The Risks And Rewards Of Drafting a Goaltender In The First Round

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    Habster:
    With Cristobal Huet out of the lineup for the next week or two with a pulled groin, the work load falls squarely on the broad shoulders of Carey Price who has been labelled the Canadiens future “franchise” goaltender at the ripe old age of 20 years. A very tall order for such a young man, playing in such a high pressure hockey atmosphere like Montreal where the Canadiens are revered and analyzed with such passion that it borders on insanity at times.
    If any young man can handle the pressure, it’s Carey Price who has demonstrated an uncanny and sometimes disconcerting calmness that almost makes you want to check his pulse for a sign of life!!! When you hear his pre and post game comments, he almost seems non-chalant about his role in the game, downplaying the pressure and spotlight which surrounds his every move on the ice.
    After being drafted fifth overall in the 2005 NHL draft, there were many fans and media pundits who viewed the selection as a huge mistake with the Canadiens already having a so called “franchise” goaltender named Jose “Propecia” Theodore. They also pointed out that there were other players available like Gilbert Brule (Columbus), Luc Bourdon(Vancouver), Anze Kopitar(LA) and Marc Staal(NYR) to name a few that would have been a better choice with the Canadiens prospect pool being weak on defense and at the center position. Many thought drafting a goaltender with such a high pick would back fire as goalies take a longer time to develop physically and especially their psychological make-up.
    Below is a list of the other goalies selected in the first round between 2000 and 2005 draft years. There are some who have met their potential after a few years of struggling to find their game while others have never reached their “projected” potential:
    1. Rick DiPietro(NYI-2000-1st overall): after a few years of being send back and forth from Long Island to Bridgeport, DiPietro finally reached his full potential last season with an amazing season. He is the main reason why the Islanders has been one of the surprise team of the 2007-08 season.
    2. Brent Krahn(Calgary-2000-9th overall): has never lived up to his potential and is playing in the AHL (Quad City) where he will remain as a career minor leaguer.
    3. Pascal Leclaire (Columbus- 2001-8th overall): is finally showing Columbus the talent that made them select him 8th overall in 2001. It only took a few years in junior and the minors.
    4. Dan Blackburn (NYR- 2001-10th overall): never really played to his potential and had a difficult time with the mental aspect of the game. Retired from professional hockey(ECHL) after 2004-05 season with a badly injured catching glove hand.
    5. Jason Bacashihua (Dallas-2001-26th overall): has been up and down from St.Louis to Utah of the AHL for numerous years. He was recently traded to Colorado and is playing for their AHL team.
    6. Adam Munro (Chicago-2001-29th overall): has played a grand total of 10 games in the NHL and is currently playing for the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL.
    7. Kari Lehtonen (Atlanta-2002-2nd overall): has shown flashes of brilliance but has had numerous injury issues. Had a breakout year last season (2006-07) but will his groin problems keep him from reaching his full potential.
    8. Cam Ward (Carolina-2002-25th overall): did win a Stanley Cup in 2005-06 and has had a decent career but has had his ups and downs along the way.
    9. Hannu Toivonen (Boston-2002-29th overall): has played only 45 NHL games without much success. Is presently playing for St.Louis in a backup role.
    10. Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh-2003-1st overall): like Lehtonen, has shown flashes of greatness but is wildly inconsistent. He does not thrive well under pressure situations and from game to game has technical problems (especially rebound control). He was rushed to the NHL before he was ready.
    11. Al Montoya (NYR-2004-6th overall): has not played an NHL game to date (perhap because of a chap named Henrik Lundqvist) but has put up some impressive stats with the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack. Still has a bright future but when will it start at the NHL level?
    12. Devan Dubnyk (Edmonton-2004-14th overall): has not played an NHL game and is currently playing in the AHL as a backup.
    13. Marek Schwarz (St.Louis-2004-17th overall): has played 2 NHL games and is currently with St.Louis as a backup. Has been shuttled back and forth from the AHL to the NHL.
    14. Cory Schneider (Vancouver-2004-26th overall): has not played an NHL game and is currently playing for the Manitoba Moose in the AHL.
    15. Tuukka Rask (Toronto-2005-21st overall): was drafted by Toronto but was sent to Boston in the Raycroft deal. He is currently playing in Boston and will get more ice time with injuries to Manny Fernandz and Tim Thomas.
    As you can see from the list, there haven’t been too many goaltenders who have lived up to their high draft selection while others have taken a few years to reach their potential. It truly is a crap shoot when an organization does draft a player especially a goalie.
    That’s what makes Carey Price’s achievements (WJC, MVP WJC, Calder Cup championship, AHL playoff MVP and goaltender of the year in CHL 2006-07) thus far in his young career so impressive. His NHL inaugural season has also been impressive with some minor bumps along the way but you get the feeling that Carey Price is a can’t miss superstar in the making. He has accomplished more at the tender age of 20 than every goalie mentioned above with the exception of Cam Ward’s Stanley Cup ring……..give Mr. Price a few years and he’ll be showing off his Stanley Cup “bling-bling” as well.