Thu Nov 01 03:05pm EDT
Spencer Martin, unlike many promising puck-stoppers, doesn't have people guessing which version of him will be in net on a particular night.
The Ontario Hockey League's top goaltending prospect for the NHL draft is displaying why the Mississauga Steelheads organization (né Majors) spent a first-round choice on him in 2011. The 17-year-old Martin has been redoubtable by any standard as the Steelheads' starter during the first six weeks of the OHL season. He's used his big 6-foot-2, 192-pound frame to good effect, having yet to allow more than three goals through his first 10 starts for the blue and white. Granted, Mississauga has made its name(s) through airtight defence and goaltending, but that stat attests to why many believe Martin will be the second OHL goalie in as many seasons to be a NHL first-round pick. The Belleville Bulls' Malcolm Subban went No. 24 overall to the Boston Bruins in June.
"For goalies, everything changes day to day," Martin says of being focused on being consistent. "You come to to practice and, oh, you got beat, for instance, glove [side] the night before and you want to work on that for the next game. That changes pretty quick. I just want to get physically stronger off the ice and continue from there. If it's a certain area where you got beat once or twice, you make sure you make a few saves like those in practice and go from there.
"One of the most important things for a goalie is to show up consistently for his team."
Martin's 2.00 average and .938 save percentage are each second in the OHL, sandwiched between 19-year-olds Jordan Binnington of Owen Sound and John Gibson of Kitchener. Both are high NHL picks who are in the discussion to for Canada and the United States' national junior teams. Martin modestly points out he's getting a lot of help from the Steeleheads' system and the defencemen in front of him, including Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Stuart Percy.
"I had a good off-season of preparing, but the seven D in front of me and all the forwards are really playing well," says Martin, who played on Canada's spring under-18 team last season. "I also feel this summer helped me continue to catch up to the OHL shooters, they're a lot different from midget, I feel like they've slowed down for me."
Martin grew up in the GTA, plays for a team that sports Toronto Maple Leafs colours and cites former Leaf star Curtis Joseph as his inspiration to join the goalie fraternity. However, he cites the Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller as his NHL role model. The Martin family, including father Allan, mother Karen and younger sister Allison ("she's my biggest fan, she's made so many sacrifices for me" Spencer says), actually follow the Sabres.
"We've had season tickets in Buffalo since the last lockout," Martin says. "I watch a lot of Ryan Miller. I'm his biggest fan. I saw him when he was first coming into the league and now when he's winning Vezinas. It's a little bit of a drive, but it was worth it."
1. When the NHL is actually playing, what goalie(s) do you study closely because they play a similar style or show what you need to do to play at that level?
"I watch a lot of Miller. But the best thing you can do is grab a lot from everybody who has made it to that level and try to add that into your game ... they've all figured out something that works for them. It's all about finding something that works for you. Not everybody can play like Tim Thomas or Martin Brodeur [whose styles are extremely contrasting]. But there's certain things like not quitting on rebounds that they do that you can take from like a Henrik Lundqvist game and try to put that in your game."
2. Your rookie year was unique because you were the understudy to two veterans (first JP Anderson and then Brandon Maxwell after a trade with Sarnia). Was it better for you to learn from each of them, instead of one person over the entire season?
"I took a lot from both of them, Brandon and JP, off the ice and on the ice. Especially off the ice, when it came to carrying yourself like a professional, working hard in practice."
3. There will be so many people who will deserve thank-yous when you get drafted, but who is one person who's had a big hand in helping you get this far in hockey?
"My sister and my parents. I know family is a cliché answer but they've made sacrifices all the way up.
"And especially, I thank God the most first above anything. I'm a religious, Christian, and he's been there throughout all the lows and highs." (Do you pray before games?) "Before games, during games, after games. In life, in any struggles and for any highs that you do have, but during a game, it's just asking him to be with me in any situation, whether you're winning or you're losing. Help me play my personal best."
4. You seem to fit the goalie prototype with your size, but how did you get started in goal?
"When I was about four years old, I really admired [then-Toronto Maple Leafs] star Curtis Joseph and mirrored everything he did. That was who I really wanted to be ever since I was little."
5. What is something like you do for fun to when you need to clear your head, take your mind off hockey?
"That's never really been a problem for me. I love being at the rink. But I like playing road hockey, even though that's still hockey, I guess."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet .