Joseph Woll: Best Goalie Developed by Maple Leafs in 35 Years

For years, the Toronto Maple Leafs have not developed a strong goalie from its own system. In fact, all things considered, the team has had a poor history of developing its own goalies. However, the current management team of general manager Kyle Dubas and his staff have tried to reverse that poverty over the recent seasons.

At the moment, the Maple Leafs have at least three good goalie prospects in their system — Erik Kallgren, Keith Petruzzelli, and Joseph Woll. In this post, I’ll take a look at Woll to suggest that he might be a turnaround for the Maple Leafs’ poor history of developing its own goalies.

Goalies the Maple Leafs Have Drafted and Developed

Over the past 35 years, the Maple Leafs have drafted and developed not even a handful of successful goalies. Probably, the truth is that only one – Felix Potvin – could be called an organizational success.

Felix Potvin Toronto Maple Leafs
Felix Potvin of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Circa 1995
(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Looking at a list of the goalies the Maple Leafs have developed and drafted, here’s the best of the best. And, it isn’t pretty. The most noteworthy include:

Felix Potvin

Potvin was drafted by the Maple Leafs in 1990 and spent parts of eight seasons with the team. He was a two-time All-Star and a Vezina Trophy finalist. [I’ll spend more time talking about him specifically later.]

James Reimer 

James Reimer was selected 99th overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut in 2010 and spent six seasons with the club.

Related: Best NHL Goalies of the 1990s

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In 2013 with the Maple Leafs, although his regular-season record was only 12-16, he became the first goalie since Ed Belfour in 2004 to lead the Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the postseason, he put up a 3-4 record, a 2.88 goals-against average (GAA), and a .923 save percentage (SV%). He’s still playing with the San Jose Sharks this season.

Garret Sparks 

Garret Sparks was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the seventh round (190th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and spent parts of four seasons with the organization. After he won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the American Hockey League’s top goaltender in 2015, he made his NHL debut with the Maple Leafs in 2015-16. 

In total, he played 37 games with the Blue and White. That he made this list of drafted and “developed” goalies in the Maple Leafs’ system speaks volumes to the poverty of good draft choices the organization has made prior to the current team’s management. Sparks has played four games with the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL this season.

However, that isn’t to say that the Maple Leafs have not had good goalie play recently. Frederik Andersen is the case in point.

Frederik Andersen Was the Team’s Best Goalie in Recent History

Andersen was acquired by the Maple Leafs in June 2016 and immediately became the team’s starting goalie. He was a workhorse for the team, playing 66 games in each of his first two seasons. In 2016-17, he won 33 games and he topped that by winning 38 games in 2017-18. Those 38 wins set a new franchise record for most victories in a single season by a goalie.

During his time in Toronto, Andersen helped carry the team into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2002-03 and 2003-04. He tied Chris Osgood as the fourth-fastest goalie to reach 200 wins, which came in his 344th NHL game. He was also named an NHL All-Star.

Related: Frederik Andersen’s Unforgivable Sin According To Maple Leafs Fans

During his time in Toronto, he was one of the NHL’s best goalies and a key player for the team during their regular-season success. Andersen was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2018-19. When his contract expired, he became an unrestricted free agent and signed a two-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes in July 2021.

Toronto Maple Leafs Frederik Andersen
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen

Although he was injured often at the end of his Maple Leafs’ career, Andersen was a durable goalie. He played over 50 games in his four seasons with the Maple Leafs. He was a key player for the team and established himself as a star NHL goalie in his time in Toronto.

Perhaps the Best Goalie the Maple Leafs Drafted Didn’t Play for Them

Tuukka Rask was drafted by the Maple Leafs in round one of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft (21st overall). He might have been the best goalie the organization has drafted in the past 35 seasons. But he never got the chance to prove that.

Rask was traded by the Maple Leafs to the Boston Bruins in 2006 as part of a package for veteran goalie Andrew Raycroft. Once he joined the Bruins, Rask established himself as one of the NHL’s elite goalies. He played his entire career in Boston and won 308 games there. 

Related: Revisiting the Bruins’ Trade for Tuukka Rask

Rask won a number of individual awards and honors, including the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender in 2013-14. His trade from the Maple Leafs to the Bruins proved to be a huge loss for the team. They might have had a solid veteran goalie but they gave him up before he had a chance to blossom.

More About Felix “The Cat” Potvin

Potvin was drafted in the second round (31st overall) by the Maple Leafs in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft and went on to play eight seasons with the club. He was named to the All-Rookie team in 1993 and was a two-time All-Star. 

Potvin’s rookie season was one of the best by a goalie in Maple Leafs’ history. In 1992-93, he established himself as an NHL starter. Then 21 years old, he led the NHL with a 2.50 GAA and finished with a record of 25-15 (with seven ties) and a .910 SV%. 

That season, Potvin carried his team to a long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, helping them get within one victory of the Stanley Cup Final before losing Game 7 of the Campbell Conference Final to the Los Angeles Kings.

His NHL career-high single-season win total was 34 in 1993-94. That season the Maple Leafs returned to the conference final but lost to the Vancouver Canucks in five games. Potvin was selected to the NHL All-Star Game in 1994 and 1996. However, when the Maple Leafs fell down the standings over the next few seasons and Potvin’s numbers deteriorated with them, he was traded to the New York Islanders in 1999.

Over his time with the team from 1991-1999, Potvin was a big part of the Maple Leafs’ success during the 1990s and became a fan favorite. In whatever success those poor Maple Leafs’ teams had during that era, Potvin was in the middle of it. His play was a key factor and he remains one of the most popular players in franchise history.

Along Comes Young Goalie Joseph Woll

Woll was drafted by the Maple Leafs in the third round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and played his early hockey with the United States National Team Development Program.

This season, Woll has been impressive in the AHL. He’s posted a 13-1-0 record, a .930 SV%, and a 2.36 GAA with the Toronto Marlies. Those impressive numbers recently earned him a recall to the NHL club.

Related: Joseph Woll’s Return Carries New Maple Leafs’ Goalie Issues

Woll had previously played in four NHL games, with a 3-1-0 record, 2.75 GAA, and a .911 SV%. He has yet to prove himself over the long haul, but his recent experiences with the Marlies and as a part of the AHL’s recent All-Star Weekend suggest that he has potential. What happens next will be key for his career and the future of the organization.

Will he continue to develop into a regular NHL goaltender? Will he leverage this opportunity to cover for injured veteran goalie Matt Murray and solidify his value within the organization?

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Woll is a talented young goalie who might have a bright future ahead of him. The Maple Leafs will keep a close eye on his progress and will hope he develops into a reliable NHL goaltender in the years to come.

Next Season Is Decision Time for the Maple Leafs

Woll has compiled impressive numbers but is he ready for the next step? That’s a decision the Maple Leafs must make as soon as next season. The team has Murray signed, but he’s shown injury issues again this season. Ilya Samsonov is only signed for this season and would need to be re-signed. He’s proven to be the better and more reliable of the two Maple Leafs‘ goalies so far.

Joseph Woll Toronto Maple Leafs
Joseph Woll, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

From my perspective, sooner or later the organization must begin developing its own goalie pipeline. That could happen quickly. I look forward to seeing what Woll’s potential might be this season as a backup goaltender and hope he’s given a chance to prove himself at the NHL level next season.

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It might be a risky move, but if Woll performs as well as he has been, it could pay off for the team in the long run. Ultimately, the Maple Leafs will need to test his potential. From my perspective, it’s about time the Maple Leafs began to develop their own goalies. I’m hoping Woll will be the first of more to come. If he can continue to develop, that bodes well for the team’s future.