Partridge Insights - A Goalie's Analysis of the S39 Draft
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Coming in to the S39 SMJHL entry draft, I felt like it was an apt time to do a thorough look at the upcoming goalie talent that’s making its way into the SMJHL talent pipeline. This is a topic that is particularly relevant to me, as the Mammoths are definitely one of the organizations with a vested interest in acquiring new talent to fill the slot between the pipes that I will hopefully be vacating in a few seasons. Despite still being in the early stages of my career, I’ve always had the mentality of a mentor and strongly desired the ability to help shape the growth of my goaltending partner, creating a tremendously effective tandem that can lead our team to success for the foreseeable future. All five of the goalie prospects coming into the draft are unique in terms of backstory, skillsets and overall styles, and I hope that this cross-examination will be helpful not just for observers, but also for the organizations seeking to shore up their net minding moving into the future. Without further ado, let’s get into the analysis.
The first talent I wanted to take a look at is the big Czech, Petr Hašek. In a league where the more dynamic and flashy goalies that I’ve long tried to emulate, are being replaced by the prototypical goalie who fills the entirety of the net, Hašek fits this bill perfectly. At 6’6 and 250 pounds even in an extremely young frame, Hašek is an absolute force in the net. Watching his development over the past few years, it’s been clear that despite having the natural tools of his size to lean on, he has not become completely reliant upon it. What’s impressed me most about him as a talent, is how technically proficient he is across the entirety of his fundamentals, and how dynamic he actually is despite being such a big body. His hand speed in particular is phenomenally good, as the few holes that are provided to skaters to put the puck past him are deceptively covered as a result of not only his hand speed, but his reaction time in general. While a good portion of this is a product of his natural physiology, it’s clear that this is an aspect of his game that he diligently works on in practice, and is a testament to his level of focus when he’s between the pipes.
Beyond this ability to react to shots that try to pick corners through his big frame, one of the things I’m most impressed by is his general puck handling and ability to strongly negate dump ins, and to even turn these opportunities into offense for his team as he can use his natural strength and size to fire the puck back up the ice on the transition game, generating offensive chances out of seemingly nowhere. This is somewhat negated by the expected weakness in his skating and to a lesser extent in his agility, but it’s going to be tremendously interesting to see if he can shore up these weaknesses in order to capitalize on his natural puck handling ability.
From my perspective, Hašek is an incredibly well-rounded stand-up goalie, who I feel has remarkable potential to develop into something more than just the prototypical giant of a goalie who relies upon his sheer size to make saves, while not putting the diligent practice into developing overall technical fundamentals. I feel like I could learn a significant amount from Hašek in regards to his positional soundness and his ability to seemingly absorb shot attempts without unnecessary rebounds, and I believe that I could impart a lot of knowledge of the more technical elements of the position, to turn him into an absolute force who will undoubtedly have a strong junior career, leading to a high draft position moving into the SHL.
The next goalie to look at out of this deep draft in terms of goaltending talent, is the dynamic and flexible Walter Hobbs. Hobbs is a goalie that I have not spent a significant amount of time following, however the glimpses that I have seen are rather promising. To start with, Hobbs is a bit of a mixed bag as he stands at 6’3, but only weighs 185 pounds. As a goalie this is can be both a blessing and a curse, as he does have the benefit of filling a greater than average amount of his net and limiting the ability to be beat above the shoulders, however it also means that he occasionally falls into the trap of believing that he fills the entirety of the net but in actuality he gives up a deceptive amount of holes due to his slight lankiness. Where this benefits Hobbs is that he has the flexibility to transition between stand-up and butterfly seamlessly due to the speed afforded to him by being lighter than average, which provides a great amount of flexibility and general options for his hybrid style.
The one issue I have noted within his skillset, is that despite having the ability to switch between styles at a moments notice depending on what the situation requires, Hobbs occasionally has problems where he’ll fall to his knees and be beat high as a result, or he is unable to transition from stand-up to a butterfly stance in time, leading to him having a relatively weak five hole that will be exposed by the top-tier shooters of the SMJHL. I’ve seen first hand that this league has so much offensive talent that will capitalize on the smallest of mistakes in your positioning if you give them the opportunity to.
Overall, Hobbs is definitely a raw talent, but I believe he has the tools to be an extremely versatile goaltender if puts the time and effort into his development. The goaltending coaching infrastructure of the Mammoths has done wonders for me in rounding out my game, and I believe between them and my knowledge, we could absolutely maximize his internal strengths of versatility and flexibility, while shoring up the holes in his positioning that occasionally lets down what is an otherwise phenomenally talented goaltender. I see a ton of potential in this kid if he’s surrounded by the right personnel, and if he has the right mentality to acknowledge and improve upon his flaws.
Our next goalie on the list is someone that I’ve had the chance to watch a lot due to being a Colorado native, and may have the most unique parents in the world who one day looked down at a baby and settled on “Blue Moon Barthelemy”. Unique names aside, Barthelemy is an extremely interesting prospect to me, as he’s a unique mix of being a traditional butterfly goaltender that comes in an extremely big body at 6’3 and 210 pounds. At that size, especially with some years left to grow, you would have expected Barthelemy to mold himself into a stand-up goalie who relies upon being positionally sound, and acting as a black hole that pucks are fired at and essentially disappear into the void of his big body. What you get in actuality, is a big body that almost entirely forgets it’s a big body, as Barthelemy almost never intentionally utilizes his natural side to augment the existing speed and technical proficiency that he has been blessed with.
