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2023 NHL Draft: 10 goaltenders you need to know

Daily Faceoff logo Daily Faceoff 2023-02-03 Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
Carson Bjarnason © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports Carson Bjarnason

Drafting goaltenders can be an absolute crapshoot.

Scouts’ views on goaltenders vary more than any other position, and it’s the group with the smallest player base to choose from. You’re often dealing with goaltenders who have to share playing time with older competition – or, in some cases, against one another. Then you see the volatility in the goaltending market from year to year in the NHL, and you’re just left confused.

That’s why it’s always tough to scout netminders. We’ve seen some elite talent in the past few years go early – Spencer Knight, Jesper Wallstedt and Yaroslav Askarov come to mind – but those are rarities. We could see some goaltenders challenge for late first-round selections this year, such as Michael Hrabal, Carson Bjarnason or Adam Gajan, but it depends on a team’s positional needs later on.

Here’s a look at 10 of the best goaltenders available for the 2023 NHL Draft right now, which includes a handful of overagers:

Michael Hrabal, Omaha (USHL)

Sometimes, you have to look beyond the stats. Hrabal’s numbers with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers are nothing special, but scouts love his raw potential. He’s 6-foot-6, faces a significant number of shots a night, tracks the puck well, has good athleticism and covers the net down low well. One of the biggest knocks, style-wise, is how he can be caught going down too early often, but he’s an imposing figure who is tough to beat on a given night.

Carson Bjarnason, Brandon (WHL)

It’s sometimes tough to judge CHL goaltenders because the stats can look downright awful – and having Connor Bedard and Zach Benson in the same division, among others, doesn’t help — but Bjarnason has carried the load for a lousy Wheat Kings team, making him the top-ranked North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting. Bjarnason has what teams are looking for: good size, quick reflexes and the ability to not get rattled after a goal. Some scouts think he has true No. 1 potential.

Adam Gajan, Green Bay (USHL)

Scouts I talked to at the World Junior Championship fell in love with Gajan, who many believed to be a diamond in the rough. Gajan went undrafted out of the Slovak league last year but made some noise in the NAHL and USHL before joining Slovakia as the team’s third goalie to begin. Before too long, he was the No. 1, giving fits to teams like Canada and USA. Gajan doesn’t have a major sample size, which probably knocks him down a bit, but he has great size, excellent athleticism and seems to only get better with more viewings.

Trey Augustine, USNTDP

USNTDP goaltenders typically get lost in the shuffle with the amount of high-quality talent at other positions, but Augustine was the lone current player from the program to represent USA at the World Junior Championship. He snagged the starter’s role as the youngest No. 1 in the tournament and played quite well, leading USA to bronze. While he isn’t big, Augustine relies on his individual movements in the crease to make up for it. They’re swift and focused, and he always has his eyes fixated on the puck. In my opinion, the Michigan State University commit has a bright future and is one of the goalie prospects with the highest ceilings.

Jacob Fowler, Youngstown (USHL)

It’s been a few good months for Fowler, who led USA to gold at the World Junior A Challenge and has been named USHL Goaltender of the Week three times. The 6-foot-2 goaltender has been excellent with Youngstown, leading the league with a .914 save percentage and four shutouts. Fowler tracks the puck well and has good athleticism, and when he gets scored on, it’s rarely because he’s out of position. He plays like a much bigger goalie, with strong shoulders and fluent movements that allow him to quickly cover high shots.

Scott Ratzlaff, Seattle (WHL)

Ratzlaff seems to play his best hockey when everyone’s watching. Ratzlaff made 24 saves on 25 shots against Bedard and Co. at the CHL Top Prospects Game and posted a 4-0-0 record with two shutouts and an incredible .976 save percentage en route to gold at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Canada. Scouts notice big-game performances like that, even if he didn’t have the toughest competition at the Hlinka. In league play, Ratzlaff has put up great numbers with Seattle, so it’s not like he needs to be carried. He isn’t a big goaltender, but he has excellent rebound control, does a good job of sifting through traffic and is quite athletic, too.

Tomas Suchanek, Tri-City (WHL)

After getting passed over twice before, it’s unlikely Suchanek gets passed over again. Since the 2022 draft, he played for Buffalo’s prospect team, saved Czechia’s summer World Junior Championship tournament and gave the team a huge win over USA, and then won top goaltender at the 2023 edition after leading his country to silver. Add in a decent run with Tri-City and his CV looks impressive at 19. It’s not uncommon for goaltenders to go as overagers, especially when COVID-19 impacted key parts of a player’s development time. There’s some decent potential here.

Adam Dybal, Karlovy Vary (Czechia, U-20)

Dybal has put up some ridiculous numbers in the Czech U-20 league, recording six shutouts and a .941 save percentage in 33 games. He is the fourth-ranked European goaltender by NHL Central Scouting. Dybal’s dominance has allowed him to rise up the ranks, and he even got into a second-tier Czech league game and some U-18 national team action. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to tougher competition at other levels. He’s on the smaller size at six-foot, but clearly the talent is there.

Thomas Milic, Seattle (WHL)

It’s not easy sharing the net with Ratzlaff, but Milic has done enough head-turning already this season. The Canadian World Junior Championship star has a 20-3-1 record in WHL and WJC play this season and has a 5-0 record in starts since returning to the Thunderbirds. The biggest knock against Milic is his six-foot frame, but he’s quick, athletic and never gives up on a scoring chance. There’s enough raw talent to mold him into something tangible at the next level.

Alexander Hellnemo, Skeleftea (SHL)

Hellnemo is another re-entry and one with some pro experience already. The top-ranked European goalie on NHL Central Scouting wasn’t viewed highly on many public charts, but he has a solid 6-foot-2 frame and is quite athletic to boot. He has had some impressive outings in the SHL and has been one of the better goalies in the Swedish U-20 league. I’m not sure how many NHL teams share the same opinions as Central Scouting about his play, but it’ll be interesting to see if his improved play as a Draft+1 prospect makes a big difference.

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