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Gatineau Olympiques move goalie; Anthony Brodeur has clearer path to QMJHL foothold

Anthony Brodeur in action at the Devils development camp last month (Julio Cortez, The Associated Press)

When New Jersey Devils great Martin Brodeur announced at the NHL draft that his team had used a seventh-rounder to draft his puck-stopping progeny Anthony Brodeur, it was immediately hailed as the type of warm-and-fuzzy, feel-good, father-son story that hockey trades in so well. You would have to be numb to the human condition to be cynical about the poignancy of a future Hall of Famer, in his home NHL arena, getting to draft his son in front of few thousand Devils fan, eh?

You can probably anticipate how I took it, since curmudgeonly contrarians are always that predictable. It came off as a little cheesy. That might have been confirmation bias acting up. Your agent was already rankled. Some six hours earlier, the New Jersey crowd had done the trollriffic, "Marty's better!" chant when Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche delegation had come to the podium to select Nathan MacKinnon. It was hilarious, sure, but there are the small matters of Roy's 4-3 edge in Stanley Cup rings and 3-0 edge in Conn Smythe Trophy honours, including one that came in a series against, ding ding ding, Martin Brodeur.

That's not so important, especially since Dominik Hasek at his best was superior to both Québécois legends. It's more pertinent to examine whether the Devils' selection of Anthony Brodeur might have unintended consequences for the incoming Gatineau Olympiques goaltender. It's also topical since the 'Piques just traded 18-year-old sophomore goaltender Eric Brassard to the Charlottetown Islanders. Was this really the best development for Anthony Brodeur?

Justin Bourne (@jtbourne), for one, isn't so sure that being drafted late is a good situation for a goalie. Please keep in mind, goalies on average don't reach the NHL until age 24:

Free agents have the ability to pick an organization that has a need at their position. They often say to players in the minors “if you’re good enough, they’ll find you,” but some players do get buried.

And for Anthony Brodeur the reality is that it’s even harder to break in for goaltenders, especially if there’s true talent in the organizational crease. You no longer have the opportunity to assess a team’s depth chart and choose to go play for the one with the least hope in net. You’re stuck with who you get, which may mean you won’t even get the chance you need, when all some players need is that shot.

I understand why Martin Brodeur and the Devils did what they did for Anthony. Marty, in particular, hasn’t seen the minors since 1992, and never really had to struggle with the climb, so being drafted would obviously seem like the way to go to him. But there’s a chance that he just made the road to the NHL harder for his son. And there’s a lot more than a chance that he slapped the label “pity pick” on him. (Backhand Shelf)

Brodeur will soon get his chance to make the Olympiques on his own merit, which is all any aspiring hockey player can expect. As Bourne alluded to, it is worth wondering if an 18-year-old who has only played prep school hockey should really opt for major junior, where there's a maximum three-year window to develop, instead of having the luxury of more time by heading to 'finishing school' in the USHL before going to a NCAA Division I school.

The Canadian Hockey League and Hockey Canada are, after all, currently in a quandary about the fact that the former's alumni are under-represented in NHL creases relative to the number of CHL-trained defenceman and forwards in the big league. This indicates there's a greater problem with the system than the CHL allowing goalies from Europe to hold about 20 per cent of the starting jobs.

(I wish I had this idea sooner: if goalies are getting pushed along the industry's conveyor belt before they are properly assembled, so to speak, why not expand their eligibility to play in the CHL? Exempt goalies from the overager limit. Perhaps even let 21-year-old netminders compete.)

Point being, maybe there was a reason to feel uneasy about the Anthony Brodeur pick beyond it having a whiff of nepotism. The irony is that if he thrives in the Q, it will disprove that it was primarily nepotistic, but who knows if it's the best route.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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