This preview is dedicated to my friend and classmate, Aaron DuRose who passed away this year. Aaron was a superhero of a human being who had muscles of iron but a tender heart. He had a great sense of humor but also loved hockey, especially goaltenders. He loved to go to games to take pictures of them and their masks. This article is for him.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs always give us a reminder as to how important quality goaltending is to any team if they are to have a chance to win it all. They’re your last line of defense and they play such a major role in the psychology of your team; good or bad. The Minnesota Wild certainly understand this as they parted ways from Devan Dubnyk in favor of Cam Talbot.
For as good as Dubnyk was in his time in Minnesota, the truth is the team seemed to steadily lose confidence in him as his game started to slide. If you believe that goaltender is going to bail you out, you probably work a little harder so they don’t have to do that. But if you feel that any shot on goal is going to squeak through somehow you are just waiting to be disappointed. Talbot arrived and played marginally better than Dubnyk and the team’s fortunes reflected that even though club in front of them was mostly the same.
This year has also demonstrated the need to have goaltending depth. In the months leading up to the 2021 season, most thought Talbot and incumbent Alex Stalock would be carrying the goaltending load. Toss in some complications due to Covid-19 and suddenly the team was compelled to give 2020 AHL Goaltender of the year, Kaapo Kahkonen that roster spot. Then Talbot got hurt and Kahkonen suddenly found himself being Minnesota’s default starting goaltender. And he performed pretty well early on and finished the season with a 16-8 record. Luckily for Minnesota, the team had enough goaltending depth to get by without much trouble.
However it was not without consequence. With the pandemic, the team had to keep Andrew Hammond (aka the Hamburglar) on the team’s taxi squad instead of carrying the majority of the workload with their American League affiliate in Iowa. That meant the team had to give prospect Hunter Jones the starting role before he was ready and he had rough start to his professional career. Fortunately for Jones and the Wild, he was able to get acclimated and finished the year with a 9-9-1 record.
So what are the Minnesota Wild’s needs?
1. Strengthen the middle & add speed, scoring up front ~ While the ever-popular draft mantra is ‘take the best player available’ for the Minnesota Wild in the 1st round it should be modified to say, “take the best center available” because they simply need more options down the middle. Especially centers that project to play in the team’s top six. The team feels confident it drafted one last season in Rossi, and Joel Eriksson Ek enjoyed a breakout season it still would be wise to add another top prospect at that position. Fiala and Kaprizov need help in order to maximize their potential, having young, skilled centers available allows the team to save some cap space and give these great wingers some more suitable support. If a top 6 center doesn’t appear to be available, a fast goal-scoring winger would be a close 2nd on any draft list I’d create for this Minnesota Wild club.
2. Beef up the blueline ~ The 2021 NHL Entry Draft class features lots of defenseman, but many are of the smaller, puck moving variety. The Wild’s blueline is on the smaller side and while that doesn’t seem to be a problem during the regular season at times it feels like that lack of heft gets exposed in the playoffs where the games invariably get more physical. The team does have a few decent blueline prospects in its system, in Calen Addison and Ryan O’Rourke but they could use another bigger, more physical defenseman in the system.
3. Bolster the crease ~ The news that the Minnesota Wild was unable to reach a contract with promising goaltending prospect Filip Lindberg was a hit to the club’s depth. While the NHL club is happy with its two goaltenders right now, it still wants to have viable options if anything were to happen to either of them (short-term or long-term). With a full slate of draft picks at their disposal I would expect the Wild will add at least one goaltender in this year’s draft.
As of this writing, the Wild still have two selections in the 1st round after trading Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins. With the Tampa Bay Lightning having won the Stanley Cup, the Wild will have the 21st and 25th selections in the first round of this draft. So what goaltenders appear to be within this range when you consider the team’s needs?
I have identified 5 goaltenders who I think fit the club’s needs and who I think have a fair chance of being available when the team goes to make their first selection. I have researched these players extensively, watched game film and heard what the experts had to say. So the order you see is how I’d have these players on my draft board if I worked for the Minnesota Wild’s scouting department.
I would like to thank Eliteprospects.com and Devils in the Details podcast for their save-by-save YouTube videos of these prospects to get a real good feel for what these players bring to the table both on and off of the puck.
1. Sebastian Cossa (Edmonton, WHL) ~ Hamilton, Ontario
Height: 6’6″ Weight: 212lbs Shoots: Left
Central Scouting: #1 (NA Goalie) Hockey News: #24 ISS: #3 (Goaltender)
TSN McKenzie: #14 HockeyProspect.com: #7
Future Considerations: #15 The Athletic – Wheeler: #19
The Athletic – Pronman: #10
Talent Analysis: Cossa is your prototypical big-body goaltender, who uses that natural gift to its fullest advantage but likes to play near the top of his crease to give shooters almost nothing to shoot at. His consistency in his positioning is what help sets him apart from the rest of the goaltending class. He seems to play the same way whether he’s facing a lot of shots or very few. Cossa’s excellent rebound control are another example of that attention to detail. However to say he’s just a big body that gets in the way of shots is understating his athleticism as he is mobile and efficient in his post-to-post movement. The movement is precise and he under control so that he doesn’t get off his angle. He is a decent puckhandler, and likes to help out his defenseman in gathering the puck from behind the goal when the opportunity presents itself. He does a great job of seeing pucks through traffic and anticipating caroms off the boards and glass behind him. If he has any criticism to his game is at times he can let in a soft goal, but he’ll refocus and not give up another one. He has the potential to not only be a starter at the NHL level but perhaps one of its elite talents for years to come.
Bottom Line: Cossa combines athleticism with a giant body and good technical skills to be one of the most complete goaltenders available in this draft. If he somehow falls to a place where the Wild can select him with their first 1st round selection you probably take the chance to sign a starting goaltender that might be one of the best in league in a few years.
2. Jesper Wallstedt (Lulea, Eliteserien) ~ Vasteras, Sweden
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 214lbs Catches: Left
Central Scouting: #1 (Euro Goalie) Hockey News: #11 ISS: #1 Goalie
TSN McKenzie: #10 HockeyProspect.com: #15
Future Considerations: #8 The Athletic – Wheeler: #12
The Athletic – Pronman: #11
Talent Analysis: If you ever watched the film Top Gun and you heard Goose‘s description of Ice Man, how he was a pilot that simply doesn’t make any mistakes and you have a similar disclaimer for Wallstedt. Another goaltender who is a blend of size and technical refinement who is also demonstrates great poise under pressure. Perhaps this calmness comes from the fact his mind anticipates developing plays in front of him and he puts himself in optimal position to make saves. He likes to move to the top of his crease to challenge shooters. His post to post movement is good, but at times looks almost leisurely in its pace. Wallstedt likes to leave his crease to help play the puck to set it up for his defenseman. He tracks pucks well through traffic and he relies on his positioning and his big body to make the most of his saves. His glove is ok, but could be better and will need to be an area of his game he must improve to be effective at the next level. However its not terrible and the rest of his skillset is good to elite making him a goaltender with starter potential. Cossa are Wallstedt are going to be 1st round selections, its all a matter of who gets taken first.
Bottom Line: Scouts are somewhat divided over which goaltender they think will go first in this draft. Wallstedt is another potential NHL starter, who has the size and is all around technically solid. He simply doesn’t make many mistakes. If Cossa goes first and Wallstedt falls the Wild’s way, he’s another top level goalie you would think they’d have to strongly consider selecting if they have a chance to get him.
