2020-21 Team: U.S. National U18 Team / USDP
Date of Birth: July 28, 2003
Place of Birth: West Bloomfield, Michigan
Ht: 5-foot-11 Wt: 183 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 20th (amongst NA goaltenders)
Nowhere will the uncertainty of the 2020-21 season be felt more than on young goaltenders. While this has been a difficult situation for every player, many draft-eligible goalies saw their seasons shaken up, affecting their ability to showcase their full talents.
One of these players who may have been affected is Kaiden Mbereko of the USDP, who is an undersized goalie that had an average season when he needed to prove that could and should be selected at the 2021 Draft. While he was playing against older opponents, posting a .885 save percentage (SV%) and 3.01 goals-against average (GAA) in 21 starts won’t exactly inspire confidence heading into a draft.
However, when he was called upon to man the net for team USA at the 2021 WJC-18, he excelled, posting a .915 SV% and a 2.85 GAA against some of the top young players in the world.
Showings like these can work wonders for a players’ draft stock, and if Mbereko had more opportunities to show his skills on the international stage, he may have been able to secure himself a guaranteed spot in the draft. For now, though, he will have to wait and see if his strong play and solid toolkit will be enough to draw the eyes of an NHL franchise.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Kaiden Mbereko – NHL Draft Projection
It’s always difficult to project where an undersized goaltender will be drafted, as franchises tend to feel more confident in selecting bigger players in recent years.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Despite this, Mbereko has the potential to hear his name called in 2021, but will more than likely have to wait until Round 6 or 7, when teams are more likely to take a chance on a goaltender. He might not be selected at all this year, but his toolkit is appealing enough that a team may take a shot on him to see how he will develop.
Mbereko is an explosive goaltender that moves at lightning speed. He can rocket himself across the net to make some truly ridiculous saves…TPEHockey – theprospectnetwork.ca
He (Mbereko) clearly understood the importance and spotlight of the situation and rose to the occasion in his two periods of action, turning aside every shot. He was quick, he was alert, he was in position and he stayed in ideal control of his crease.Derek Neumeier (From All-American Prospects Game Report, FC Hockey, Apr. 7th, 2021)
- Great movement in the crease
- Stays calm in big moments
- Tracks the puck well
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
With a relatively small frame, Mbereko will have to work extra hard to prove that he can be an NHL-caliber goaltender. While smaller goalies have made the jump before, like Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators, it can be harder to get attention when you’re not 6-foot-something, especially in a season when scouting is difficult.
This smaller frame means that he will need to improve his overall reactions to the puck, as well as doing a better job at positioning himself in the net instead of relying on his speed.
When it comes down to a fifth-round or later goaltender selection at the NHL draft, anything is possible. Mbereko could be the next unknown goaltender to work his way up a franchises’ depth charts, slowly taking over a role in the AHL or ECHL and cutting his teeth until earning a backup job.
Risk – 2/5, Reward – 3/5
Mbereko is a prospect that any team would be happy to have in their system. He is a smart, talented goalie who has shown potential while playing against players his own age. If he falls down the draft board, he would still be worth a seventh-round pick as a pure speculative bet.