Unlike the 2015 NHL draft, which saw the Washington Capitals pick Russian netminder Ilya Samsonov with the 21st overall selection, it appears a goaltender won’t don a sweater in the first round of the 2016 draft.
“We don't believe that there are any early selections (in this year’s draft class),” says International Scouting Services head U.S. scout Phil Myre.
Nonetheless, the 2016 draft class doesn’t lack potential No. 1 goalies just because there aren’t any first-round locks. After all, New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist and Nashville Predators veteran Pekka Rinne weren’t selected until the seventh and eighth rounds respectively in their draft years. It goes to show that predicting the future of an 18-year-old goalie is easier said than done.
Everett Silvertips sophomore Carter Hart and Swedish product Filip Gustavsson are regarded as two of the top netminders in the draft. Hart asserted himself as an elite goalie in the WHL this season, posting a .918 save percentage and 2.14 average in 64 games. Gustavsson, meanwhile, stood tall in Sweden’s top junior league and held his own in a handful of games in an elite men’s league.
“It's always tough to rank the goalies, and there are always darkhorses, but my top two are Carter Hart and Filip Gustavsson, who and are considered the top goalies in North America and Europe respectively,” says Mckeen’s Hockey head scout Grant McCagg. “Hart put up outstanding numbers in Everett and was named the WHL's top Western Conference goalie. Gustavsson appeared in six games in the SHL as a 17-year-old and opened eyes with his solid 2.17 average.”
Hart has been touted as having the skill of a first-round talent; however, since he has average size (6 foot 1, 170 pounds), he’s expected to slip into the second round.
“There are some arguments that Carter is the most skilled goalie in this draft,” says Myre. “Based on the description of the contemporary goalie, his average size may cause him to be drafted later than his skill set shows.”
Some scouts believe Sherbrooke Phoenix’s Evan Fitzpatrick possesses the most enticing skill set in the draft. In addition to representing Canada at the WJC-U18, the 6-foot-2, 223-pounder posted a .896 save percentage and 3.42 average in 54 contests in his second season in the QMJHL.
“We believe that Evan Fitzpatrick has shown the best upside in this draft because of his size, skills and technique,” says Myre.
Beyond Hart, Gustavsson and Fitzpatrick, there are a handful of puck-stoppers who could hear their names called in the second or third round. The London Knights’ Tyler Parsons, Peterborough Petes’ Dylan Wells and Moose Jaw Warriors’ Zach Sawchenko are three notable goalies in that mix.
“Goalies in the mix for the No. 3 spot would include Tyler Parsons, Dylan Wells and Zach Sawchenko,” says McCagg. “Parsons has been sensational for London in the OHL playoffs and is known for his competitiveness… Sawchenko was a workhorse for Moose Jaw and named the WHL's top goalie in the eastern conference… Wells lost his starting job in Peterborough, but has the size/skill package scouts seek.
One of the biggest wildcards in the draft is Carleton Place Canadians goalie Colton Point. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder opted to play junior ‘A’ over major junior in order to advance his career to the NCAA ranks. He’s committed to play for Colgate University next season.
“He's a good size goalie with a college commitment, which should help him get drafted,” says Myre. “He uses his size well and has good skills and athletic ability. He needs to improve his quickness and play on top of his blue crease more as he continues to develop.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen