In each of the last three NHL Drafts, the Vancouver Canucks have selected a goaltender with one of their picks.
According to Thomas Drance of The Athletic, there is a goaltender in this year’s draft who the Canucks are very interested in, and would be available in the third round, when the Canucks will make their first selection.
The Canucks have arguably the brightest mind in the goaltending world under contract in Ian Clark, and as the Columbus Blue Jackets did, they allow him to have a major role in deciding which goaltenders they select at the draft table.
This year, it’s widely agreed upon that the top goaltending prospect available is Yaroslav Askarov, a 6’3 Russian goaltender who has appeared in three contests for Vasili Podkozlin’s team, SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.
Due to the fact the Canucks don’t pick until the third round, there’s almost no chance they’ll be able to select Askarov, who many outlets are projecting to go in the top fifteen.
That being said, there are a number of promising young goaltenders available in this draft who should be available by the time the Canucks pick. If the pick were to hit, the Canucks could quickly be looking at a goaltending depth chart similar in strength to that of the Blue Jackets, which boasts names like Elvis Merzlikins, Joonas Korpisalo, Daniil Tarasov, and Veini Vehvilainen.
Here are three goaltenders who I predict one of could be the mystery goaltender the Canucks are very interested in.
1. Drew Commesso 6’2 181 lbs
Boston-born goaltender Drew Commesso put up a .920 save percentage through 27 games played with the U18 US National Development Team, along with a 2.05 goals against average.
Commesso is currently predicted to go mid-late third round, so he’d likely be there at 82nd overall, when the Canucks will make their first selection, and it’d likely be a longshot to get him at 113th. If they want to take Commesso, they’d likely need to use their first pick of the draft to do it.
Commesso has good reflexes and strong positional play, but his rebound control is still a work in progress.
From what I saw from Commesso, he is exceptional at tracking the puck through traffic and rarely needs to slide around out of position in order to make a big stop.
Something else that can only be seen as a positive in Commesso’s game is his narrow stance. About a month ago, Kevin Woodley joined the Canucks Conversation Podcast to talk all things goaltending. In that episode, he mentioned how the NHL has moved to more of an East-West style than North-South, which is why goaltenders with wider stances, such as Matt Murray, have struggled in recent years.
A narrow stance is also something that Ian Clark has tried to instill in all his goaltenders, and has helped them all find success. By keeping their feet closer together, it’s easier for goaltenders to move side to side it would be if they were in a low stance with their feet spread out wide.
Commesso could be available in the third round, but if he slides to the fourth round, the Canucks should seriously consider drafting him.
2. Joel Blomqvist 6’2 205 lbs
Now we’re getting to the goaltender who in my humble opinion is the second-best goaltender in this draft behind Askarov.
When we talk about quick side to side movement and explosiveness, there might be few who are as efficient as Finnish goaltender Joel Blomqvist. His positional play and fundamentals are so well-developed that some have pondered whether he is too much of a “goalie school goalie”, lacking the dynamic skill needed to play in the NHL.
Similar to Commesso, Blomqvist utilizes a narrow stance, which should translate nicely to the pro level.
Pucks tend to stick to Blomqvist and he seldom finds himself out of position. When he does give up the odd rebound, it’s rarely to a high danger scoring area, but when it is, Blomqvist is right there thanks to his quick lateral movement.
His post play when the puck is behind the net is exceptional for a young goaltender, and he really knows how to seal off the post in a hurry when the puck changes sides.
He rarely loses sight of the puck, but when he does, he can trust his solid positioning enough to help him out long enough for him to find the puck again. He doesn’t panic in these situations, and is very good at keeping calm and steering pucks wide whenever possible.
Take these two sequences for example. Take note of how narrow Blomqvist’s stance is and how quickly he’s able to move from side to side:
Did you miss it? In the first sequence, a shot comes from along the boards as the opposing forward shoots low on Blomqvist, hoping for a rebound that one of his three streaking teammates can pounce on.
Blomqvist makes the initial save, and keeps the rebound close enough for his defenceman to clear. He doesn’t panic and try to chop at it with his stick or dive out to cover it. Then, the defenceman clears the puck right to a forward, who tries to catch Blomqvist off guard with a quick shot from a sharp angle. Blomqvist was quick to get into good positioning on his post, and because of this, is able to neutralize the threat right away and steer the puck to the opposite corner.
In the second sequence, he maintains a narrow stance with a forward bursting in on him. When the forward makes his move, Blomqvist is able to stay right with him, while being in good enough position after the fact to make sure there’s no easy tap in available.
They may seem like little things, but they all paint a clear picture of Blomqvist’s sound technical abilities.
He’s projected by most outlets to be selected in the late second- early third round, but as we’ve learned, anything can happen on draft day.
Considering how well connected Ian Clark is in Europe, and the success he’s had with scouting Finnish goaltenders, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Canucks are interested in Blomqvist.
3. Calle Clang 6’2 176 lbs
Now here’s a goaltender, who, although not as highly touted as Blomqvist and Commesso, could be a real project goaltender with a ton of upside.
He could also be available in the fourth round, and maybe even the fifth, but at that point, it’s wishful thinking.
Calle Clang doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses in his game, but still needs to fine-tune his skills. Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects described Clang as a “Really nice puck handler. The puck can be a little too slippery for him at times. Raw but with real upside.”
“He plays from his goal line out, rarely getting caught stranded too far from his crease and is difficult to beat around the posts or down low. He’s got a great read of the game and doesn’t seem to struggle with adapting to a stronger pace of play. He also recovers well when he does allow a tough goal.”
-EliteProspects’ 2020 NHL Draft Guide
The Swedish goaltender spent the majority of his 2019-20 season with the Rögle J20 team, where he posted a .907 save percentage. This year, he is on loan to Kristianstads IK of the Allsvenskan. While some people have Clang ranked as the second highest ranked goaltender in this draft, other outlets have him ranked as the fourth or fifth best goalie available.
This level of uncertainty of where Clang will get drafted could provide a level of intrigue to the Canucks. With Blomqvist and Commesso, they’d likely be looking at using their third round pick to select either goaltender, which if you ask me, isn’t the best idea for them as an organization, unless Ian Clark is 100% certain the goaltender they select is going to be elite for many years to come.
Taking a goalie with upside such as Clang later in the draft doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me, especially if it’s one who the Canucks see legit potential in. They employed this strategy last year with the Silovs pick, so who says they wouldn’t do it again this year. Albeit to a lesser degree since Clang won’t go past the fifth round.
While he may not be as polished of a goaltender as Commesso and Blomqvist, Clang could be somebody the Canucks take a flyer on later in the draft.