Been a busy first few months to the scouting season so I’m happy to finally have the time to consolidate all the information gathered so far and put together a prelim ranking that will be the base headed into the rest of the season. You’re all in for a treat as this ranking will feature not only North American goalies but international goalies as well. This will probably be the only time apart from the final rankings that we’ll see international goalies ranked publicly like this because of how few viewings we’ll get of these goalies between now and the final rankings. As always it’s important to have more than one point of view so I’d suggest also looking at the InGoal Draft Goalies to Watch which were released in early September. With all this in mind let’s get the ball rolling.
1. Jakub Skarek (Czech, HC Dukla Jihlava, 1999)
For me Skarek is the Jake Oettinger of the 2018 draft in a general sense. Skarek is a late birthday and already playing against men while the rest of his first time draft eligible peers are in their respective junior leagues. More importantly Skarek, like Oettinger last draft, is the more advanced goalie of his draft year in many aspects of the position compared to his peers. Even last year you could see that Skarek was in step with the 2017 draft eligible goalies and if he was born two months earlier Skarek would have been the 2nd or 3rd goalie taken. It’s this talent that allowed him to take the starting position for the Czech’s at the World Junior Championship last season and is now allowing him to post a +0.902 SV% in the top Czech league while being a U20 goalie after being stellar in the 2nd Czech league in 2016/17.
Skarek has that ideal size/speed combination that makes him dangerous because he not only takes advantage of his mature frame but he’s also able to get it around the crease quickly. It’s controlled movement as well which is important as you don’t want a goalie ending up out of position every time he slides. You want a goalie that is able to move with the puck while keeping their positioning and this is what Skarek does. What I particularly love about Skarek is his post play/integration. If it’s not NHL level right now it’s very close. Skarek can not only move quickly from post to post, he is also very good at knowing the best way to set himself up against the post either in the RVH or VH.
The task for Skarek for the rest of the season is just keep on refining his game. If anything will sink Skarek is his inconsistency when it comes to rebounds as he can find himself reacting too quickly to the shot. A bright spot to Skarek is he’s already showing improvement in the limited time this season starting at a ~0.890 SV% and moving to his current 0.902 SV%. He’s the starting goalie for his team over 25yo Lars Volden who is currently posting a 0.880 SV%. I’m personally excited for Skarek at the upcoming WJC because the potential is there for him to be the WJC Top Goalie. If he doesn’t it’s no big deal but he does have the talent to be that type of goalie.
2. Jacob Ingham (Canada, Mississauga Steelheads, 2000)
Despite a poor start to the season (-3.54 adj. GSAA/0.417 QS%) Jacob Ingham is still the top North American goalie of this draft. His potential is too large to ignore and last season he had a bad start as well only to turn it around to post the best season of any of the 16yo CHL goalies. This season he’s started to turn it around earlier than last and will hopefully keep it going as Mississauga needs him to be the starting goalie he can be. Ingham can be that goalie as seen by last year and even more so this year where he has shown the type of mature game he can play when he finds that consistency.
Ingham at his peak play is a thoroughly effective combination of size, speed and hockey IQ. Of course being a young goalie means his consistency isn’t always there which mostly affects his hockey IQ through missed reads which lead to Ingham overextending himself on recoveries leaving him behind the play and therefore vulnerable for valuable seconds. If his consistency was better Ingham would have solidified the 2nd spot in these rankings while fighting Skarek for the top spot. Ingham isn’t at this point in his development though. Instead Ingham is dealing with trying to keep the lows from being too low and find his consistency game-to-game.
So what exactly apart from the three general ideas of size, speed, and hockey IQ make Ingham the top goalie prospect he is? The ability to read the game is very important to Ingham because he likes to challenge the shooter. In order to cut down on the vulnerability to cross ice passes Ingham has to choose his spots carefully or at least recognize that there’s a pass option and prepare himself to make a quick push over. That’s where the speed portion of his game comes in. For a big goalie Ingham is able to get around the crease quickly whether he’s on his knees or feet. It’s an explosive part of his game and it’s also controlled. As mentioned above he does overextend himself on recoveries at times but he’s also shown that he’s capable of making quick direction changes by using his edges. My favourite part of Ingham’s game is his ability to dominant the play through rebound control. He’s highly capable of ending any offensive push on the first shot no matter the situation (pass, tip, clear).
