Goalies are one of the most important positions in hockey. Not only do they make highlight-reel plays night in and night out, but they are the backbone on almost every team. Even if the players in front of him are having a bad game, a goalie must still be at the top of his game to try and calm the storm.
Although most players cannot win a game on their own, the opposite can be said about a goalie. They can completely change the dynamic of a game with a show-stopping save and can give their team a momentum swing, if needed.
Related: Top 10 NHL Goalie Prospects
With the QMJHL season canceled, now is the perfect time to look back on the season that has passed. Here are the goaltenders that provided the most value to their team every night they stepped on the ice.
Although many people may not have heard about Samuel Hlavaj before this season, that has certainly changed. Ranked as the third-best North American goalie in the NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings, Hlavaj had a season for the ages.
Playing for the Sherbrooke Phoenix this past season, Hlavaj posted a record of 33-3-2 to go along with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. Standing at 6-foot-4, he has all the makings of a future starter in the NHL.
Hlavaj has great mobility and is capable of tracking pucks with ease. His big frame helps him cover the bottom of the net well and he has good rebound control. He has a great glove hand and is good at handling the puck.
With his name almost certain to be called at the 2020 NHL draft, Hlavaj will certainly bolster a team’s prospect pipeline. Although he will still need to put on some weight, Hlavaj certainly looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
Like Hlavaj, Olivier Rodrigue had a great season. Playing for the Moncton Wildcats, Rodrigue posted a 31-7-1 record to go along with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round, 62nd overall in the 2018 NHL draft, Rodrigue has developed nicely over the past few years. When he was drafted, many people doubted how much of an impact Rodrigue could make over the course of his development.
Fast forward a few years and Rodrigue has put those words to rest. Although he may not be of perfect height for an NHL goalie these days, he has still shown great results. He is very mobile and has good rebound control. He is not afraid to play the puck and makes smart decisions under duress.
Although he only weighs 157 pounds, Rodrigue has all the tools to make an impact at the next level. Working closely with his father, the current goaltending coach for the HC Fribourg-Gotteron of Switzerland’s National League A and former Oilers goalie consultant, Rodrigue will look to play a big part of the Oilers future plans.
Having recently signed an entry-level deal with the Ottawa Senators, Kevin Mandolese proved he was one of the top goaltenders in the Quebec Minor Junior Hockey League.
Playing for the Cape Breton Eagles this past season, Mandolese posted a record of 26-8-1 to go along with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Having been drafted by the Sens in the sixth round, 157th overall in the 2018 NHL draft, Mandolese has shot up the prospect list for the Senators.
Standing at 6-foot-4, Mandolese is the perfect height for a goalie in the NHL these days. He plays a positionally sound game and rarely gives up bad rebounds. He has a great mental game and does not fret when his team is down. He can play the puck when needed and is calm when forwards rush in on the forecheck.
Being a part of the Senators’ future plans, Mandolese will almost certainly have to develop in the minors before getting a shot with the big club. If he continues on the right path of development, I don’t see how anyone could stop him from getting to where he wants to be.
For the hockey fans who do not follow the QMJHL closely, they probably have not heard of Alexis Shank. Although he may be an unknown to some people, that does not take away from the talent he has.
Playing with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens this past season, Shank posted a record of 36-9-3 to go along with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. With Shank standing six feet tall, his size is a slight disadvantage compared to other goalies but he makes up for it in athletic ability.
Shank plays his angles really well and can track pucks through traffic with ease. He has good lower-body strength and this allows him to move across the crease efficiently. At times this past season, he stole a game all by himself. With his ability to come up clutch and make big plays, he saved his team from taking a loss on more than one occasion.
With next season being his overage season, Shank will want to show that he can replicate his success. For every NHL organization, having depth at a certain position is always a good thing to have. If Shank has another great season, I have no doubt in my mind that a team will take a chance on him in the future.
Drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the third round, 93rd overall in the 2019 NHL draft, Ellis had a great season with the Rimouski Oceanic. He posted a record of 18-7-3 to go along with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.
Although his game has been a project the past few seasons, Ellis has all the tools to make an impact at the next level. With his mental game a work in progress, Ellis is focusing on fine-tuning the rest of his game. He has good mobility across the crease and has good rebound control. Along with the rest of the guys on this list, Ellis is capable of handling the puck and making a play under pressure.
Although he has yet to sign an entry-level deal with the Blues, Ellis should not worry. If he can go out and play like he has the past two seasons, he should have no trouble attracting interest from the Blues or another NHL team.
Before the season and playoffs were canceled, all of these goalies played a big part in their team’s success. Although we will never know how the playoffs would have played out, I have no doubt that all of these goalies would have been a big part of their respective team’s success. They all have bright futures ahead of them in the game of hockey.
My name is Mathieu Sheridan. I am a writer here at THW who covers the OHL and prospects in general.