Part I: Looking at Hurricanes Goaltending Depth and NHL Draft 2017
May 8, 2017, 1:01 PM ET [9 Comments]
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The signing of Darling for four-years at $16.6M appears to be an indication that Darling is the intended starter for the 2017-18 season. Now that the Canes have found their starter and addressed the goaltending, there are three questions: Who will be the next goalie coach, what happens with Lack/Ward and what does the depth in the AHL/ECHL look like?
I will be doing this in three parts to try and keep the articles shorter. Today is part one and will focus on what the goaltending depth looks like for the Hurricanes. Part two will look at the top-four goalie coach candidates that I believe GMRF should be interviewing. Finally, part three will evaluate how to approach Ward/Lack.
Alex Nedeljkovic was set to be a promising prospect this year; some ranked him as one of the top ten goaltending prospects coming into this season. Unfortunately, the now 21-year old goaltender struggled to find his game, as he transitioned from the OHL to his first professional season.
Looking at his AHL numbers, in 25 GP he posted a 3.40 GAA and .881 SV% which was one of the lowest in the league. He ultimately was sent to the ECHL at the end of December and remained there for most of the season. His statistics for the Florida Everblades were not much better, as he had a 2.97 GAA and .903 SV% in 12 GP. Despite not having the best season, his playoffs in the ECHL showed promise and he posted a .930 SV% and 1.97 GAA in seven games.
The likely goalie tandem for the Checkers next season would be Nedeljkovic and Altshuller. This hinges on whether GMRF decides to bring back 22-year old goalie Daniel Altshuller. He has posted very good numbers the past two seasons in the ECHL. Also, he spent a decent amount of time in the AHL and didn’t post bad enough numbers to warrant not bringing him back.
Another potential candidate for the Checkers is recently signed 19-year old goalie, Callum Booth.
The Hurricanes drafted Booth in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL draft. While I anticipate the goal is to get him plenty of time next season in the ECHL, he may surprise the coaching staff.
Currently, looking at the QMJHL playoffs, Booth is posting a 1.92 GAA and .910 SV% in fifteen games. He has helped lead the Sea Dogs to a 2-0 series lead in the President Cup Final and an overall record of 14-2, sweeping the first two rounds 4-0.
The Hurricanes also have two unsigned goaltending prospects with Jack LaFontaine and Jeremy Helvig. Both goalies are 2016 draft picks; Lafontaine was a third round pick, and Helvig was a fifth round selection. LaFontaine had a strong freshmen year at the University of Michigan and Helvig had a bit of a disappointing year in the OHL.
Looking at Booth, LaFontaine, Helvig and Altshuller, all four of them are listed as being between 6’3 and 6’4. Also, Lack is 6’4, and Darling is 6’6. Most signs point to the Hurricanes moving towards bigger framed goalies, and I think they are one more strong draft pick from having a very strong goaltending prospect foundation.
If the Hurricanes were to select the 18-year old goalie from Boston University, I think they could make another statement for their goaltending landscape and future. He is projected to go late in the first round or early in the second. I’ve seen recent mock drafts with him going early in the second round. I was surprised by Steve Kourianos with The Draft Analysis on his May 1st mock, as he had Oettinger falling into the third round. I think the prediction of early in the second round is pretty accurate, as some believe it is risky drafting goalies in the first round in recent drafts.
Jake Oettinger is 6’4 and ranked as the #1 NA goalie by NHL Central Scouting. He had an amazing freshmen year at BU and won the starting job. He put up stellar numbers in 35 GP with a 2.11 GAA and .927 SV%. Don’t forget that he also turned 18-years old in mid-December; he was the second youngest player in the NCAA putting up all-star numbers.
If he is available at the start of the second round, it might be wise of GMRF trade up to get him. He most likely will play at least two more seasons at BU, so this would give the Hurricanes a good long-term asset. It allows him plenty of time to develop, and after two more seasons in the NCAA, Oettinger would only be 20 years old going into the 2019-20 season.
Also, the Hurricanes would have plenty of time to determine the strength of Altshuller, Booth, Nedeljkovic, LaFontaine and Helvig. All six goalies would get strong opportunities for playing time throughout the two years at their respective levels as well.
LaFontaine and Oettinger would get work in the NCAA, while the other four would get to compete in the ECHL and AHL, and potentially for the Hurricanes back-up position in 2018-19. Please note, based on the NHL/CHL agreement, Helvig most likely wouldn’t play professionally until the 2018-19 season, as he will be 19 years old next season.
Ultimately, GMRF has plenty of picks to make this move a reality. Looking at the 2017 NHL draft, GMRF has a first round pick, three second round picks, and two in the third round. One should note that both the third round picks are somewhat early, as the Hurricanes pick 67th and 72nd overall. In addition to having six picks in the top 72 selections, GMRF still will have a fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh round pick too. Don’t forget the Hurricanes also have all of their 2018 and 2019 draft picks as well.
I would have zero issue if GMRF used any combination of a second and third round pick to draft Oettinger early in the second (current or 2018/2019 picks). The Hurricanes are loaded with D prospects, and this strategy still allows them to draft three promising forwards in the top 72, as they still would have the 12th overall pick, one in the second, and another in the third round remaining. The final four picks in each of the remaining rounds could be used or traded away as GMRF determines best suited.
GMRF has done a pretty good job of deepening the goaltending system in Carolina. This is one area that the Hurricanes organization didn’t do a great job with before GMRF took over. Now with five goalies under the age of 22, GMRF has cast a wide net to help secure the future of the crease.
I would expect that even if GMRF doesn’t draft Oettinger, he will still use one of his three second round picks on a goalie. This draft has about five or so goalies rumored to go in the second round or early in the third. Given this, some may say it is smarter to hold the picks and wait it out, as opposed to drafting up.
Thanks for taking some time to read, your comments are always welcomed. We will be looking at the top-four goalie coach candidates that GMRF should be calling tomorrow.