Well into the 2012-2013 National Hockey League lockout with no real end in sight, players near and far are looking for ways to stay in “game-ready” shape. Some have gone overseas, while others have jumped into AHL and ECHL lineups here in North America.
When Jeff Deslauriers was a kid, the regular goalie on his team went on vacation. Someone needed to step in to take his place, and when little JD raised his hand to volunteer to defend the crease for his squad, nobody knew they were looking at a boy who would reach the heights of being a goalie in the National Hockey League.
*Editor’s Note: After publishing this article on Monday, Dec. 10, I was invited to appear on Sportsnet Fan590 in Toronto on Monday night to discuss some topics of goalie psychology with show host Norm Rumack. We also discussed aspects of the lockout, and whether or not Roberto Luongo would be successful in a Maple Leafs uniform. If the podcast link doesn’t work above, a direct link is available here.
The more goalies I scout, the more I realize that today’s goaltender, even compared to 4-5 years ago, is very refined and standardized. With advanced teaching methods, fancy new gear enhancements, better video analysis tools, and a bigger reliance on the economy of movement, every goalie is essentially learning — and turning into — the same thing.
The Goalie Guild is proud to introduce a new blog written by former University of Connecticut Huskies goalie Christie Houser. “Glove Saves and GPA” is an inside look at a female NCAA D-I goaltender’s experience, and her own foray into the world of the student-athlete. Look for Christie’s work every week right here, and feel free to leave your comments below.
A few weeks ago, I spent some time chatting with former NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes. For nearly an hour, we discussed his exciting new apparel and style brand, I Have No 5-Hole. Afterwards, we spoke about the one thing everyone loves to hate — the NHL lockout.
Goldman Says: “Copley is a late-blooming prospect with great flexibility for his size and really good structure to his low game. His patience and calm demeanor are also impressive traits at his age.”
10-19 vs. MinnesotaFirst shot came 1:33 in, and was a very routine clear shot along the ice that he deflected out of play with his stick, making the save way outside the blue paint … gave up bad rebound off his left shoulder on a good chance on the following shift after MTU took a 1-0 lead … absorbed a long shot from inside the blue line off his stick and covered it through traffic … gives up a 4-on-4 goal after making a left pad save with his left knee off the ice, which caused a bad rebound back into the slot, then the loose puck was chipped over to a wide open Schmidt … swallowed up a routine floater, making the save completely outside the blue paint … stopped nine of 10 shots in the first period … beat 2:50 into the second period after a bad read, sliding to his right post, getting caught deep on a wide-open Bjugstad, who sniped him short side over the blocker as he was recovering back to his skates to try and challenge the shot … was screened on a slap shot from the point, but perfect positioning at the top of the crease allowed him to make a nice glove save, one he didn’t even see … an active stick poked away a loose puck of a pad save and ended up turning it over … outside the blue paint on a chance by Haula with 8:11 left in second period and absorbed the mid-height shot … three really good saves on the PK in the final five minutes of the second period while up 4-2, the biggest one coming on a shot that was tipped in the low slot and snagged with the left toe … stopped seven of eight shots in the second period … looked even more comfortable and controlled in the third period … only faced two shots in first six minutes of the third … made a good save off his left post going paddle down on a broken play … made a routine save on a one-timer from inside the blue line with 12:13 left, no rebound … strong left pad save on a charging drive towards the net by Bjugstad with 11:13 left … beat with 2:10 left on a PK on a good shot by Boyd on the weak side after he pushed to his right and stretched out the blocker but puck beats him underneath … big save with 1:43 left when Minnesota had a pulled goalie, covering a loose puck in the crease … makes three timely saves on the ensuing shift, diving out on his stomach to cover a loose puck in traffic … very impressive final two minutes and finished with 12 saves on 13 shots in the third period … finished with 28 saves on 31 shots (recap) GRADE: A-
