With the 17th pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, the Vegas Golden Knights select, Spencer Knight, goalie, US National Team Development Program.
It’s just too perfect, right? There’s literally a guy named Knight, who plays a position of need for Vegas, who happens to be slotted right around where the Golden Knights select in the Draft. Seems like fate. (Or a really stupid reason to pick a player, but people seem to do it anyway, so here we are.)
But before we even get into how good Spencer Knight is (and believe me, we will over the course of the next four weeks), I thought it was a good idea to take a look at highly drafted goalies to even begin to consider whether the match made in heaven should even be considered on June 21st.
|2018||0||39||Lindbom (NYR)||Kooy (VGK, 208)|
|2017||1||26||Oettinger (DAL)||Zhukov (VGK, 96), Patera (VGK, 161), Ferguson (DAL, 194)|
|2016||0||48||Hart (PHI)||Woll (TOR, 62)|
|2015||1||22||Samsonov (WSH)||Blackwood (NJD, 42)|
|2014||0||34||McDonald (CGK)||Demko (VAN, 36)|
|2013||0||36||Fucale (MTL)||Saros (NSH, 99)|
|2012||2||19, 24||Vasilevskiy (TBL), Subban (BOS)||Dansk (CBJ, 31), Murray (PIT, 83), Andersen* (ANA, 87), Hellebuyck (WPG, 130)|
|2011||0||38||Hellberg (NSH)||Gibson (ANA, 39), Binnington (STL ,88)|
|2010||2||11, 27||Campbell (LAK), Visentin (PHX)||Grubauer (WSH, 112), Mrazek (DET, 141), Andersen* (CAR, 187)|
|2009||0||31||Koskinen (NYI)||Lehner (OTT, 46), Kuemper (MIN, 161)|
|2008||2||18, 30||Chet Pickard (NSH), McCollum (DET)||Markstrom (31, FLA), Allen (STL, 34), Holtby (WSH, 93)|
|2007||0||36||Gistedt (PHX)||Darling (PHX, 153)|
|2006||4||11, 15, 23, 26||Bernier (LAK), Helenius (TBL), Varlamov (WSH), Irving (CGY)||Neuvirth (WSH, 34), Mason (CBJ, 69), Johnson (PIT, 125)|
|2005||2||5, 21||Price (MTL), Rask (TOR)||Pavelec (ATL, 41), Quick (LAK, 72), Bishop (STL, 85)|
|2004||4||6, 14, 17, 26||Montoya (NYR), Dubnyk (EDM), Schwarz (STL), Schneider (VAN)||Greiss (SJS, 94), Ramo (TBL, 191), Khudobin (MIN, 206), Rinne (NSH, 258)|
|2003||1||1||Fleury (PIT)||Crawford (CHI, 52), Howard (DET, 64), Halak (MTL, 271), Elliott (291, OTT)|
Since Marc-Andre Fleury went #1 overall in 2003 to Pittsburgh, there has been a goalie drafted in the 1st round of just eight of the 15 drafts. A total of 18 goalies have gone in the 1st round since 2004, and their success has been extremely limited.
Just five of the 18 have made more than 10 starts with the team they were drafted by. That’s 13 1st round goalies who had absolutely no impact on the team that spent a 1st round pick on them. Even the five that did work, only two ended up having a significant impact on the team that selected them (Price, Vasilevskiy). 14 years of NHL Drafts and TWO turned out to be stars for the correct team.
It’s a little better for the guy calling the shots in Vegas though.
In his 17 years as GM of the Washington Capitals, George McPhee selected 17 goalies. Four of them played more than six games in the NHL (12 did not play a single game). Those four are Braden Holtby, Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth, and Philipp Grubauer.
However, the only time McPhee spent a 1st round pick on a goalie, it went extremely well. Varlamov was selected 23rd overall by the Capitals in 2006. He played just three seasons in Washington, but was successful winning 30 of his 53 starts and posting a .917 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against average. He was eventually traded for a 1st and 2nd round pick which turned into Filip Forsberg. Varlamov went on to be an All Star, a Vezina runner-up, and has made at least 49 starts in six seasons.
For comparison’s sake, I took a look at the “success rate” of the other positions McPhee has drafted. (Success rate simply meaning they’ve played at least 10 NHL games). McPhee’s goalies hit a 24% rate (4 of 17), while he hit on defensemen at a 35% rate (16 of 46) and forwards at a 55% rate (48 of 87).
In the first round, McPhee was perfect selecting just the one goalie, but he was pretty darn close with defensemen and forwards as well, hitting on 6 of 7 d-men and 13 of 14 forwards.
No matter how you slice it, drafting a goalie in the 1st round is a major risk. Most teams whiff completely, others get the player right but aren’t patient enough to wait for him to make it to the NHL, and even the ones that work tend to be can’t miss prospects (which Spencer Knight is not).
The Golden Knights are likely to have the choice at #17 to go with the goalie, and if they do pick Knight it will probably be widely celebrated, but facts are facts, even if they pick him, the chances the word Knight ever end up on the back of a Golden Knights jersey remain incredibly slim.