Another area that his overall game is somewhat let down by, is his relatively pedestrian skating ability that restricts his excellent puck handling ability from truly shining. While he can make fantastic plays if the puck falls close to him on a dump in, he can occasionally get into trouble if he finds himself wandering behind the net to retrieve the puck with the fast and hungry skaters coming to collect what they believe is theirs. This is an area that may be difficult to easily improve upon, as his big body somewhat betrays his ability to comfortably move to intercept dump ins quickly, but seeing the work he puts into practice on a daily basis, makes me confident that he can patch up this glaring hole in his overall skillset.
Overall, Barthelemy has so many natural tools unique to his physiology, that I’d be tremendously excited about the opportunity to work with him in order to push each other to meet our expected potential. I believe he can benefit so much from the more professional infrastructure that is afforded by the SMJHL, and it will almost entirely fall onto him to decide what his career trajectory will be, as I genuinely believe that the sky is the limit for someone so naturally talented. Even if he doesn’t become a part of the Mammoth duo, I will certainly watch his career with great interest.
The next goalie I wanted to look at, feels like an amalgamation of the sheer size of Petr Hašek with the flexibility in styles of Walter Hobbs. The aspect of this player that excites me the most, is that while Hobbs had a bit of a mixed identity in terms of his style control, Wastlund is the absolute complete package in his ability to seamlessly transition between using his gigantic Norwegian Viking frame to be an ominously large presence within the net, to moving with preternatural speed for someone with his size, dropping to the butterfly to react to high-percentage scoring opportunities. It’s clear that he has made a conscious effort in his development as a young goaltender to be able to be whatever each specific situation requires. His versatility in style, and the mental focus required to be consistent in moving between them is incredibly excited to see as a professional netminder, and I believe that even SHL goalies should be excited that such a talent is moving into the professional pipeline, and SHL skaters should be equally terrified that one day this mammoth will be what comes between them and offensive production.
Beyond this versatility, there’s an excellent foundation of technical proficiency that is clearly the product of a fantastic work ethic from a young age, and a diligent and focused effort within practice that has created an all-around stud. Watching some of his games recently, it was incredible to see how effectively he uses his size to ignore most screening attempts, and then to use his natural reflexes to pick pucks out of the air that would otherwise be a sure thing for the scorekeeper to tally for the opposing team. Being so tall is such a boon for a goaltender in a professional landscape where every team has a few hulking players to pop in front of them to obscure vision. Being only 6 feet myself, it has been a challenge for me to develop my reflexes and general intensity within the net to bypass this deficiency, but then you have a player in Wastlund who just naturally ignores the traditional rules and excels anyways.
If I did have to poke holes in his game, it would be how timid he is when utilizing his skating and puck handling in tandem to retrieve dump-ins, and there have been instances where a puck ends up in the net because his confidence in retrieving the puck being the right play is let down by generally substandard abilities to control and move the puck with speed and accuracy. While this is a clear hole in his game and limits some of his all-around ability to impact in all areas of the ice, I believe that he has the right head on his shoulders to make clear adjustments to transition these weaknesses to strengths in the future. I would love the opportunity to work with this young talent, and turn someone with unlimited raw talent into the complete package that will have an impact on the league for years to come.
The last goalie I wanted to take a look at, is a purported “Russian Superweapon” who was genetically engineered from former SMJHL star Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Timo Haas to create the ultimate goaltending prospect. This analysis is somewhat difficult to conduct, as there was surprisingly limited video footage from the totally legal and high-standard Russian labs that created such a talented goaltender. The footage that I was able to acquire in a very traditional dark-alley transaction, illuminated a goalie who has incredibly physical tools that in many ways seem beyond what any prospect of his age should be capable of.
To start with, Aleksandrov Jr is almost robotic with his ability to detect the presence of the puck and snatch it out of the air before anyone is even fully aware of where it went. Beyond this enhanced focus and puck-tracking, Aleksandrov Jr has unfathomable agility and ability to move within his crease, that it almost seems unfair to the opposing team’s shooters as he is seemingly everywhere at once and any holes that appear within his frame are filled almost instantaneously. Overall, when this man is within the crease, it is an area that is completely controlled by him, and any pucks that are fired past him must first ask for permission to do so.
While his natural talents and technical proficiency are beyond critique, there have been concerns about Aleksandrov Jr’s endurance, puck handling and skating. Within a few of the clips, the player was seen drinking from his “water bottle” that seemingly had some unknown gold liquid contained within, and immediately was provided with an additional jump in his step that belied the previously exhausted player that stood before everyone moments prior. It’s unknown if this is the same mystical substance seen in such prolific sports documentary’s such as “Space Jam” that immediately rejuvenated the players in question, but whatever it is, it is clearly necessary as Aleksandrov Jr tends to slow down and break down far easier than the other goaltenders in this draft class.
Beyond the bursty nature of his endurance, Aleksandrov Jr also looks like whatever he was taught in the Russian training facility, was seemingly completely lacking in a need for puck handling or skating. When leaving his crease, it almost looks like Aleksandrov Jr has a mini-seizure that almost appears to be a malfunction in programming, and he completely flubs any ability to play the puck. It’s hard to know what to attribute this deficiency to, but I’m sure the player that was definitely born by conception between a man and a woman, will be able to quickly identify and improve upon these clear weaknesses.
With that said, we have reached the end of my cross-examination of the upcoming S39 goaltending draft class. As someone who will either be playing alongside or against any of these fantastic talents, this was an extremely effective exercise in analytical examination, and I hope that all league managers within the SMJHL can utilize this analysis to shape their own priorities and knowledge moving into the draft. Thank you all for listening, and for all fans of mine and the Colorado Mammoths themselves, I can’t wait to show you all what a force our team will be next season, and I can assure you all that this will be a very brief rebuild before we move back to contender status. This post has been edited by Mackkz: Jan 20 2018, 04:29 PM