10-20 vs. MinnesotaNot tested much in the first 10 minutes, but clean execution on his first shot with just 3:07 into the game on a point-blank wrist shot down low … committed early on a deke by Bjugstad during an UM power play, who went backhand and lifted a puck that went off the post … faced just five shots through the first 13 minutes … good right pad save on a chance from the slot at 13:25, sealing the ice then sticking away the rebound as it comes off his pad … huge blocker save on a one-timer by Bjugstad from bottom of the right circle by making a great push and extension and staying upright. … gives up a rebound through traffic, can’t corral it, puck drops on Ambroz’s stick and gets beat on the put-back at 17:45 … makes a tricky stop with a few seconds left on a severe-angle shot from Haula, squeezing the left arm to his side … stopped 10 of 11 saves in the first period … good stick save on Ambroz in the slot just 2:25 into the second period, staying big and square in the butterfly … tremendous right-toe reflex save off a shot from the left point, the puck sticks in the crease and he stretches out just enough to get a skate on the put-back chance at 14:40 … well outside the paint on a shot by Schmidt at 9:45 … beat on a shot by Haula at 11:34 through a screen by his own defenseman, beat under the blocker and over the right pad, maybe the only bad goal he allowed all weekend … great instinct save on a broken play in front of the net with 1:58 left in the second period as a puck is fired through traffic, deflected down off the ice, hits him on the left arm, and is swatted away as it’s falling back to the ice … finished with 10 saves on 11 shots in the second period … Solid and sound in the first seven minutes of the third period, absorbing low shots and building a solid wall … great stop with 5:23 left on a 2-man rush and a tip in the low slot, again, making the save at the top of the crease with a wide butterfly … beat with 3:35 left in the game on a great wrist shot by Ambroz from 12-15 out, inside the top half of the right faceoff circle … almost beat short side by Bjugstad with 3:05 left in the game, but puck falls down his back and into his pants … finished with 31 saves on 34 shots and 11 of 12 in the third (boxscore) GRADE: B
Scouting goalies is all about tracking and evaluating development, so when a prospect makes the jump from the USHL to an NCAA program with a former NHL goalie volunteering as the goalie coach, you pay attention.
Knowing that Pheonix Copley has the guidance of volunteer goalie coach Steve Shields, I’ve added the Alaska native to the Prospects Library. It was also a good time to do so, as his first NCAA challenge was against the #1-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers on home ice, making this a perfect opportunity to see how he would compete in the biggest games of his life.
And he did not disappoint, splitting the weekend with an upset on Friday night.
At 6-foot-3, Copley is very flexible and mobile for his size. He will certainly want to “bulk up” as time goes on since he’s listed as weighing just 175 pounds, but the fact remains that he’s a very athletic goalie with better-than-expected skills.
Throughout his weekend series against Minnesota, I was impressed with his footwork and technique. Many examples popped up where he utilized things like the Reverse-VHS, a sign he’s getting quality coaching from Shields.
Another impressive aspect of his game was his ability to challenge shooters and actually make saves off his goal line. Most 6-foot-3 goalies will stay just inside the tip of their crease, but not Copley. He will challenge shooters and step out and make himself extremely big in the net. But at the root of his game is that pure flexibility.
“Pheonix’s flexibility at this point of his development is a double-edged sword,” Shields explained. “Because his athletic ability is such a gift to him, he must learn to harness it and use it when it’s called upon. But knowing when to ‘sell out’ when a sure goal is imminent is something that Pheonix can do better then almost any goalie I’ve seen at this stage.”
Combined with his impressive quickness and size, Copley has an active stick and does a great job of cutting off passing lanes. He has a good crouch on faceoffs and keeps his back straight, another sign of his natural flexibility. He does not display any visible tension either, so this relaxed presence allows him to be smooth while shuffling, recovering, and sliding.
Like you see with most progressive butterfly goalies, Copley executes good slides with good hip rotation and a solid seal to the ice with his pads. He recovers quickly for his size and can push laterally with a lot of power.
“This kid is the real deal,” Shields continued. “When he tracks better, his patience is going to get him to the next level. Other than that, he has a patience and calmness beyond his years. Once he understands when to raise the level of intensity, he will be in a great position to succeed. I love this kid.”
As a freshman, Copley’s biggest obstacles will be consistency, both with his approach and technical elements like his rebound control. A number of shots against Minnesota came hard off his pads into the slot or danger areas, and some shots off his stick would be poked back into dangerous areas, as opposed to being swallowed up or appropriately placed.
