to start the year and followed that up with some impressive numbers in the SuperElit J20 for Farjestad.

Measuring in at 6’2” and 190 lbs, Eriksson Ek is right within the ‘normal’ goaltender sizes these days. He doesn’t have any particular skill that stands out but has good technique and uses his frame well to cover the net.

Regularly regarded as the best goalie in Sweden for this draft class, he lost the net to Adam Ahman for the U18 tournament in April. But that shouldn’t take away from what Eriksson Ek can do. He has the size, skills and a long track record that indicate he has a legitimate shot at being an NHL goaltender.

Eriksson Ek is expected to return to the SuperElit next season and is expected to challenge for the Swedish WJHC team.

Michael DiPietro (NHL CSS: 4th N.A.)

Image: The Hockey News
  • Age: 18-years-old, 1999-06-09
  • Birthplace: Windsor, ON, CAN
  • Catches: L
  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 192 lbs
  • Draft Year Team: Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

The biggest riser of this group is Windsor Spitfires netminder Michael DiPietro. Ranked as the 7th best North American goaltender, Dipietro ended the year as the 4th ranked. That was before his standout appearance at the Memorial Cup.

He was ranked 88th by Canucks Army, and the aforementioned Balloch had a great scouting report on him:

Michael DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires is a potential top goaltending pick in the upcoming 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He drew a lot of attention as a 16-year-old when he appeared in 29 OHL games, while posting a respectable .912 save percentage. He was able to improve that number to .917 in 51 games this season, which has helped his draft stock considerably. You don’t normally see 17-year-olds starting as many games as he has. Including playoffs, he’s appeared in 90 games – which is a very solid sample size to work with.

The biggest knock against DiPietro is not his size, but rather his ability to effectively utilize his 6-foot-1 frame. He reads plays well and is an excellent puck-tracker, but his skating strategy needs to improve by the time he reaches the professional level. Goaltenders that have a similar frame achieve success by beating passes on their feet. DiPietro, on the other hand, has an initial tendency to slide across. The downside of that is not just the fact that he is down in the butterfly early, reducing his size, but it also means that he loses the ability to move laterally back the other way if there is a returning pass. At 6-foot-1, he’ll need to play more aggressively than other larger goaltenders, and the ability to hold his edges is something he is required to master moving forward.

His talent ceiling remains very high. He is lauded by many scouts for his intense focus, and ability to battle through broken plays in front of him. His slightly aggressive style and physical strength/flexibility means that he gets the ‘athletic’ tag slapped on him quite often.

Overall, DiPietro is one of the five best goaltending prospects in this year’s draft. He does have a few issues to iron out in his game, but is a very good candidate to become an NHL goaltender if he is able to develop properly.

Adam Ahman (NHL CSS: 3rd EU)

Image: Hockeymagasinet.com
  • Age: 17-years-old, 1998-07-31
  • Birthplace: Vastervik, SWE
  • Catches: L
  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 163 lbs
  • Draft Year Team: HV71 J20 (SuperElit)

Ahman may be the last of these goalies to be selected, but that shouldn’t take away from how good he is.

Ahman has been excellent for HV71 J20 this season, and although there were some struggles at the U18’s, he took the job from Eriksson Ek. Ahman was named the best goalie in the SuperElit and won the ‘best GAA’ award.

He may be a bit of a longer term prospect, but he seems like a good value bet in the later third, fourth or fifth round.

Other options

In the CHL, Ian Scott and Stuart Skinner are two goalies whose stock has slipped slightly with the rise of the players mentioned above. In the USHL, Cayden Primeau and Maksim Zhukov had a similar fall.

In Europe, Danill Tarasov was a highly rated prospect in Russia to start the year but has tumbled down the rankings.

For these players, it isn’t so much that the Canucks should target them, but if they are on the board with the Canucks 188th overall pick, they could prove worthwhile gambles to recapture their trajectory.

Given the development curve of Demko and the lack of other prospects, now is the time for the Canucks to add a netminder. With multiple early picks, using one of their fourth round picks on a falling goaltender might be a good plan of action.

Alternatively, if they believe that one of the higher end goalies is destined to be a starter, then using one of those second or third round picks isn’t a misstep.

The goalies of this year seem to be underrated, just like the remainder of the draft class. There is some serious talent to be had between the pipes.

There is no doubt that the Canucks need prospects at every position, but walking away with a goaltender at some point in this draft should be a priority.

