2015-16 Team: Moose Jaw Warriors (#31)
Date of Birth: December 30, 1997
Place of Birth: Calgary, AB
Ht: 6’1″ Wt: 180 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 first-year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking: 93rd (June)
- THW Alternate: 60th (June)
- THW War Room: 81st (May)
- Future Considerations: unranked (June)
- ISS: unranked (June)
- Bob McKenzie: unranked (June)
- Craig Button: unranked (June)
Moose Jaw Warriors netminder Zach Sawchenko has played a ton of hockey over the past few seasons. After making his WHL debut playing 26 games behind starter Justin Paulic as a 16-year-old, Sawchenko’s performance (and Paulic’s age) earned him the starting job as a 17-year-old and he’s played 100 games for the Warriors over the past two seasons. Combined with three international tournaments for Hockey Canada, Sawchenko’s sheer vastness of experience gives him a leg up on most of the goaltenders vying for the 2016 NHL Draft. Simply put, he’s had the opportunity to improve and he’s really taken advantage of it.
In a world of goaltenders that are 6’4″ and up, Sawchenko is a relative aberration: a smaller goalie that embraces the style. He’s strong positionally and battles really well, never quite giving up on a play and recovering well from initial saves. While that style has its drawbacks, Sawchenko has figured out how to get the absolute most out of it. His save percentage has improved in each of his three WHL seasons and he’s become one of the league’s best goaltenders.
Presuming fellow WHL draft-eligible goaltender Carter Hart is already selected, the decision-making for NHL clubs on Sawchenko will inevitably be weighing his performance versus his size. Given his age, he may get a little bit taller and he has a frame that can take a bit more mass on it. That said, the things he does well in net – his glove hand, his anticipation and how he battles – really don’t rely on his size all that much. He’s a quintessential smaller netminder and if he happens to get a bit bigger, that should be seen as a bonus.
For a team that misses out on grabbing Hart, Sawchenko is a really great consolation prize if they’re in the market for a goaltender.
NHL Draft Projection:
Like the 2014 Draft, we’re likely to see a run of goaltenders be selected. It’s unclear if that will be in the second or third round, though, but it’ll likely be one of those two rounds. He’ll likely go almost immediately after Carter Hart.
Zach Sawchenko is the runner-up for the Del Wilson Goaltender of the Year award, which went to Everett’s Carter Hart #WHLAwards
— Marc Smith (@MarcSmith18) May 4, 2016
What did Carter Hart and Zach Sawchenko do to get bumped down, exactly? Both of them had exceptionally strong seasons.
— Greg Balloch (@GregBalloch) April 12, 2016
- Strong anticipation of passes and incoming shots.
- Good vision, even through moderate goal-mouth traffic.
- Effective lateral movement.
- Good glove hand.
- Strong recovery from initial saves.
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Can occasionally pull himself out of position making initial (or subsequent) saves.
- Rebound control could use a bit of work.
- Game-to-game consistency could be improved.
Sawchenko has the upside to possibly be a starting goaltender in the NHL, as he’s shown he can withstand playing a ton. At the NHL level, his comparables are likely Andrew Hammond and Carter Hutton in terms of style and size.
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Sawchenko has represented Canada in three separate international tournaments (and medalled in all three of them). He won silver at the Under-17 Challenge, gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and gold at the World Under-18s.
He was also named an Eastern Conference First Team All-Star.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.