Top five, late first round, 150th pick? There’s an example of just about every option for Vegas to examine. Marc-Andre Fleury was chosen first overall, Roberto Loungo fourth, and Carey Price was picked fifth. Cup winner Jonathan Quick made the Kings happy at pick #72. New York famously did well with Henrik Lundqvist at 200th overall. Some Hall of Famers were chosen late first/early second round like the 20th pick Martin Brodeur, or the 51st pick in the 1984 draft, Patrick Roy. Then of course there’s the first #1 overall goalie in NHL history… Rick DiPietro.
There’s not much of an explanation for this uncertainty. Which means most teams are willing to pass early. It’s not worth “wasting” a high pick on a risky position like goaltending. Scouts describe targeting goalies early in the draft as a massive gamble.
Netminders are a volatile commodity at such a young age, so it’s almost impossible to predict who will mature into the best one, five or six years down the road. That’s pretty much the normal incubation time for goalies drafted at age 18 to begin making a mark at the NHL level. Look across the 30-team NHL landscape and count how many netminders age 22-and-under there are in the league; it’s a very short list. -Kyle Woodlief, NHL Scout
Even the best scouts have a hard time predicting how the player will translate to the NHL. So many young stoppers stand out in the NCAA, Juniors and European leagues, but stumble under the bright lights of the NHL. Over a 17-year period only 40% of goaltenders drafted wound up making an NHL experience. Even more evidence, during that same 17-year period most highly selected goaltenders were a disappointment. Just take a look, I broke down each NHL draft with the highest drafted goaltender and best goaltender in the draft. Notice the stunning lack of overlap.
2013: Zachary Fucale/36th Overall
*Top Prospect- Juuse Saros/99th
2014: Mason McDonald/34th Overall
*Top Prospect- Thatcher Demko/36th
2015: Ilya Samsonov/22nd Overall
*Top Prospect-Mackenzie Blackwood/42nd
2016: Carter Hart/48th Overall
*Top Prospect-Filip Gustavsson/55th
As you can see, many high picks have gone to waste. Two such selections never even saw the NHL ice (Gistedt and Pickard), and three others still haven’t played their fifth NHL game (Koskinen, Campbell, Hellberg).
It’s a real gamble and hopefully George McPhee will look to later in the draft for goaltending. More bold scouts even suggest ignoring goalies altogether in the draft. To them there’s a better chance finding a starting goaltender in free agency or undrafted players. I doubt Vegas is considering that, but hopefully they wait it out. Maybe there’s a Quick, Lundqvist, Holtby or Murray waiting for them in the fifth round.