  • Puck Viking

    Id take one with our 4th and 7th rounders unless someone they like really slides. We need to come away with a center with our 1st or 2nd. Hopefully the rest of the picks are used on defense.

    • monkeyman991

      I think the mindset that we need to draft a centre with our first 2nd rounder is a bad one to have. Draft the best player available and in due time if you need a centre desperately, trade that good player that you drafter for a centre.

      Obviously I know we need centre depth but I hope you understand my logic. 🙂

  • Whackanuck

    Good article about a heretofore unmentioned need.
    One thing about goaltenders is their unpredictability. Maybe keep chasing slightly older NCAA free agents who have a longer history to depend on?

  • KCasey

    I know this sounds kind of strange when evaluating prsopects, but I played and went through 3 seperate GM modes on NHL 2017 and Ukko-Pekka turned out to be a beast all 3 times. Didnt draft him the first 2 play throughs but by the 3rd time in I remembered to grab him with my 3rd round pick and became my starter by season 4. This exact same thing happened with Henri Jokiharju. Ended up being a top pairing D man all 3 times and same thing, took him 3rd play through and he was my best defenceman within 5 seasons. I know this is completely moot when evaluating prospect potential and outcome but just an extra layer/incentive for being okay with either one of them being picked in my books.

    • tyhee

      Ok, I’ll bite.

      What do the results of a fantasy game in which the “players” are just whatever data someone has input have to do with real-life evaluation of prospects?

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    I say take the Finnish guy. Talk about a country that just seems to crank out disproportionate numbers of cold-blooded goalies year after year.

    Also, was going to comment that there must be something in the water in Lakeville, MN, but in fact Keith Petruzzelli is from Wilbraham, MA and that’s a misprint.

  • TheRealPB

    Interesting suggestion. I think using one of the 4th rounders on a goalie later on makes sense given the argument you make about restocking the pool; unless there’s a blue chip goalie at the top you have to have I wouldn’t use one of our higher picks on them (and it’s interesting you’re making this argument here after all the criticism of using a high 2nd on Demko at the time from CA based on the argument that half of the quality goalies out there were 3rd round or below).

    I don’t really see that kind of blue chip prospect in the goalies this year. I think Oettinger is good but as I said during your profile of him I think he’s being overvalued. That Boston team was absolutely stacked and playing behind all those high draft picks (including so many first and second rounders) I think inflates his value. I mean a college team that rolls out a D of Charlie Mackavoy, Dante Fabbro, Chad Krys, Brandon Hickey and Johnathan MacLeod (not to mention Keller, Forsbacka-Karlson and Greenaway up front) is not going to be hanging their goalie out to dry. I saw four BU games this year and while the team impressed a great deal it was hard to get a great read on Oettinger because, simply put, the other teams barely seemed to make it into their end or Fabbro and Mackavoy simply cleared the puck away so fast. Watching both Schneider and Demko with the other BC team was different — what both have in common is an ability to really control and calm the game down. Oettinger actually reminded me more of Joe Cannata (though Oettinger is a bit bigger).

    I’d go for Petruzzelli with the first 4th if he’s around but I doubt he will be. At this point C and D are much more crucial needs for us for us to squander those first four picks on a goalie.

  • Rodeobill

    Good article and good points, but I still wouldn’t reach for one. BPA, and if they feel that’s a goalie at that pick then great. Definitely don’t shy away from picking one due to glaring needs elsewhere.

  • Ginner Classic

    I’d hold the line and see if we can snag Dipietro at 64 or wait and try Dhillon (not mentioned) at the end of the 4th. There is not likely going to much left after the 4th.

  • Ginner Classic

    I have zero interest in Oettinger. We dodged a bullet once with Schneider electing to sign with us after his senior year. We dodged another when Demko elected (after much deliberation) to skip his senior year. Oettinger has already played one year in the NCAA, has a highly regarded netminder ahead of him, and can simply play three seasons of cawlidge hockey and then be a UFA.

    With 1st round forwards I only worry about this a little. With 2nd round defenders, a bit more. With goalies already one year in, you are tempting fate.

    Sorry….no way.

    • Gregthehockeynut

      There seems to be a glut of mid grade backup /almost starter type of goalies right now. With the Canucks being 2- 3 years away form even making the playoffs I think an affordable Halak type this year and next and restocking the skaters first in that time makes more sense. The expansion draft might produce a deal like that so it’s going to an interesting off season for deals I hope.