“Copley has strong lateral pushes,” said former goalie coach Dave Rogalski. “He makes good reads from behind the net, and with his frame, it’s tough to get anything down low on him on jam plays. He’s also a late-bloomer, and he will only get better during his time at Michigan Tech. He uses the standard 5-spot movement drills every day and is very flexible for a big kid.”
Copley made a number of timely saves over the weekend, including in the second period of Saturday’s 3-2 loss. He made a tremendous right toe save off a shot from the left point on top prospect Nick Bjugstad, then showcased his flexibility by stretching it out even further to get a skate on the put-back chance. A minute later, Michigan Tech scored to tie the game at 1-1, so he can make the timely save with poise and focus.
Overall, I was very impressed with Copley’s ability to shine in such a pressure-filled situation. To know he jumped from the USHL to the NCAA and beat the top-ranked NCAA team is an impressive addition to his growing resume, and he’ll gain tons of confidence as a result.
I don’t expect to see him play at that level on a consistent basis all season long, especially since Michigan Tech is rolling with three goalies this season. But regardless of what the stats show, he has the juicy traits every scout wants to see in a prospect; natural athleticism, good size, coachability, and late-blooming skills.
Goldman Says: “Wilcox is a flashy reflex-based goalie with visibly high levels of athleticism and competitiveness. He loves to be active moving the puck up the ice and has very quick hands and feet.”
10-28 vs. CanisiusHands were out in front of his body to make a save on a wrist shot that he deflected to the boards just 1:45 into the game … gloved down a shot low in front of his body just 2:14 in … defensive breakdown led to a good chance in the low slot at the 8:00 mark, but he fought off a deflected shot with the glove … pulled down a long-range slapper from the point heading over the net … controlled and set up the puck nicely for his d-men as the first period continued … solid paddle down save on the PK with 2:28 left in the first period … stopped all eight shots he faced in the first … routine glove save :35 into the second period … great reaction glove save at the 9:18 mark of the second period, showcase his reflexes and quickness … displayed good focus in a game where he was seeing very little action … absorbed another good quality scoring chance with an upper body save off the right shoulder with 6:23 left, and he made the save at the top of his crease … stopped all five shots in the second period but Canisius had just two shots from anywhere near the mid-slot … was untested for the first half of the third period … routine stick save at 11:25 of the third period on a harmless bouncing puck … tricky poke check attempt on partial breakaway with 4:59 left but squeezed the five-hole and covered up, another display of his high level of athleticism … was untested until a mad scramble in the final :30 where he had to make his toughest save of the game, a stretching left pad save … teammate fell on top of him after he fell forward and made the save, but had support in front and quickly scrambled back into position … finished with a 20-save shutout, the first shutout of his NCAA career. GRADE: A
10-20 @ Michigan TechGood first stop at 17:34 by standing his grond on the left post and flexing a sharp-angle shot away towards the boards … Sharp glove save down low on a rush … great left pad stop down low on a quick centering feed during a brief 4-on-4 … beautiful blocker save with 12:18 left in the first period … tremendous reflexes … When puck is low with a far-side threat, he doesn’t drop early. Instead he gets into a very low crouch and holds his edges. Love it … aggressive and athletic, quick recoveries, quick hands, relaxed and flexible … energized start definitely motivated teammates … only faced five shots through 13 minutes … stopped all seven shots in the first period, including two PP chances … not tested at all in the first five minutes of the second period, then beat on a great chance by Pietla on a rolling puck that was chipped up over the right shoulder at 6:18 of the second … went out to stick a puck away against the boards on a PP chance and turned it over, then was forced to make a save and freeze it, which caused a defensive-zone faceoff while on the PP … faced just two shots in the first nine minutes of the second period … victimized by a bad clear and turnover by Schultz as he stops the shot fired on goal, but rebound hits a teammate in front of the net and deflects in with just 56 seconds left in the second period … faced just five shots in the second period and stopped three of them, or nine-for-11 through two … had to be sharp early in the third period, making a nice blocker save and having another shot ring off the cross bar … not many shots getting through as teams clog up defensively … biggest stop came with 2:30 left moving to his left but reacting to his right with the blocker and robbing Pietla in the slot … finished with the win, stopping five shots in the third period and ending with 16 saves on 18 shots (boxscore) GRADE: B-
Powered by visibly high levels of natural athleticism and flexibility, Adam Wilcox is an impressive prospect selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning organization in the 2011 NHL Draft.
