In today’s goalie news, we’ll take a look at the top goaltending prospect from the 2021 NHL Draft. But first, we’ll look at Tuesday’s lone shutout and a goaltender who went a little crazy at practice.
Bishop Perfect in Bowness Debut
Tuesday was a wild day for the entire Dallas Stars’ organization. The day’s affairs began with the shocking news that general manager Jim Nill had fired head coach Jim Montgomery for “unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League.” Into his shoes stepped assistant coach Rick Bowness, who had just a handful of hours to prepare for his first game as an NHL head coach since the 2003-04 season.
The Stars were set for a matchup on Tuesday evening with the New Jersey Devils, also under the watchful eye of a recently-appointed interim head coach in Alain Nasreddine. Bowness needed a big performance from one of his team’s superstars to keep the team going on the right track despite the chaos.
Fortunately, goaltender Ben Bishop was ready. He collected 26 saves on the night without allowing a single goal. The Devils got seven shots on the power play, and a surprising six shots while shorthanded, and yet Bishop maintained his spotless record on the night, a fitting accomplishment for one of the best goalies in the NHL.
In good news for Devils fans (who are in desperate need of some), their starter, MacKenzie Blackwood, actually had a perfectly fine night. Despite allowing two goals in the opening 12 minutes, he was otherwise perfect, stopping 33-of-35 shots. He stopped 28-of-29 shots in his last start against the Chicago Blackhawks, despite losing the game. Perhaps he is finally beginning to round into form, which would be a godsend for the Devils’ franchise.
Somedays, as a goalie, things just don’t go your way. That seems to have been the case for Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made the rounds on social media yesterday for an all-time memorable hockey meltdown at practice.
At the end of what looks to be an intrasquad scrimmage, the Bruins players in white celebrate, while the goalie in black (Rask) does, erm… the opposite. In fact, he smashes his stick to smithereens over the crossbar. He then seems to celebrate with his teammates (mockingly), before picking up bits of his stick to throw them and tipping the net over as a final act of aggression.
Practice seems to be the only thing going wrong for Rask right now, as he is sixth in the league (amongst goalies with 15 or more starts) at a .927 save percentage (SV%). The Bruins do still sit atop the Atlantic Division but have lost their last three games, and Rask looked shakey in two of them. Perhaps that’s what drove him to this meltdown. Whatever the cause, we have to say, the result is hilarious.
Wallstedt Leads 2021 Pack
Earlier this week, The Hockey Writers’ Josh Bell released his top 21 prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft. While it’s difficult to project the future of 16 and 17-year-olds, it’s a good preview of who might be walking the stage during the first round of that draft. And as it turns out, there is only one goaltender in the group.
Jesper Wallstedt is a 17-year-old Swedish goalie ranked 14th in Bell’s rankings. He chose to play with Luleå HF J20 in the SuperElit league rather than playing with the Moose Jaw Warriors who own his rights in the CHL. With Luleå, he has looked impressive, posting a 2.08 goals against average and a .929 SV%. Corey Pronman, the Senior NHL Prospects Writer for The Athletic, also ranked Wallstedt in his top-20 (number 13), and sang his praises (from ‘Pronman: Way too early top 20 prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft,’ The Athletic, 11/14/19).
Wallstedt has been on the radar for years and has distinguished himself as a goalie prospect that will get first-round discussion. Unlike a player like say Yaroslav Askarov, Wallstedt does not have the same level of game-stealing ability, but he’s a very smart and technically sound goalie who rarely seems out of position. He also has good quickness and size. He’s performed well for a while at various club and international levels.Corey Pronman on Jesper Wallstedt
A lot can change between now and June 2021, but Wallstedt is poised to be the first goaltender off the board in that Draft. It will be interesting to see whether he chooses to remain in Sweden or jump to Moose Jaw for his final season of pre-draft eligibility. Despite a strong performance at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, he didn’t make the cut for Team Sweden at this year’s World Junior Championship.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.