Teams and fans love value picks. It brings a lot of pride to organizations when a player they selected in the later rounds of the draft becomes a top prospect at some point and then turns into a NHLer. With the associated risks of drafting goalies in the first three rounds that risk becomes larger when you move into the last four rounds of the NHL draft as shown in an article I did last year:
So who are the goalies who can be those value picks for the 2017 NHL draft? For first time NHL draft eligible goalies I’ll submit three names: Dylan Ferguson, Jake McGrath and Matthew Villalta. Dylan Ferguson was born September 20th, 1998 which was five days after the 2016 NHL draft cut-off date which makes him one of the oldest first time eligible entry goalies in the draft. This extra year of development has allowed Ferguson to improve off of last year’s numbers. The improvement isn’t the only reason to consider Ferguson as a value pick.
There’s a significant chance that Connor Ingram won’t be back in Kamloops next season which means the starting role will go to Dylan Ferguson. This of course means even more development time for Ferguson which is always important. Ferguson has also shown that he is ready for the starting role during Ingram’s time at the World Junior Championships. With Ingram out of the picture Dylan Ferguson was given 13 straight starts. Out of those 13 starts 12 of those starts were Quality Starts including a 9-game Quality Start streak.
Dylan Ferguson’s work when given the crease has been impressive and definitely worth looking at as a late round selection. Those 13 straight starts have put Ferguson into being the 5th goalie in the WHL for raw GSAA with a 13.845 GSAA behind Ty Edmonds, Carter Hart, Connor Ingram and Griffen Outhouse. Ferguson is also 2nd in the WHL for goalies with over 10 starts in Quality Starts % with a 0.737 QS% behind only Connor Ingram. When compared to his 2017 first time eligible peers Ferguson is 1st in QS% (+10 Starts), 2nd in GSAA, 3rd in raw SV%, 5th in Quality Bounce Back Starts % and 4th in Bounce Back SV%.
I must love Sudbury Wolves goalies because last year it was Troy Timpano (who is having a career rebirth in Eire) and now this year it’s Jake McGrath. McGrath should already be on many NHL lists due to his performance in the U18 Hockey Canada summer camp. He didn’t make the Ivan Hlinka team but he showed he was ready for Major Junior. As a rookie OHLer McGrath came out strong to start the season (7 QS out of 9 Starts) and is now struggling a bit (3 QS out of 9 Starts). That’s natural for a goalie who is being thrown into the grind of the latter half of the OHL season on a team like the Wolves who struggle to support their goalie defensively.
Apart from the strong start to the season another aspect that makes McGrath a value pick is we’ll most likely see McGrath in a starting role next season. It will be the same risk Peterborough took this season shipping out Matthew Mancina while giving the starting role to Dylan Wells who immensely struggled the previous season. Another reason why McGrath is a value pick is because he’s the stereotype successful late round goalie as he’s talented and there are glaring holes but they are fixable. His consistency is definitely a hole that he’ll work on improving along with his puck playing decisions. What I also saw when watching McGrath is how he shuts down the opposition on shots coming from the non-high danger area. Among games I’ve attended/recorded this season McGrath made a significant impact on shots from outside the high danger area while he was average on shots from inside the high danger area. For a rookie goalie that is very promising.
What gives me confidence that there is hope in McGrath is the way he bounces back from bad games. In McGrath’s four Bounce Back games, three of those have been Quality Starts with a combined 0.901 Bounce Back SV%. That 0.750 QBBS% is tied for 3rd among McGrath’s fellow first time 2017 draft eligible goalies. I’m hoping we’ll see Jake McGrath in the U18 IIHF tournament taking place in May to see how he plays against the top competition.
Last but certainly not least is Matthew Vilalta of the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds. He’s possibly the biggest risk/reward value goalie out of the CHL. Out of the three goalies mentioned Vilalta has the least amount of games started so far this season. Unfortunately for Vilalta and whichever NHL team drafts him that won’t change next season either as Joseph Raaymakers is a ’98 birthdate so there’s a good chance he’ll be back starting for Sault Ste Marie next season. This is Raaymakers first season as the starting goalie in Sault Ste Marie so while he hasn’t been perfect he’s given the Greyhounds quality starting play.
So while it’s troubling that Vilalta might not see a significant amount of ice time this season or next season he’s at least showing good play in the limited starts he does have. Vilalta is one of four OHL rookie goalies with over ten starts so far this season and has a 0.692 QS%. Vilalta’s QS% is one spot below Dylan Ferguson for first time 2017 NHL Draft eligible goalies. Vilalta is also 3rd among his fellow first time draft eligible goalies in raw GSAA with a 5.480 GSAA. Lastly Vilalta is 5th for first time draft eligible goalies in raw SV%.
Just as a reminder I do want to say that I would never advocate drafting a goalie purely based on their statistics. I do however advocate for using these statistics to target potentially undervalued goalies. I believe Ferguson, McGrath, and Vilalta are three goalies that NHL teams should be paying close attention to. In the meantime I’ll be doing my best to try and find more value picks for the upcoming NHL draft while keeping my own close eye on these three goalies.