Expect Ingham to be big part of the Steelheads playoff push where he’ll get a large stage to show off his talent. It’s very unlikely that Ingham will be eliminated quick enough to find himself on the Canadian U18 WHC team in the spring.
3. Kevin Mandolese (Canada, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, 2000)
If there’s a goalie that is flying under the radar to start the season it’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles goaltender Kevin Mandolese. Among the big 3 CHL draft eligible goalies he’s having the better start to the season. More recently he’s been starting to run into some consistency issues which are why he’s 3rd and not 2nd though he is pushing for that 2nd spot in the rankings. Mandolese is coming into this season after a very strong 16yo rookie season where he was 2nd to Jacob Ingham as well as a strong U18 summer camp this year where he came in after Carl Stankowski couldn’t attend due to an injury.
There’s a lot to like about Mandolese’s game and a lot like the goalies in front of him on this list his primary strengths involve size, speed, and puck tracking. He has significant leg strength that gives him a highly explosive part to his game. He’s never truly out of the play because of just how quickly he can move his large frame around the crease which means passes that cross the royal road aren’t as dangerous to Mandolese as they are to his peers. This leg strength is also important in making Mandolese good at making recoveries though not great as he will get across on his recovery without ending up outside of the crease but he won’t be fully square to the puck. Making those explosive pushes while keeping his body square will go a long ways to making Mandolese a high end goalie.
Another part of his game Mandolese will look to improve on is his puck tracking behind the net. This is always a tough part of goaltending to succeed at and Mandolese is no different. As a young goalie with a large frame he’s still learning to use it. This is affects how he tracks the puck behind the net in other small parts of his game. Apart from that though his game shows quite the maturity level as his puck handling is very good as he makes quick, smart decisions with it. His puck tracking also shows maturity and has lead to Mandolese making a strong impact on the game via his rebound control no matter the shot situation.
It’ll be important for Mandolese to settle his game down and find his consistency. He’s in a good situation right now getting a 50/50 split with Kyle Jessiman which means he’ll get the playing time necessary to develop as well as time to show off his talent. It’s unlikely that Cape Breton will miss the playoffs however a quick playoff exit would see Mandolese on Team Canada for the U18 WHC.
4. Alexis Gravel (Canada, Halifax Mooseheads, 2000)
Alexis Gravel earned a huge boost in many rankings after his 2017 QMJHL playoff run where he gave the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies a run for their money. His play earned him a spot on the U18 WHC team in 2017 as the 3rd goalie behind Ian Scot and Jake McGrath. This off-season Gravel found himself earning a spot on the Canadian Ivan Hlinka team as the starter after a solid U18 camp. After the first Ivan Hlinka game against Russia it’s all been a struggle for Gravel. He lost the starting job to Olivier Rodrigue at the Hlinka tournament and is currently working to win back the starting position from Blade Mann-Dixon in Halifax. Gravel has started to turn it around a bit so hopefully we’ll end with a tight race between the top CHL draft eligible goalie in Mandolese/Ingham/Gravel.
Gravel is currently trying to find his game at the moment and how best to use his NHL size (6’ 2”/227lbs). At the Ivan Hlinka tournament/U18 camp Gravel was using a low/wide type stance. Using this type of stance Gravel was making the most of his natural quickness and being able to set up for the shot quickly. Now though Gravel is using a very tall stance which puts the focus on his footwork and being able to read the play. He does well in both these categories as his footwork gets him in position quickly and his puck tracking is quite good. However you can see the adjustments are making his movements look awkward as he learns to best move his frame around the net and being more consistent at reading the play so he can react faster.
A big part of Gravel’s game is how patient he is. He possesses a strong explosive game thanks to his leg strength and his edgework allows him to make those quick direction changed when necessary. When you add in Gravel’s patience it makes him a very appealing prospect for NHL teams. Gravel likes to impact the game not only through rebound control but by preventing shots through using an active stick around the net. He’s proved himself to be very capable of deflecting passes or stripping the puck from players driving the net.
The eyes of the hockey world are on Alexis Gravel and those eyes include Hockey Canada. You can bet if Halifax is eliminated early on that Gravel will be first in line for the U18 WHC starting position. Otherwise hopefully he can have a long playoff run and further his reputation of being a playoff performer.
5. Justus Annunen (Finland, Karpat U20, 2000)
Finland might not have went far at the Ivan Hlinka tournament but Justus Annunen put himself firmly on the radar. For me he’s a better Finnish goalie prospect than Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was for the 2017 NHL Draft. What NHL teams will like in Annunen is how he processes and reads the game. With Annunen you have a goalie that has a thorough understanding of the goaltending position and how to read the play. He’s the 2nd best goalie in this draft class in post integration/play right behind Jakub Skarek. Annnunen just knows what the best way to play the shot is and adjusts his crease depth accordingly.
Annunen’s game is centered around the technical skills of the position. His stance reflects this as Annunen uses a more upright stance that puts the focus using his footwork which is smart because Annunen’s footwork is effective allowing him to keep himself positioned the majority of the time. Annunen knows that to play a technical game he also needs to be patient and he is quite patient on his feet. You’ll rarely see Annunen drop too early which frustrates shooters as he doesn’t give much space to shoot at. He’s also a very safe puck handler. He rarely leaves the net to play the puck and he’ll often cover it if it comes to him.
Where Annunen will be looking to mostly improve is in the physical skill department. While Annunen does well controlling his edges which gets him around the net efficiently on his knees and keeps him in position, there is the issue of leg strength. There is no explosive portion to his game leaving Annunen very vulnerable on quick cross-ice passes. The lack of leg strength hurts Annunen because it leads to him guessing where the puck is going which is obviously not a good thing. The last part of Annunen’s game that he’ll look to improve is his puck tracking. It’s inconsistent at the moment and leads to, at best, average rebound control. The saving grace though is that Annunen picks up the rebound immediately and reacts accordingly.
I wouldn’t expect Annunen to sniff a spot on the Finnish WJC team but after his performance at the Ivan Hlinka you can expect to see Annunen more often on the Finnish national team at all levels. Annunen will be more than likely be the starting goalie at the WHC U18 and while he’s a 2000-born goalie he’s already a level higher in the U20 Finnish league. He’s a promising goalie who I hope we’ll see more of.
6. Lukas Dostal (Czech, HC Kometa Brno, 2000)
The Czech’s are looking like they’ve have the strongest goalie draft class in a while. Jakub Skarek proved his talent at last year’s Ivan Hlinka and at this year’s Hlinka the hockey world was treated to another goalie who put his name on the radar in Lukas Dostal. After the dust settled the Czech’s left the 2017 Ivan Hlinka tournament with the Silver Medal as well as Dostal showing himself to be a Top 2 goalie of the tournament. If the Czech’s were playing any team other than Canada in the Final there’s a high chance Dostal was leaving that tournament with a Gold Medal.
What I personally like about Dostal’s game is how composed he is. Dostal is the type of goalie who will stare the shooter down and force them to make the first move then he reacts. For a goalie who is only 6’ 1” he makes the most of his frame as he’s comfortable with being aggressive against the shooter and uses a low/wide active hands stance to make himself look even bigger. He’s able to play this composed type of game because of how well he’s able to hold his edges. Forcing the puck carrier to make the first move only works if you can react as quickly as they move and Dostal is able to accomplish through his edgework. His hands keep their positioning and his movement is controlled which gave him good rebound control on clear shot situations from the Hlinka tournament.
The holes are few but prevalent. His main issue is the drop in focus. As his game relies on staying patient it can lead to moments where if he’s not paying enough attention he can be taken by surprise on long range shots. Finding that consistency will be important in cutting down on the goals that should be easy saves and being more consistent with his rebound control which dipped enough at times over the tournament that is lead to goals.
Dostal is currently playing in the U20 Czech league while being loaned to a team in the 2nd Czech league showing the type of talent he has. We’ll see Dostal again at the U18 WHC where he’ll look to help the Czech’s get another U18 medal.
7. Keegan Karki (USA, Muskegon Lumberjacks, 2000)
Last year the USHL had a very solid class that consisted of Keith Petruzzelli, Maksim Zhukov, and Cayden Primeau. It took a while for that class to build itself up and this year Keegan Karki is part of the base that is looking to make up another strong USHL draft class. Last season Karki played with the USA U17 NTDP and while the numbers weren’t great it wasn’t unexpected as the U17 team often struggles against the more mature USHL teams. This year Karki is no longer with the NTDP and is instead with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, the same team that helped develop Keith Petruzzelli into the draft prospect he became.
Karki’s biggest strength is his hockey IQ. From his very good hockey IQ stems the rest of his play style. Karki takes full advantage of his large frame through his stance which is a wide/tall hybrid as well as his challenging which Karki is comfortable being more aggressive than average. He’s able to do this and not leave himself overly vulnerable to cross ice passes because of how well he’s able to read the play. Karki is also deceptively overall quick for a goalie his size and this leads to very efficient footwork which is quick while also keeping his positioning. The ability to read the play also allows Karki to stay on his feet as much as possible and he’s able to quickly drop to his knees when he needs to.
His puck tracking is also a valuable asset. He does well seeing through screens as well as tracking the puck when it’s behind the net while other goalies still struggle with that aspect of the game. Karki loves to play the puck and leaves his net often in order to settle it down behind the net while also having the ability to clear the puck. In order to keep the puck playing mistakes down Karki will have to learn to keep his head up as he loses track of where the forecheckers are when he leaves the net to play the puck. As part of maturing as a young goalie he’ll also need to learn how to cut down on the decisions that young goalies make and lead to bad goals against.
While losing access to the immense resources of the US NTDP Karki has improved from last season and certainly has the potential to be one of the biggest risers in this year’s rankings. This will only happen though if Karki can get more starts in the USHL. Karki has currently made only one start out of his teams 13 games. There’s a possibility though that we’ll see Karki at the WJAC just like we saw Cayden Primeau there last year.
8. Jake Kucharski (USA, Des Moines Buccaneers, 1999)
Jake Kucharksi is part two of what is shaping up to be another decent USHL draft class. He’s certainly a goalie that is earning himself a name as he was ranked a ‘B’ prospect by NHL Central Scouting. Kucharski is also set to go to a very good NCAA program with Providence College. For now he’s playing in a big role with the Des Moines Buccaneers and off to a good start considering he only played in two USHL games last season so it’s promising to see he’s handling the transition well.
In net Kucharski knows his size, he knows that his frame is impressive so he tries to make the most of it. Kucharski uses a wide/upright stance while not being afraid to challenge aggressively when the situation calls for it and even when the situation doesn’t call for it. This is an important part of Kucharki’s game as he does well in reading the play. What’s also an important part of Kucharski’s game is how well he travels around the net on his feet. It’s not only quick but it’s also controlled so no part of Kucharski loses positioning. When on his knees Kurchaski is capable of making direction changes without much effort in order to keep up with the changing angle of the puck. This was all backed up by his puck tracking which allowed him to make reactionary saves in close on deflections as well as effective recoveries.
Kucharski obviously isn’t perfect and has his own issues to work on this season. As games wear on inconsistencies in his rebound control as well as decision making became more apparent. He’ll start out a game effectively ending offensive pushes on the first shot then by the time you get midway through the 3rd period he’ll be giving out dangerous rebounds on low danger clear shots. Kucharksi also has moments where he’ll inexplicitly go all-in on saves taking himself out of position and if the result is anything but possession of the puck a goal is likely to happen. He’s not much of a puck player and prefers to play it safe when the puck comes close by covering it rather than continuing the play.
Kucharski is currently holding down the starting position in Des Moines and I wouldn’t expect that to change soon. With being the starter you can expect Kucharski to have the necessary game time in order to make meaningful strides in his development. Hopefully he takes full advantage of that fact.
9. Amir Miftahkov (Russia, Irbis Kazan, 2000)
This goalie ranking is probably the most out-of-place if you were to compare it to others who are doing any sort of 2018 NHL draft rankings involving goaltenders. This is because of Miftahkov’s size which is comparable to another Russian in Vladislav Sukhachyov who is very talented in his own right while being passed up twice in the NHL draft. Now Miftahkov does have an inch of Sukhachyov in height so it’s possible that a NHL team could pretend that Miftahkov is close enough to 6’ that his talent will be the more important aspect of Miftahkov to look at. I hope that’s the case as Miftahkov was extremely exciting to watch as a scout at the Ivan Hlinka tournament.
He was one of the best goalies of the tournament. He likes to play a game based around being quick. It is a controlled quickness which leads to him being ready on rebounds if they occur to use his quick edgework to get back into position. Has strong leg strength to make explosive plays. Very good at getting his pads to seal the bottom of the ice. Like how he is capable of tracking the puck which allows him to stay in position and make efficient movements so he doesn’t end up out of position often. Makes safe decisions when playing the puck so if he ends up under pressure he’ll often opt to clear the puck rather than attempt a pass.
Would like to see more active save selections from him as there were more than a few times that he’d let the shot just hit him. Other times he’ll move into the shot but struggles to then direct the puck into a non-dangerous area. He can also get too focused on the shooter and ignore the pass option forcing him to dive. Gets pretty low for a goalie of his size which leaves him vulnerable to shots over the shoulder which did lead to a goal from a low danger area. Will need to work on fixing that hole as the shooters at higher levels will take advantage of that hole.
Success seems to follow Miftahkov around and he is a big part of that success. Russia shouldn’t have made it as far as they did but Miftahkov was there to provide the necessary support to move on. He did the same thing with the Russia team at last years U17 tournament. This year in the MHL he is off to a very good start with a 0.924 SV% which is comparable Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Danil Tarasov and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Kirill Ustimenko.
10. Jordan Kooy (Canada, London Knights, 2000)
If Keegan Karki is the goalie with the most potential to move up in the draft rankings than Jordan Kooy is the goalie with the 2nd most potential to make the biggest leap from these prelim rankings to the final ones. Due to injuries to Tyler Parsons Kooy was able to get in some OHL game time that was highly successful. So what makes Jordan Kooy the 10th best goalie prospect so far?
Kooy possesses very high end technical ability similar to Los Angeles Kings prospect Matthew Villalta. It’s very impressive to watch how he not only reads the game but also how much of the goaltending position he already understands as a 17yo. He’s an ever growing goalie who learns every game he plays. Teams will also like Kooy because he rarely panics. He knows the best chance he’ll have at saving the puck is if he’s staying calm and playing his game. Kooy also knows that he doesn’t need to panic because of how well he can hold his edges. He doesn’t need to put himself at a disadvantage because he can keep positioning or make quick direction changes when need be.
The biggest struggle for Kooy is consistency. Playing a high level multiple times has proved to be daunting for him and has been a reason why Kooy has been off to a slow start this season. When you play a technical game that requires consistent focus if it drops you become more vulnerable to even low danger clear shots. Another part of Kooy’s game that he’ll be working on is his leg strength. Having that in his arsenal will help Kooy make more saves even if he doesn’t make a perfect read as he’ll have the chance to make the save through pure explosiveness.
Kooy had the chance to secure the starting position in London but failed to do so. It’s not a mark against him though as being a starter in the CHL at 17yo is not an easy task. Since bringing in Joseph Raaymakers though Kooy has yet to see the net. It’ll be important for Kooy to find his game and make the most of his starts when they come to him. Thankfully he’s in a very good goalie development system which plays a small part in making Kooy an attractive prospect.
11. Olof Lindbom (Sweden, Djurgårdens IF J20, 2000)
He shows promise as a NHL prospect thanks to a size/speed combination that makes him frustrating to play against. With his stance and positioning he shows a big profile to the shooter. Has good leg strength which gives him an explosive aspect to his game allowing him to be effective against passes. His puck tracking allows him to use his footwork to be in the proper position. Is good in-close as well due to his edgework which allows him effectively seal off the bottom portion of the net.
Doesn’t like to leave the net often to play the puck. His playstyle isn’t the most patient so there are moments where he can be out waited. His playstyle also leads to some erratic rebound control which gives his opponents more opportunities to score. Does have a tendency to take the risk of trying to use an active stick to disrupt plays and miss therefore putting himself behind the play.
12. Olivier Rodrigue (Canada, Drummondville Voltigeurs, 2000)
He’s been composed which works with his game that is based around overall quickness. He’s quick in moving laterally, quick in going to his knees, and quick in getting back to his feet. His low/wide stance reflects this choice in playstyle as well. His footwork and edgework allow him this quick movement around the crease that allows him to get into position for the shot. His puck tracking was consistently good resulting in him always being able to make that first save no matter the pre-shot puck movement.
With his low stance he does run the risk of being beaten over the shoulders as he isn’t very aggressive in his crease depth. He does like to play the puck and has accurate passes. However his passes are slow which makes them easier to be picked off. There are also some unneeded dangerous rebounds occurring on medium- to low-range shot distances because he just wants to make the save.
Would like to see Rodrigue show he’s capable of putting his talent together as he yet to show that he can be a consistent starter in the CHL.
13. Justin Blanchette (Canada, Baie-Comeau Drakkar, 2000)
His major strengths are his ability to read the play and track the puck. These two aspects of his game were important in how he made his impact as he would always find himself in front of the puck in some way. You’d rarely see him behind the play as his eyes stayed glued to the puck. He’s out playing the puck often and he’s good at playing the puck. Able to make long, accurate passes while also being patient with the puck in the face of forecheckers. Would like to see keep his head up more when playing the puck. Plays his best when he’s on his feet as he’s able to move around the net efficiently. His rebound control was great giving the opposing team very little opportunities to continue their offensive push after the first shot on goal no matter the situation (pass, tip, rebound, clear).
Can’t rely on his edge work as it’s a raw part of his game right now. Needs to work on improving his leg strength as he doesn’t possess much of an explosive portion to his game. Has moments where he thinks he’s bigger than he actually is causing him to play too conservative giving up the angle to the shooter. Biggest weakness is his post play and more specifically his post integration. Takes too much time to get up against the post properly and it leaves him highly vulnerable to quick plays from behind the net.
Blanchette is currently behind Antoine Samuel in Baie-Comeau. While this isn’t the greatest situation for him to get a lot of starts he’ll learn a lot from a successful, veteran goalie like Samuel as Blanchette is being groomed to take over the starting position next season after Samuel leaves.
14. Stephen Dhillon (USA, Niagara IceDogs, 1998)
His ability to read the play is his biggest strength and the rest of his play style flows from there. His positioning is excellent because he knows where the play is going therefore is able to adjust his positioning accordingly. All his movements are efficient allowing him to move his impressive frame to be square to every shot. Liked his puck tracking as well as it was important in directing pucks into non-dangerous areas. Doesn’t play the puck often but when he does he’s patient and doesn’t throw the puck into dangerous situations. Like how quickly he’s able to make small adjusts using his edges that allow him to keep his positioning even on plays involving quick puck movement.
Would like to see more power in his leg pushes as he’s keeping his whole body in position while moving but it’s not quick, explosive movement. Also has moments where he doesn’t treat easy shots seriously and allows out front rebounds when he could easily direct them into the corner or his own possession.
15. Dean McNabb (Canada, Victoria Royals, 2000)
Moved his frame around the crease efficiently and quickly. Didn’t drop to his knees at the drop of a hat, instead prefered to play on his feet as much as possible. When he did go to his knees he did well there with his edge control able to make adjustments to stay with the play. Liked his tracking as well. It wasn’t often that you’d see McNabb lose sight of the puck and end up behind the play. McNabb generally played a more conservative game rarely overextending himself in any facet of the game and using a tight stance forcing the shooter to shoot inside the posts. This worked well and showed in his impact on the game as he directed shots into non-dangerous areas at an above average rate despite facing a below average rate of clear shots.
An issue that McNabb will need to work on is his decision making regarding sharp angle shots from low danger areas. He’s too tempted to drop his blocker into paddle down thereby giving up a top part of the net which lead to one goal against. Hopefully we’ll see more of McNabb to get a more accurate view of his skillset. He’s earned the starts now the coaching staff just have to give it to him.