The Science (Or Lack Thereof) Of Drafting Goaltenders

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When it comes to drafting goalies, there is no exact science to predict the development of an 18 year old netminder.  In fact, it seems more good luck than good management when looking behind the mask.

Jun 24, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask makes a save against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period in game six of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Of the top 60 goalies in terms of wins in the NHL this past season, there were more drafted 150th or later (or undrafted) than were first round picks.  Thirteen goalies were first round picks while 21 were late picks.

GoalieDraft #YearG taken before
Khabibulin204199216
Theodore4419944
Hedberg218199420
Nabokov219199421
Vokoun226199422
Giguere1319950
Biron1619951
Kiprusoff116199511
Garon4419961
Backstromundrafted199623
Luongo419970
Clemmensen215199716
LaBarbera6619984
McDonaldundrafted199823
Anderson7719997
Miller138199916
Bryzgalov4420002
Ellis6020004
Lundqvist205200021
Fasthundrafted200032
Hillerundrafted200032
Budaj6320015
Anderson7320016
Emery9920019
Smith161200119
Niemiundrafted200133
Lehtonen220020
Ward2520021
Gustavssonundrafted200233
Fleury120030
Crawford5220031
Howard6420032
Halak271200326
Eliott291200328
Montoya620040
Dubnyk1420041
Schneider2620043
Peters3820045
Khudobin206200420
Rinne258200429
Scrivensundrafted200433
Price520050
Rask2120051
Pavelec4120054
Quick7220057
Bishop8520058
Bernier1120060
Varlamov2320062
Neuvirth3420064
Enroth4620065
Mason6920066
Reimer99200610
Bachman120200614
Johnson125200615
Bobrovskyundrafted200626
Markstrom3120082
Allen3420083
Holtby9320089
Lindback207200822
Lehner4620091

Obviously there are goalies who have come and gone in the years between Khabibulin and Lehner, but it stands to reason that longevity is a factor and the fact is, a goalie in drafted in the first round stands a better chance of not making it than making it.  Not that the same doesn’t hold true for other position players, but it seems like taking a goalie in the first round is an incredible gamble.

Less than half of the goalies taken in the first round between 1992 and 2009 (20 of 43) played any significant NHL time and even fewer were impact goalies.  I would provide a number but it would be purely subjective as to what constitutes an “impact goalie”.

YRGoalies in 1st RdSignif Playing Time
200900
200820
200700
200642
200522
200442
200311
200232
200141
200021
199930
199820
199741
199610
199544
199443
199331
199200

However, it could be getting better.  Between 2002 and 2006, 9 of 14 first round goalies have had significant playing time. Still, it is a guessing game rather than an exact science, no matter what the scouting community would have you believe.

This year, there is only one goalie, Zachary Fucale from the Halifax Mooseheads, who is a consensus first round pick.  Does the past history of goaltending question marks mean that his stock might drop and he would be taken later than he should?  Or does it mean that since he is a consensus first round pick that he is clearly the best goalie available and thus his stock might rise.

We will find out this afternoon.