At any level of our sport, having a goaltender that can steal games can make or break a team’s season. College hockey is no exception, and there are certainly a number of netminders who will be able to steal games for their teams next season.
Here’s a look at four backstops that you’ll want to keep an eye on this season:
Tanner Jaillet, Denver
It takes a strong goaltender to win a national championship, and Tanner Jaillet was just that for the Denver Pioneers last season. The junior netminder was outstanding en route to a national championship last season, posting a .929 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average while winning 81 percent of his games.
On top of his national championship hardware, Jaillet added the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top collegiate netminder and was named to the NCAA all-tournament team. He also took home the NCHC goaltender of the year award and was named to the NCHC First All-Star team.
Keep an eye on Jaillet and the Pioneers, who will look to become the first back-to-back national champions since 2007 and 2008, when Denver repeated.
Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State
If there’s an early favorite for the NCAA’s top goaltender besides Jaillet next season, it may very well be Bemidji State’s Michael Bitzer. The 5-foot-11 netminder was nothing short of phenomenal for the Beavers last season, posting a .932 save percentage and a 1.71 goals-against average in 39 games. What’s more impressive is that he posted those numbers while playing the second-most minutes of any netminder in college hockey, totaling 2,355 minutes (second only to Notre Dame’s Cal Petersen).
Bitzer’s numbers were good enough to earn him both the WCHA goaltender and player of the year awards, while also making him a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top player in college hockey.
Keep an eye on Bitzer next season as he looks to claim back-to-back WCHA goaltender of the year awards.
Jake Oettinger, Boston University
Of the rising sophomore netminders in college hockey, Boston University’s Jake Oettinger might be the most exciting. As a true freshman, Oettinger was the highest-drafted goaltender in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, selected 26th overall by the Dallas Stars following an outstanding freshman season.
Oettinger won 21 games for the Terriers last season, allowing just 75 goals in 2,131 minutes between the pipes. He posted a .927 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average while competing in a very competitive Hockey East conference.
The Lakeville, Minnesota native is the highest-ranked North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting, and at 6 feet 4 inches, he’s got the ideal size for today’s NHL.
Oettinger will be a key part of a Boston University team that lost a number of key players, including Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, who both signed with the Boston Bruins, and Clayton Keller, who signed with the Arizona Coyotes. If he performs as well as he did last season, then he’ll be on serious flight-watch before his time is finished with BU.
Kyle Hayton, TBD
For the past three seasons, Kyle Hayton has been a consistently solid backstop for St. Lawrence University. His .929 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average last season were career lows for the Denver, Colorado native, but were still good enough to earn him a Hobey Baker nomination.
He was particularly good during the regular season for SLU, during which he posted a league-leading .939 save percentage, matched with a phenomenal 1.90 goals-against average. Through the regular season and playoffs, Hayton finished with five shutouts, earning the Ken Dryden Award as the ECAC’s top goaltender while also earning his second All-ECAC Hockey honor.
Despite his domination with Saint Lawrence, there’s a bit of uncertainty regarding his future at the school. There are rumblings that Hayton may bring his talents to Wisconsin as a graduate student transfer, although that hasn’t been confirmed by Hayton or either school.
We have heard same thing. Good as done. Awaiting confirmation. SLU goalie Kyle Hayton to Wisconsin. https://t.co/0h8iCMXrCD
— College Hockey News (@chnews) July 3, 2017
Regardless of where he suits up next season, Hayton is certainly a netminder that you’ll want to keep an eye on.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!