There are already 15 teams whose 2017-18 season has come to and end, with eight more joining the group in the next week or two. For those teams, full attention has already been turned to preparing for the off-season. The first major event of the summer is the NHL Entry Draft, coming up on June 22-23, where teams can add promising young prospects at every position. However, for any teams in need of a major addition in net to the pipeline, the 2018 class leaves a lot to be desired.
The days of goaltenders being selected early in the first round may be over, but at least one goalie has been selected in the first fifty picks of the draft every year since the turn of the century, including several years with multiple first-round keepers. That streak may come to an end in 2018. Somewhat lost in the hype of top prospects like Rasmus Dahlin and many other high-ceiling forwards and defenseman is the fact that few see any young goaltenders worthy of value picks this year. The first mock drafts from NHL.com and Yahoo both fail to include any keepers in the top 31 picks and Sportsnet’s latest Top 31 makes no mention of one either. The Hockey Writers takes it one step further, including just one goaltender among the first 75 players in their Top 93.
That one goalie, Czech pro Jakub Skarek, is a polarizing prospect. Skarek has good size and put up good numbers for HC Dukla Jihlava, one of the worst teams in the top Czech league, earning his top ranking among European goalies by NHL Central Scouting. Yet, Skarek also looked completely over-matched at the World Juniors and many feel is still a very raw talent, lending some explanation to what some feel is a third-round grade. Skarek may be the best the class has to offer though. The QMJHL offers a relatively strong group – Alexis Gravel, Olivier Rodrigue, and Kevin Mandolese – but all pale in comparison to top prospects from recent draft years.
Could one of these goalies slip into the first round? It would be a major surprise. The top fifty picks? That could more likely, but at this point in the pre-draft process seems to also be a stretch. So, for those teams in need of a top goaltender in the system, and there a quite a few, this may be the year to look for a sleeper in the late rounds rather than reach for an underwhelming option early on.