Lightning Pass on Zador
Yesterday's deadline for signing 2009 major junior draftees came and went with no contract announcement for Owen Sound goaltender Michael Zador by Tampa Bay. The Tampa Tribune briefly had a report up stating the Lightning informed Zador they would not be signing him.
Zador was chosen in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, 148th overall. At the time he was coming off an impressive showing for Canada at the U-18 world championships and had the size (6-2) the team was looking for in a netminder. In fact, Lightning general manager Brian Lawton traded a 2010 fifth round pick to Nashville to move up to get Zador, a former first rounder in the OHL draft. Zador was property of OHL Oshawa at the time, having just been added from London in the John Tavares deal.
In his time with Oshawa he was never able to permanently nail down the No.1 job and fell to No.3 this past season before being traded to Owen Sound, where he was expected to provide insurance for the club in net. He got in a few regular season games with the Otters before being thrust into the No.1 spot in the playoffs. He entered Game 5 against London and stopped 13 of 13 shots to gain the win, then shut out the Knights 1-0 in Game 6 to clinch the series. He earned OHL goaltender of the week for his efforts and everything looked promising. He was pulled in Game 1 vs. Plymouth down 3-1 and didn't get back in until the OHL finals vs. the Majors. He played in relief in Game 3 (and won in overtime), started and won Game 4 (in overtime), then was pulled early in Game 5.
In the Memorial Cup Zador was backup for a few games before taking his turn in the bleachers.
In the end, all accounts are Zador is a great kid with good size and fine raw abilities. He could never get over the hump to be a team's No.1 guy and his streaks of brilliant play were short-lived.
He currently sports a 44-47-6 career record in the OHL, with an unimpressive 3.77 GAA and .888 save percentage. His playoff numbers - all from this year - are the opposite. He was 4-0 with a 2.13 GAA and .929 save percentage. He played in three games he either did not start or finish to go with those four wins, though.
The Lightning likely made the decision not to sign Zador long ago. The club decided to sign NCAA free agent Pat Nagle at the end of his collegiate season, and had already signed Jaroslav Janus from Zador's draft class. Janus was chosen 14 picks after Zador in 2009.
The Lightning have signed all but two of the 2009 draft class, including Victor Hedman, Carter Ashton, Richard Panik, Alex Hutchings, and Janus. Seventh round defenseman Kirill Gotovets just completed his first year at Cornell University and the Bolts hold his rights for a few more years.
Nagle and Janus are joined on the Lightning farm by fellow goaltenders Dustin Tokarski (AHL - signed), Riku Helenius (SEL - an unsigned restricted free agent), and Vasily Koshechkin (KHL - an unsigned draftee).
One would expect the Lightning to draft a goaltender at some point in this summer's draft, likely the middle rounds.