3. Alexei Kolosov (Dinamo Minsk, KHL) ~ Minsk, Belarus
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 185lbs Catches: Left
Central Scouting: #2 (Euro Goalie) Hockey News: N/A ISS: N/A
TSN – McKenzie: N/A HockeyProspect.com: #60
Future Considerations: #82 The Athletic – Wheeler: N/A
The Athletic – Pronman: #72
Talent Analysis: Kolosov is an athletic, unorthodox but highly competitive goaltender who gives fans someone exciting to watch in the crease despite possessing just average size. While his style of play may remind some folks of Anton Khudobin or Alex Stalock, he’s far more refined at his age than the former Wild goalie was. He reads the play well and squares up to the shooter quickly and has an excellent glove. His rebound control is good, and he aggressively challenges shooters by moving out to the top of his crease. However, there are some glaring areas of concern in his game. At times, he can almost get lost in the play. Where he’ll be tracking the puck and work his way considerably out of position which leaves the net wide open to be exploited. That aggressiveness which is a hallmark of his game can lead him to commit too soon as he’ll bite on a fake and he doesn’t have the size to get back and recover. Yet when he does get beat, even if its on a mistake of his own making he shows tremendous determination. He always battles and his potential is probably more suited to being a NHL backup.
Bottom Line: He is an athletic goaltender, who relies on his athleticism and competitiveness to be effective. He’s probably not a future starting goaltender, but he battles well and has already performed well against men in the KHL. A good depth goaltending option. He probably won’t be taken until at least the 3rd round or the late 2nd round if there suddenly becomes a run on goaltenders.
4. Benjamin Gaudreau (Sarnia, OHL) ~ North Bay, Ontario
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 175lbs Catches: Left
Central Scouting: #2 (NA Goalie) Hockey News: #61 ISS: #2 Goalie
TSN – McKenzie: N/A HockeyProspect.com: #88
Future Considerations: #32 The Athletic – Wheeler: N/A
The Athletic – Pronman: #77
Talent Analysis: He is a goaltender who lost a season due to the pandemic since the Ontario Hockey League never got up and running unlike the QMJHL and WHL. That means scouts only had 5 games to evaluate Gaudreau as his only action this year is in small U-18 tournament. He is a fairly well rounded, average-sized goalie who is good at everything but not exceptional in any one area. He moves well laterally and has a good glove hand. He is patient and doesn’t commit too early to shooters shows a lot of poise when he has pressure near his crease. Gaudreau demonstrates some game management awareness as he will often freeze pucks to alleviate pressure for his team. His rebound control was ok, but he certainly will need to improve in this part of his game. Another small area of criticism scouts offer is at times he’s guilty of not being quite tight enough to the post. However he’s a good all around goaltender who plays a smart game who is has solid NHL backup potential and with proper development could possibly be a starter.
Bottom Line: The Hockey News compared Gaudreau to Jordan Binnington who took some time to develop, but he was critical to the St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup run. He is an average-sized goaltender who is a jack-of-all-trades, master at none kind of goaltending prospect. He’s probably more of a 2nd or later round pick than a 1st round selection.
5. Kirill Gerasimyuk (SKA Varyagi, MHL) ~ St. Petersburg, Russia
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 179lbs Catches: Left
Central Scouting: N/A (Euro Goalie) Hockey News: N/A ISS: N/A
TSN McKenzie: N/A HockeyProspect.com: #48
Future Considerations: #92 The Athletic – Wheeler: N/A
The Athletic – Pronman: N/A
Talent Analysis: For a goaltender, at least in your draft year being on a bad team can perhaps be called a blessing. For Kirill Gerasimyuk, he faced a ton of shots on one of the worst teams in the MHL. Despite enduring a lot of losses he never seemed to be bothered by it and continued to keep his team in games longer than they probably deserved to be. What makes him so good? An average-sized netminder, he’s more of a technician in his post-to-post movement and positioning. He has a terrific glove, and anticipates well even after he makes an initial save as he often will start squaring up to challenge a rebound opportunity. He does have a tendency to give up a soft goal or two, but the compete level never waivers. He is reasonably athletic and his potential is also probably more well-suited to be in an NHL backup.
Bottom Line: A technically sound goaltender who has faced a lot of pucks and safe and steady prospect. He is just 17 years old and is still years away from making the NHL but he has solid potential to be a backup someday. He’s probably going to be available by the time the team goes to make a selection in the 2nd or 3rd rounds of the draft.
What draft-eligible goaltenders interest you? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!