NHL Draft 2011: John Gibson and the Top Goalies in the Draft
In the Stanley Cup Final, Tim Thomas proved to be the difference as the Boston Bruins celebrated their first Stanley Cup since 1972. It goes to show what a hot goalie will do for you.
For the goalies coming into the NHL via the 2011 Draft, they hope to find the same success Thomas has had.
A draft that is focused in on the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the Gabriel Landeskogs of the world, it's easy to forget the last line of defense.
Let's talk about the top 10 goaltenders set to be drafted in Minnesota on June 24 and 25, including one American back stop John Gibson that could go as high as the top 20.
Samu Perhonen (Finland-Jr.)
Perhonen is currently ranked as the No. 1 European goaltender available in the draft, and for good reason. He had a stellar 2010-11 campaign with "JYP U-20" in Finland, posting a 2.71 GAA in 29 games, en route to a Jr. "A" SM-Liiga championship.
Perhonen has also played for his country. Most recently, he made four appearances for Finland in the U-18 World Championships, posting a 3.52 GAA and 0.875 save percentage. Finland finished fifth in the tournament after a 2-2-0 record.
He has a big frame at 6'4", but will need to put on some muscle if he hopes to play in the NHL someday.
Magnus Hellberg (Almtuna—Allsvenskan League)
Hellberg played gallantly for Almtuna of Sweden's Allsvenskan league (second to Elitserien in terms of level of hockey in Sweden). Hellberg posted a 2.04 GAA in 31 games for Almtuna and is signed through the 2012-13 season with Frolunda, of the Swedish Elite League.
At 6'5", Hellberg towers over the net and could see NHL action once his current contract in Elitserien expires. He should get plenty of experience playing against a plethora of former NHL players such as Jonas Frogren, Rickard Wallin, Ladislav Nagy and Niklas Sundstrum.
Fact: Frolunda's captain Joel Lundquist is the twin of New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundquist.
It is amazing what connections can do for you in this world, and I would be shocked if Hellberg didn't use that connection in the next two years.
Jaroslav Pavelka (Hradec Kralove—Czech U-18)
The long-time goaltender for Hradec Kralove of the Czech U-18 league is just about ready to be drafted into the NHL.
Pavelka showed his readiness by boasting a 2.68 GAA and a fantastic save percentage of 0.924. He might see some AHL action in a few years, but for now, he should stay in Europe and work on his game.
Benjamin Conz (SCL Tigers—Swiss)
Does the name sound familiar? Conz was the goaltender everyone wanted, following the 2010 U-20 World Junior Hockey Championships. Although posting a 4.76 GAA during the tournament, Conz was voted the IIHF's top goalie.
His best work showed in the quarter finals of that tournament, making 50 saves as the Swiss upset the Russians in OT. Thanks to Conz's work, the Swiss placed fourth in the tournament, their best finish since the 2002 tournament.
In 46 games with SCL Tigers, of Switzerland's NLA, Conz posted a 2.98 GAA and 0.905 save percentage and is contracted to the Tigers through the 2012-13 season.
Conz should be a late draft pick that does great things. A late-round gem, just like the 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
Christopher Gibson (Chicoutimi—QMJHL)
Gibson was one of the best goalies in the CHL this season, posting a 2.42 GAA and a QMJHL-leading 0.920 save percentage.
Chicoutimi was swept out of the first round of the QMJHL playoffs by Drumondville, but scouts peg the Finnish import as a confident and quick goaltender. He has a great base to work with when he makes the leap into the AHL and NHL.
Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound—OHL)
Binnington showed many people just how good he can be in big games, with his performance in the Memorial Cup.
He posted a 1.42 GAA and a 0.951 save percentage for the OHL Champion Owen Sound Attack and was named the Most Outstanding Goaltender of the Mem. Cup tournament.
This, after having to fight for the Owen Sound crease all playoff long with Scott Stajcer and Michael Zador.
Thanks to his brilliance, he climbed from seventh to third on NHL Central Scouting's list of top North American goaltenders.
Matt McNeely (US Under-18 National Team Development)
McNeely is one of two American Under-18 National Team Development program members I am mentioning in this list.
McNeely posted a 3.84 GAA and 0.891 save percentage, however, the team finished 9-12-1.
McNeely appeared in six international games, posting a 3.62 GAA and a 0.883 save percentage and went a perfect 4-0-0. McNeely will play for the University of Minnesota, Duluth in the fall.
Stephen Michalek (Loomis Chaffee High School—USA)
Michalek played for his high school, Loomis Chaffee, in 2010-11. Loomis Chaffee is a boarding school located just outside of Hartford, Connecticut. Michalek has excelled in their athletics program, posting a 0.918 save percentage for a team that finished 3-20-2.
He appeared in the 2011 Ivan Hlinka tournament, stopping 23 of 24 shots and helped the US earn a silver medal.
Michalek will not go straight to the NHL, but instead, he will enroll at Harvard University for the 2011 season.
Trivia: What goaltender was drafted fifth overall in 1983 out of Acton-Boxborough Regional High School and is the only goaltender to ever play in the NHL right out of high school?
Michael Morrison (Kitchener—OHL)
Morrison played well for the Kitchener Rangers this past season. He posted a 2.65 GAA and a 0.912 save percentage in 27 games.
Morrison stepped in for Brandon Maxwell, during the playoffs, when Kitchener was on the brink of elimination against Plymouth.
Although Morrison and the Rangers won Game 5 and 6, they couldn't get it done in Game 7 and were eliminated.
Morrison has the opportunity to go back to Kitchener in the fall and develop his game and perhaps get Kitchener back to an OHL Championship. A feat they accomplished in 2008.
John Gibson (US Under-18 National Development)
Gibson is considered the best goalie available and ranks No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting, amongst goaltenders.
He posted a 2.64 GAA and 0.918 save percentage for the US National Team Development team, good for second in the USHL.
Some teams looking for an immediate answer to goaltending may steer clear of Gibson, as he has already committed to playing for the University of Michigan. Gibson's accolades are numerous, including multiple gold medals, Best Goaltender awards and Player of the Game awards. But his most memorable achievement may happen when his name is called in the first round of the NHL Draft in Minnesota.
How will these goaltenders fare on the weekend? Watch the NHL Draft to find out!