2006 Entry Draft Preview: The Goaltenders
We've already begun to shift gears at Bolt Prospects into coverage for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by examining organizational strengths, weaknesses, tendencies and philosophies. Today we'll take the next step on the road to June 24th in Vancouver by starting to examining some of the Lightning's potential options at their pick, 15th in the first round.
First up under the microscope are the goaltenders. It should be noted this is generally considered a down year between the pipes for draft prospects with no dominant top tier NHL prospects on the level of recent draftees like Roberto Luongo or Karri Lehtonen or even Rick Dipietro and M.A. Fleury. There is, however, some depth in terms of goaltender in this class if the Lightning choose to wait beyond the first round pick to try and land another goaltending prospect. In studying up on this draft it is clear the Lightning may have the opportunity to grab the first goalie off the board, if they so choose to do so, and it also appears that decision will come down to two prospects: Jonathan Bernier of Lewiston of the QMJHL and Riku Helenius of Ilves Jr. A in Finland. Bolt Prospects rates goaltending as a secondary need in this draft, but if the Lightning feel either player is the best player available at the 15 spot they could and should grab him.
Name: Jonathan Bernier
Weight: 177 lbs
Rankings: #1 North American Goaltender (CSS), #17 Overall (THN), #23 (Red Line), #2 Goaltender (TSN.ca/ISS)
Lewiston (QMJHL) 54 GP, 27-26-0, 2.70 GAA, 2 SO, .908 sv%
There is not a consensus top goaltender in the 2006 draft class, but the closest thing to one is Jonathan Bernier of Lewiston. The Laval born goaltender is considered a solid if unspectacular pick with no glaring weaknesses. As could be expected of a Quebec born netminder, Bernier is well trained in the classic butterfly technique who has good rebound control, is hard to beat in close and has a good glove hand. His athleticism is considered to be good but he does have a tendency to allow the odd soft goal. Red Line and THN differ on Bernier's mental resiliency with the former panning it while the latter quotes one NHL scout as praising Bernier's ability to shake off mistakes and battle on. Red Line compares Bernier to Marty Turco and points out that his stats may be artifically low due to a poor Lewiston team in front of him. At the U18 World Junior Championships Bernier went just 3-3-1 but he did have a solid 1.71 GAA with 1 shutout and a .942 save percentage.
Positives: Well schooled. Good athleticism. Strong glove and rebound control. No glaring weaknesses.
Weaknesses: Allows the occassional soft goal and had a few too many bad games this season. Size is well below the ideal for the style Jeff Reese teaches.
Name: Riku Helenius
Weight: 202 lbs
Rankings: #5 European Goaltender (CSS), #46 Overall (THN), #86 Overall (Red Line), #1 Goaltender (TSN.ca/ISS)
Ilves Jr. A (FIN) 26 GP, 2.68 GAA, 4 SO, .919 sv%
If there is a goaltender who will be first off the board before Bernier, it will likely be Ilves Jr. A's Riku Helenius who has made a strong final push due largely to an impressive performance at the U18 World Junior Championships. At that tournament, Helenius practically carried a mediocre Finnish junior team on his back to the silver medal going 4-1-1 with a 1.83 GAA, 1 shutout and a .942 save percentage. Still, if Helenius pushes all the way up into the first round it will be a mild surprise, partly because he has only played half the number of games Bernier did this season and in a lesser league in Finnish Jr. A. Helenius has great size and uses it to his advantage by playing his angles well in more of a standup style but he will use his size effectively in close in the butterfly as well. He has a good glove and solid athleticism and in the mental game he is lauded for his competitiveness and his willingness to battle. Red Line criticizes Helenius' rebound control, although it notes he is not asked to control his rebounds by his coaches, as well as his tendency to play deep in the net. They compare him to Vancouver's Alex Auld and suggest his ascension in the rankings may be more about Finnish goaltenders being en vogue rather than Helenius' own ability. At least one scout in THN's draft preview disagrees noting that while Helenius is well coached in Finland his athleticism is also strong and there is little downside to him as a prospect.
Positives: Has ideal size and plays a style similar to that taught by Jeff Reese. Has a good glove hand a solid athleticism. Very competitive and battles between the pipes.
Negatives: Hasn't played a lot of hockey in Finnish Jr. A league and will struggle to see time in the SM-liiga so long as Tuukka Rask is with Ilves. Rebound control is a question mark and he occassionally plays too deep in his crease.