If the Ontario Hockey League award categories to reflect how fans relate to the players, there probably would be a honour for the most endearing good goalie on a young team. At the roughly 10-game mark of the season, it might be a toss-up between Colorado Avalanche third-round choice Spencer Martin, of a very young Mississauga Steelheads team, and fellow 18-year-old Charlie Graham, who was not selected in the NHL draft last spring after being a capable backup to national junior team 'tender Malcolm Subban on the Belleville Bulls.
On Saturday, Graham was busier than a wedding cake designer in June, making a mind-bogging 67 saves to help basement-occupying Belleville quell the nationally ranked Guelph Storm 6-5.The Bulls (2-6-1-1) might yet pick up their play, but at the moment their goalie is worth the price of admission.
Sleeping in a cold tub tonight. Great win! Happy thanksgiving everyone!
— Charlie Graham (@ChuckSauce31) October 13, 2013
Belleville's video recap does a fine job of the peppering Graham took from the Storm, whose lineup is chock-full of NHL-draft forwards such as Dallas Stars first-rounder Jason Dickinson, Carolina Hurricanes second-rounder Brock McGinn and Winnipeg Jets third-rounder Scott Kosmachuk. The Bulls were up 4-0 after one period despite a 20-9 margin on the shot counter. Graham made 24 saves in the second period and another 23 in the third.
Where a night such as this leads for Graham is anyone's guess. Belleville's recap notes that around the Yardmen Arena, Graham has been tagged "Charlie Murphy" for his stylistic similarities to former Bull Mike Murphy, who was an unprecedented back-to-back winner of the OHL goaltender of the year award in 2008 and '09 whilst helping the small-market team qualify for the 2008 Memorial Cup and reach a pair of conference finals.
Murphy, currently in the Carolina Hurricanes system, was drafted as a re-entry player in 2008 after being bypassed in his first crack at being picked up by a NHL team. Graham, a lithe 6-foot and 173 pounds, was also not selected in his first try this past summer. In any event, a showing such as that will make Graham a few fans across the league as he works to prove that a compactly buiilt puck-stopper shouldn't be ignored at the NHL level.
The peppering jacked Graham's shots-per-game average to 46.2, which will probably drop over time. He's managed to post a .909 save percentage amid the heavy workload.
On the Guelph side, the Storm felt chastened for failing to get any result from a very winnable game. They recovered quickly and outright outclassed Eastern Conference-leading Kingston on the following day.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (video: TV Cogeco Ontario).