Every year the OHL coaches and General managers hand out an award to the Top Goaltender of that given year. You would think that the majority of those players who receive that award would go on to have at least mild success in the NHL but that simply has not been the case. Since 2006 when Steve Mason won it with London the winners have been Mike Murphy (2x), Chris Carozzi, Mark Visentin, Michael Houser, Jordan Binnington, Alex Nedeljkovic, Lucas Peressini, Mackenzie Blackwood and most recently Michael McNiven. The jury is still out on a couple of those younger guys but the overall list certainly isn’t comprised of household names. The OHL has produced some of the biggest stars in the world but rarely do any of them turn out to be goalies for whatever reason. Regardless, every once in awhile a goalie does come along who may not dominate the OHL but go on to have a successful career in the NHL.
Of all of the 31 projecting starting goalies in the NHL this year only FIVE played in the OHL – John Gibson, Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek and Matt Murray. (Lehner actually only played 1 year there). Anderson has had a nice career, Gibson looks to be good and the book is still out on Mrazek and Lehner. Murray however has turned out to be quite an anomaly.
Matt Murray played 4 seasons for the Soo Greyhounds from 2010-2014. The first three years he had GAA’s of 3.79, 4.08 and 3.67 with SV% of .887, .876, .894. Hardly numbers that would suggest he would excel at the next level. In the 2013-14 season The Soo had a great team. Darnell Nurse was their top defenceman as they went on to a 44-17-7 record. That year, Matt Murray stepped up in a huge way after a fantastic season posting a 2.57 GAA & .921 SV%. All career bests by a mile compared to the previous 3 seasons. Something just clicked for him that year as he continued that to the AHL where he dominated and now NHL where he’s already won 2 Cups.
So looking at the Goalies this year it is hard to project whether a guy has what it takes at the next level. What I do know, as far as talent goes there are a number of players who should have good seasons and have potential at the next level. Whether that happens or not is anyone’s guess but for now let’s take a look at my Top 5 best goalies of the OHL this year:
Michael DiPietro, Windsor Spitfires – Drafted in the 3rd round last year by Vancouver, DiPietro is such a terrific player. He had as good of a season in the OHL as any 17 yr old I can remember in the last 20 years. The thing I like about him the most is he is a bit undersized but so athletic. He has great fundamentals, excellent lateral movement & such quick recovery. He moves as fast as any goalie I can recall in a long time. He’ll be down and out and a split second later is up and in good position. For an OHL goalie, that makes him very tough to beat. From an NHL perspective his size is not ideal but if he does make it, it will because of his fundamentals and athleticism. Also seems to have that calm, confident demeanor that all teams look for.
Matthew Villalta, Soo Greyhounds – If it weren’t for DiPietro, Villalta would have been the first OHL goalie selected in this year’s NHL draft. Drafted by LA in the 3rd round Villalta is a skinny kid (165 lbs) but has a lot of tools along with a bonafide defence in front of him. Voted best rookie goaltender in OHL for 2016-17 season, Central scouting had him ranked as the 16th best North American goalie but LA clearly saw something they liked in the kid. As far as an OHL goalie goes, he may not be the most fundamentally sound goalie yet but manages to keep the puck out of the net with excellent recovery ability. He’s still a bit raw in terms of technique but clearly he will benefit from the team in front of him and should post big numbers this year.
Stephen Dillon, Niagara Ice Dogs – Undrafted. I’m really surprised Dhillon didn’t get drafted last year as he looked really good especially down the stretch. He did get invited to St. Louis’ camp this year after a brief tryout with Detroit a season ago. Someone just needs to sign this kid. Why? First off, he is 6′ 4” so he checks the “size” box for scouts. Second, he had a lousy defensive core in front of him finishing with a miserable 3.46 GAA yet managed to finish with a .914 SV%! Not surprisingly, they led the OHL in shots given up by almost 300 shots over the next closest team. Third, Niagara should be much improved this year despite the loss of Ryan Mantha. If St. Louis doesn’t give him a contract this summer he could be a steal for someone. His positioning still needs work (he’s scrambling too much) but he has a terrific glove and size that takes away a lot of the net.
Dylan Wells, Peterborough Petes – Drafted in the 5th round by Edmonton in 2016. Wells is a good goalie on a bad defensive team as indicated by his 3.07 GAA but .916 SV% last year. He has good size & athleticism, is very calm and cool but I do worry about him developing some bad habits though. His year overall was very good but I’ve seen him a few times look absolutely awful (7-0 loss in Game 4 vs. Mississauga comes to mind) letting in goals that just shouldn’t go in. Hopefully he doesn’t lose confidence with little defensive support and further develops into a bonafide keeper I’d just be a little leery as an Oilers fan. The bad goals are concerning. Some are more bullish on the player than I am but regardless, he should be a Top 5 goalie in the OHL this year.
Jacob Ingham, Mississauga Ice Dogs – Draft eligible this year the 17 yr old Ingham should be the first goalie taken out of the OHL in this year’s NHL draft. He’s already 6’3” 181lbs and is coming off a rookie season where he posted very respectable numbers in 31 games – 2.69 GAA, .907 SV%. Now with overager netminder Matthew Mancina out of the picture, Ingham is expected to be the workhorse for a very talented team.
Sleeper: Jordan Kooy, London Knights – Make no mistake Tyler Johnson will likely get the bulk of the work to start the season until it is known for sure if Parsons will be back or not. Johnson is an athletic goalie with some upside who posted decent numbers last year 3.25 .900 SV%. He needs to work on his rebound control & better positioning but is capable of some highlight reel saves. Kooy impressed as a 16 yr old last year posting much better numbers 2.45 GAA & .927 Sv% albeit in only 11 games. He has very good fundamentals and looks to be the better goalie as the season progresses. Would not be surprised if he takes over the #1 job from Johnson and runs with it…all the way to the NHL draft.
If Tyler Parsons or Michael McNiven are returned to the OHL they immediately jump to the top of the list. I don’t anticipate that happening especially in McNiven’s case but it is a possibility for both. Calgary is stacked at the G position in their organization it is possible they decide it is best for Parsons to play in London again but that seems unlikely at this point.
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