Debating the merits of Eric Comrie vs. Zachary Fucale is going to involve a lot of what-might-have-been on former's part.
Major junior hockey's top two goaltending prospects for the NHL draft did not get to match up in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday. Now it turns out that what kept Comrie, whom you might recall was the starter for Canada's summer under-18 team last year and thus a possibility for next season's national junior squad, out of the Prospects Game is going to keep him out for the rest of the season.
The youngster who had played in 37 of Tri-City's 45 games — a heavy workload a goalie who will celebrate being drafted before celebrating his 18th birthday in early July — will have season-ending hip surgery. To be fair, one shouldn't play doctor after the fact and attribute this was a result of overtraining or playing too much hockey. Fucale has played in 35 of 42 Halifax Mooseheads games — 110 out of 127 since September 2010 — and has not been injured. Correlation does not mean causation, eh.
After consulting with doctors and family members, Comrie will undergo minor hip surgery on February 5th in Vail, Colorado and will then return to California for his rehabilitation. He is expected to make a full recovery and return to the ice in 3 to 4 months.
... “This is very unfortunate for Eric and our team,” said [GM Bob] Tory. “However, this is the best option to ensure that Eric has no further complications and that he can return to play 100% healthy. Ultimately, it’s the best decision for both Eric’s health and for our hockey club now and for the future.”
“I’m really disappointed to be missing the rest of the season, but I know this is what’s best for me long term,” explained Comrie. “It’s a minor procedure and I expect to be back on the ice as quickly as possible. But, more than anything, I’m sad to be leaving my teammates, who’ve become like family.” (WHL)
One can never be to too sure with a goalie's draft slot, since it really hangs on what teams want another goalie in the pipeline and the quality of the skaters available in the draft crop. HockeyProspect.com views the 6-foot-1, 167-pound Comrie as a fringe first-rounder, which is a considerable testimonial considering the much-ballyhood strength of the 2013 draft. There was still a chance of him being a second-rounder all along, like USA Hockey's golden goalie John Gibson, who went No. 39 to the Anaheim Ducks. Late first or early second, it doesn't matter.
The recent track record from the draft has shown NHL organizations do their due diligence on a player with an injury history and proceed accordingly. With respect to goalies, eventual Boston Bruins first-rounder Malcolm Subban was dogged by the durability questions after ankle and groin woes limited him during his season with the Belleville Bulls. He still went in the first round. First-round forwards such as Brett Connolly (No. 6 in 2010) and Matt Puempel (No. 24 in 2011) both had hip procedures during their draft years; it ultimately only cost each a few places in the draft, and even then that's more conjectural than factual.
It's too bad for Comrie, ultimately, and like Tory said, really bad for the Americans. Tri-City, which is fifth in the WHL's Western Conference despite being a very young team, will have to count on 19-year-old backup Luke Lee-Knight (29 appearances over three seasons with as many teams in the WHL) and 6-foot-6 rookie Troy Trombley. But Comrie's recovery had to come first.
Without castigating the Americans, who know Comrie best, is it a good idea in principle to have younger goalies play so much? Comrie was within a week of having played more games than Subban did last season (39), although that stat was aided by the fact Subban also got hurt.
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.