The voodoo position. Goalies are sometimes as tough to figure out as the Bermuda Triangle. One minute you have a great goalie and the next, he’s chopped liver. The opposite can be true as well, as a goalie like Jordan Binnington came out of seemingly nowhere to become a Stanley Cup champion. Regardless of how hard it is to figure out what you have at the goalie position, the fact remains, it is essential in building a true contender in the NHL. Today, I’m taking a look at the potential of the Ottawa Senators’ deep young group of goaltenders, and what’s to be expected of them next season.
The Swedish goalie signed a two-year contract last summer. Year one was a two-way deal while year two (the upcoming season) is a one-way deal where the hope is for Marcus Hogberg to be ready to at least be a backup at the NHL level. Hogberg showed the ability to play at a high level in his 21 starts this past season. He posted a save percentage (SV%) of .920 or better in nine of those starts and made some incredible saves. However, his inconsistency, paired with the struggles of a young Senators team, saw him finish the year with a .904 SV%, and a goals-against average (GAA) over 3.
Expectation for Next Season: There were very few tougher situations for goaltenders than having to play behind a bad Senators team that gave up the third-most shots per game in the league. Hogberg’s numbers were similar to Anderson’s and Anders Nilsson’s, two veteran NHL goalies.
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He’s set to make just $700,000 next season. Given his progression over the last few seasons in Sweden, the AHL, and the NHL, it’s likely that Hogberg will start next season as Ottawa’s backup goalie. He will have a lot to play for as this will be the last year on his contract. The hope is that he can play well enough to steal some starts from whoever Ottawa goes with as their No. 1 goalie.
At the end of the 2017-18 season, Joey Daccord was an afterthought in Ottawa’s future goalie plans. A former 7th round draft pick, he was coming off a good, yet unspectacular, season at Arizona State University. He followed that season, though, with a remarkable 2018-19 season where he posted a .926 SV% and was nominated for the Top Goaltender Award in the NCAA.
This past season, Daccord took another step in the right direction. After an up and down start to the season in the ECHL, Daccord was great after getting called up to the Senators’ AHL team in Belleville. His call-up at the end of November coincided with Belleville’s rise to the top of the AHL North Division. He went 15-6-2 with a .915 SV%, which was the 2nd best SV% of all rookie goalies.
Expectation for Next Season: Daccord does need a new contract this offseason. It would not surprise me to see him sign a similar deal to the one Hogberg signed last offseason. The expectation is for Daccord to spend next season in the AHL, where he should receive the majority of the starts early on. If he plays well enough, he could be called up for some NHL action if injuries play a factor with Ottawa’s NHL goalies.
A key piece in the return that sent Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh, Filip Gustavsson has struggled at the AHL level over the last two seasons. He’s posted a .888 SV% in that time. In 2018-19, he was clearly outplayed by Hogberg, who started the majority of games as Belleville made a playoff push late in the year. Last season, Daccord was the superior goalie for Belleville, who played more than Gustavsson down the stretch despite starting the year in the ECHL. It hasn’t all been bad for Gustavsson, though. He was named the AHL Goaltender of the Month in January.
Expectation for Next Season: With one year left on his entry-level deal, Gustavsson should understand the importance of this upcoming season. He’ll start the year as the number two in Belleville, but the split between him and Daccord is not likely to lean too heavily in Daccord’s favour. It’s pretty simple – if Gustavsson plays well in his starts, he’ll earn more of them, just as Daccord did last season.
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He also just turned 22. That’s the age Daccord was last season to start his pro career, while Hogberg at 22 was still playing in Sweden. Goalie progression is always hard to predict. Gustavsson could break out next season, but he could also continue to struggle, and perhaps be passed this next young Senators prospect.
Like Daccord, Kevin Mandolese was a late-round draft pick. Also like Daccord, his play after being drafted was nothing special, before having an incredible season that made the organization take notice. Mandolese’s first 3 seasons in the QMJHL saw him post a sub .900 SV% each season. All of a sudden, something clicked for him last season. He posted a .925 SV% and a 26-8-1 record. The backup in Cape Breton posted an .895 SV% by comparison. His play was good enough to earn him top goalie honours in the QMJHL. He was signed to an entry-level deal by Ottawa in April.
Expectation for Next Season: Having played 4 seasons in the QMJHL and dominating the league last season, Mandolese is ready for better competition. He should start the year in the ECHL, not uncommon for a young goaltender. However, injuries and inconsistencies are a common occurrence when it comes to Senators goalies. Daccord and Gustavsson both started in the ECHL in their first full seasons with the organization but combined to make just 14 starts.
Perhaps Mandolese stays down there all year, and that would be fine, but there’s always a chance he ends up in the AHL where he could continue to fight his way up the depth chart of Ottawa’s young goalies.
When Ottawa traded up in the 2nd round of the 2019 NHL Draft, many were surprised that it was to select a goalie. Sogaard was the first goalie Ottawa had picked in the first two rounds since selecting Robin Lehner in the 2nd round in 2009. A lot of people had a similar start to their Sogaard scouting report – Big. At 6-foot-7, Sogaard takes up a lot of the net. He was also coming off a season with a .921 SV%, where he passed former Sens draft pick Jordan Hollet on the Medicine Hat depth chart. Last season, though, saw his SV% drop to .909 He was able to finish strong with a .946 SV% in his last 8 starts.
Expectation for Next Season: Sogaard should remain in the WHL next season, where the hope is for him to have a Mandolese-type season that shows him to be ready to start his pro career. These days, goalies are big; that’s just the nature of the position. Sogaard checks off that box, but there’s obviously a lot more to it than that. Hopefully he can continue to progress in the technical aspects of goaltending.
There’s a chance that in the 2021 Expansion Draft, Seattle steals one of these goalies away from Ottawa. It makes sense then, that the Senators have put so much effort into making sure they have a deep group of young goaltenders. They’re playing the numbers game. Next season is a huge year for all these goalies.
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Hogberg will try to make it as a full-time NHL goaltender. Daccord, Gustavsson, and Manndolese will all try to progress in the minors. Sogaard will push to improve at the junior level. If a few of these guys can show signs of progression, Ottawa will remain (cautiously) optimistic about the future of the goaltending position for the organization.