Cal Petersen knows from goaltending debates.
It is rare for each of a junior team's goalies to be in their draft season. Either the young netminder has wrested away the No. 1 job or is caddying for an older 'tender during a development season. Petersen, playing for his hometown Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL, split starts with fellow 18-year-old Eamon McAdam. The pair of puckstoppers, who are respectively committed to Notre Dame and Penn State, thrived while platooning. Petersen is NHL Central Scouting's fourth-ranked domestic goalie after Canadians Zachary Fucale, Eric Comrie and Tristan Jarry, while McAdam is ranked sixth.
"It was definitely a unique situation," says Petersen, who will join the fabled Fighting Irish in the fall of 2014. "Both of us being competitive, we both wanted that No. 1 spot and were both given it at certain points in the season. From my standpoint, I became a better goaltender from it. We each had another guy pushing us in practice every day. It was good learning experience.
"It was good to have Eamon there, it helped with a lot of the self-evaluation and self-critiquing that we did."
The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Petersen had a 2.97 average and .906 save percentage in 35 games for Waterloo. As a long-limbed left-hander, he poses a unique challenge to shooters. Not only do opponents have to adapt facing a goalie whose glove is on the 'wrong' hand, but Petersen also uses his legs very effectively to cover the low corners of the cage on dekes and jam plays.
Notre Dame senior-to-be Steven Summerhays started 35 of Fighting Irish's 41 games this season. Thus Petersen will spend his 19-year-old year in Waterloo and wait for a vacancy to open in ND's net.
"It's either play 50 games or play five," he says.
1. Which NHL goalie(s) do you really watch closely for pointers?
"I really like Tuukka Rask [of the Boston Bruins]. We both have very athletic styles. I think he's a fantastic skater and really has a very competitive mentality. I watch him a lot and try to take any tips and put them back into my game."
2. Apart from the obvious, what areas of your game must improve in order for you get to the next level?
"One of the big things I'm working on is communication with the guys on my team, helping direct traffic a little bit. I also feel like I can sometimes be a little bit overaggressive and overplay some shots. Fixing that is something that comes with maturity and experience."
3. How did you get started in goal, which is such a unique position in all of team sports?
"My dad [Eric Petersen] played Division III college hockey [at Bethel College in Minneapolis]. I don't think he really wanted me to play goalie. He initially put me in skates. Eventually, I became one and he's been a good coach who probably knows my game better than anybody. He watches a lot of NHL and we bounce a lot of ideas and pointers back and forth."
4. How much influence did he have on you picking Notre Dame?
"My dad came with me on a visit, but most of it was my decision. I really liked the professionalism that the college embodied. I think it's very similar to a pro organization and will really get me prepared for the next level."
5. If hockey was never invented, what sport would you imagine yourself playing?
"I was a pretty decent baseball player, so I'd probably try to brush up on that. Or try to be a golfer."
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.