My first experience scouting Wilcox came in August of 2012 during a private lesson with goalie coach Dave Rogalski. During that practice, I was impressed with Adam’s quickness and attention to detail with his execution of movement drills.
Listed at 6-foot-0, Wilcox is a smaller goalie that relies on tremendous reflexes and foot speed to make a majority of his saves. Everything surrounding his style is focused on reacting to the puck, whether it’s done with quick hands, an active stick, or by kicking out the legs and feet to make flashy kick saves.
Wilcox is the epitome of a dynamic goaltender; he has variable stances (wide and narrow), and when scrambling or sliding around his crease, he always appears tenacious and fierce. His biggest advantage as a smaller goalie is his ability to skate and pass the puck. This not only makes him very good at being a third defenseman and challenging shooters, but that active mindset and quick footwork helps him display a ton of confidence in the crease.
Wilcox is what I consider as being a “superconductive” goalie. He not only generates a ton of energy by being explosive with his pushes and slides, but his sheer determination to stop the puck also energizes his teammates. He battles hard, he has strong second efforts, and he’s not afraid to lunge with his body or reach with his hands in order to knock away or cover loose pucks. These are great assets to have on a gifted offensive team like the Golden Gophers.
When I watch Wilcox perform, I’m reminded of another highly athletic and naturally gifted goalie in Sharks prospect Alex Stalock. As it turns out, this isn’t not just a coincidence; they’re actually cousins. Knowing this, and knowing how successful Stalock was during his collegiate career, I can’t help but imagine Wilcox having similar upside in terms of his potential NCAA and minor-league career.
In terms of his stance, Wilcox plays up on his toes and has natural hand placement. His glove is held traditionally, with the hand at the three-o’clock position and close to his body. When pucks are in the 8-to-12 foot range, he’s often seen crouching with a real good bend at the knees, which helps him gain depth with ease and move laterally with explosiveness.
In my opinion, the most pressing area of concern for Wilcox is learning how to control his athleticism. Being energetic and explosive is a great trait to have, but at times it can lead to excess movement and issues with angles. He will also want to be smart with his timing and his decision-making. Because he’s so aggressive moving the puck, making smart decisions and staying controlled will be at the top of his checklist for a successful outing.
Another note I have when scouting Wilcox is his ability to seal off the upper corners. Due to his crouch and his smaller frame, keeping his back straight and staying as tall as possible in the butterfly is very important to his success when facing elevated shots. This may not be an issue on shots that are just a few feet away from the goal line, but when shots originate from around 10 feet out, if he’s too hunched over, shooters will have the chance to pick corners.
In that regard, Wilcox reminds me a little bit of Sergei Bobrovksy; a highly athletic reflex-based goalie that needs to stay very square and upright in order to play big and cover aerial angles.
Overall, Wilcox is a raw-skilled talent that exhibits a lot of natural athleticism and enthusiasm in the crease. He loves to move the puck as much as possible, and he’s naturally gifted with great reflexes. He doesn’t have a large frame, so being able to challenge shots without over-amplifying his movements is the biggest key to his success.
Goldman Says: “Dansk is a highly-touted Swedish prospect with long-term NHL starter upside. He’s extremely solid down low and against the posts, and excels at utilizing his size by playing exclusively inside the blue paint.”
