Sunday is no day of rest for the St. Louis Blues and GM Doug Armstrong, as the team announced this morning that they have come to terms on entry level contract with young goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick was a second-round selection of the team in 2016 from the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix. The terms of the deal have not yet been announced.
Though he still has quite a bit of development left to go at age 19, the Blues have to be a bit discouraged with Fitzpatrick’s lack of improvement in 2016-17. The 6’3″ Halifax native was the fourth goalie off the board last year, as the Blues swooped in and used the 59th overall pick on him. Many believed that they had gotten good value for Fitzpatrick, who was coming off a slightly disappointing season as the starter for the Phoenix that had caused him to fall in the pre-draft rankings. Fitzpatrick posted a 3.42 GAA and .896 SV% in 54 games for Sherbrooke in 2015-16, but his play significantly increased in the QMJHL playoffs, and perhaps Armstrong and company saw that trend continuing upward this season. Instead, Fitzpatrick had a 3.46 GAA and .899 Sv%, almost identical to last season, but won fewer games as Sherbrooke finished at the bottom of the West Division.
Fitzpatrick’s signing does not imply that he will be with the Blues or their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, any time soon, but it is a step toward working closer with the young goalkeeper in hopes of turning his game around. Fitzpatrick is a physically talented goalie who seems to be struggling to develop the much-needed finesse aspects of the position, but some extra work this summer could have him back on track in 2017-18. St. Louis needs to see some improvement out of Fitzpatrick, who is still regarded as the organization’s top goalie prospect. Though young starter Jake Allen is just 26, he has had ups and downs in his first season with full control over the net, and the Blues need to have a young heir in mind just in case. At the AHL level, Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso have both played relatively well, but lack that promise that a high pick offers. If St. Louis doesn’t think either of the pair are the future, it falls on Fitzpatrick to be that next man up in the organization.