10-19 @ LondonBeat on the first shot of the game, short side high on a backhander by Domi … never squared up to the puck, arms were locked up and inactive, and he dropped early … sticked away a sharp-angle shot a few minutes later … good stop a minute later, squeezing the blocker arm to his side and absorbing it without a rebound … good save off a shot from the slot, gave up a rebound, automatically locked into a tight butterfly, couldn’t react on a backhand rebound chip over the blocker and off the post to make it 2-0 London … good look at a shot from the high slot and made a nice reflex blocker save … stooped 9-of-11 shots in the first period … looked much more comfortable as the second period went along … displayed very solid post coverage, sealing the ice with his knee and staying as big as possible … stopped all 12 shots he faced in the second period … made a very timely left toe save on Horvat off a broken play just off the left post 1:15 into the third period … nice glove save on Domi from the right wing on a slap shot against the grain … continued to smooth out as the game went along, becoming one of the best players on the ice halfway through the third … good save on a severe-angle 2-on-1 rush, inside foot was off the post, went into a full narrow butterfly, made himself big and took away everything down low … tonight was his 9th time in 10 games he has faced 30 or more shots … two big saves with five minutes left, these coming on a centered pass that was battled out of mid-air in the slot … strong through overtime, looking very comfortable and confident … in the shootout, beat on the first shot but it hits the post … good patience on Domi’s chance by stopping a weak wrister off the blocker … stayed square on Platzer and took it off the cuff of the blocker … ended with 39 saves plus all five saves in the shootout … sparked Erie to a terrific comeback win and was voted the #2 star of the game. GRADE: A
Made in the image and likeness of many other prototypical large-framed Swedish goalies, Oscar Dansk is clearly a top-flight NHL prospect. The foundation and essence of his style is the ability to move so economically that he displays very little movement, and therefore a lot of patience. He stays square to pucks and shooters, and based around a blocking-oriented mindset, he does a great job of staying centered in his net and letting pucks hit him.
Like a lot of European goalies, most of Dansk’s movements are comprised of very small shuffles. There are different reasons why some goalies feel shuffles are more biomechanically efficient than t-pushes, and for Dansk, it’s the benefit of relying on his size and staying inside the blue paint to be set and ready for shots. As a result of this, his lateral slides and pushes are short and explosive, as opposed to long and smooth.
One of Dansk’s biggest strengths is his ability to control the ice by sealing off everything down low. He also has a strong understanding of how to execute post coverages on both the blocker and glove side using the reverse VHS technique. Furthermore, due to a strong and wide lower body, he’s like an anchor in the crease, which reminds me of Antti Niemi. His knees seal the ice with power, and he stays extremely patient with his feet and hands, so it’s very tough to squeeze pucks through or underneath him.
Dansk’s angles and positioning is visualized as a small triangle within the crease. That means everything he does in terms of squaring up is compacted and condensed so that his movements are limited, which allows him to be set and ready when shots are taken. The main negative effect to this is the fact that elevated shots will find space over the shoulders since he stays in the blue paint on such a consistent basis.
As he moves up the ranks, he will have to get better at reading plays, and knowing when to move dynamically in order to come out and challenge shooters just a bit.
Dansk’s hand positioning is unique. They stay low and tight to his body, and the glove is turned in with the wrist facing his left hip bone. I don’t know if this an intentional baiting technique or not, but if anything, it helps him build a solid wall down low when shots are up to 12-16″ off the ice. If he doesn’t get a good read on an elevated shot, or if it comes through traffic, he’s susceptible to reacting late, or having pucks deflect off his arm uncontrollably.
I do feel that Dansk has very good patience on the blocker side, however. I don’t see any reaching or excess movement, as he allows the puck to come to his body, then he rolls the wrist over while still keeping the elbow and arm tight to the body. It looks unique because his hand doesn’t pull away from the body, but still displays natural and smooth mobility.
Due to the way he skates, Dansk won’t be very active playing the puck. I think his stick handling and passing skills will improve over time, but ultimately, getting out of the net to move the puck will only happen in obvious situations, or where he has plenty of time to retrieve it, pass it, and return to the crease.
Overall, Dansk is quickly developing a reputation for being durable, stable, reliable, and efficient. All of these technical and emotional elements play a big role in why I considered him the best goalie available in the 2012 NHL Draft, and why he will probably turn pro after just two full seasons in the OHL.
Technically sound and capable of stealing games, Dansk has the potential to one day be considered along the lines of current Swedish studs like Robin Lehner, Jacob Markstrom, and Eddie Lack. As long as he continues to work on his quickness and agility, the technical base to his game and the pure instincts will slowly evolve into that of a top-flight NHL goaltender.
Below is the introduction to an article written by Jeff Angus from Defending Big D and Dobber Hockey on Kari Lehtonen and his improvements since coming over to Dallas from Atlanta. For added insight, he called upon The Goalie Guild to answer some questions on Lehtonen, and we were happy to oblige. Click on the DBD logo or the link at the bottom to read the full article!