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2024 NHL Draft: 10 goaltenders you need to know

Steven Ellis
Feb 29, 2024
 
 
 
2024 NHL Draft: 10 goaltenders you need to know

Sorry, goalie nerds. There’s no clear-cut future No. 1 starter this year.

 

It’s no secret goaltenders are the hardest to scout each year. You can’t seem to rely on the supposed “elite” NHL starters, either. It’s the most fickle position in hockey and that’ll likely never change in our lifetime.

 

Case in point – among the best goaltending prospects in the world, you’ve got first-rounders like Jesper Wallstedt and Yaroslav Askarov, and then you’ve got seventh-rounders such as Devon Levi and Dustin Wolf. Goalies don’t get to play anywhere near as much as skaters do, so the sample size is much smaller.

 

In a lot of cases, you’re having to figure out if a goalie is getting crushed because of the team in front of them or if they’re truly just not good enough.Skip Ad

 
 
 

What’s truth? What’s fiction? Even the best goalie evaluators have a hard time figuring that out.

 

Today, we’re going to take you through an early look at the 2024 NHL Draft’s goaltending landscape. From talking to scouts and watching the players in person, here’s a look at 10 names you need to know:

Ryerson Leenders (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL)

Once a first-rounder on my draft list this year, I’ve dropped him out of my most recent top 50. Not due to a lack of performance on Leenders’ part, but just due to the overall depth of talent. If I had to pick the top goaltender right now, it’s Leenders. He’s been a beast for the Mississauga Steelheads this year, a team that can have its struggles in their own zone. He’s a little undersized at 6-foot-1, but Leenders makes up for it with athleticism and good puck-tracking. I expect him to be in the mix for Canada’s world junior team next year.

 

Compared to Leenders, George’s game is more built around just keeping things steady and relaxed in the crease. At 6-foot-1, George is also on the smaller side, but he’s as confident as they come in this year’s class. Let in a bad goal? He’s going to rob you on your next chance. Nothing seems to bother him, and he also sees through traffic well for a smaller keeper. From a skill perspective, there’s no issues here, but can scouts look past the smaller frame?image?url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublish.dailyfac

 

Kim Saarinen (HPK, Finland U-20)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Saarinen stands tall at 6-foot-4 and lets his body do the talking. He covers so much of the net, but he’s athletic enough to easily stretch out to make more difficult stops when needed. He had a rough go at the recent U-18 Five Nations tournament but bounced back with an excellent outing back home, reminding me just how good he can be when he’s in the zone. He allows poor goals a little too much for my liking but the size alone makes him intriguing – and, for the most part, he’s been good against U-20 competition.

Vinni drew attention from scouts at when he served as Finland’s starter as an underage at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup – and he was excellent with a 3-1-0 record and a .927 save percentage. But he struggled during the regular season and was downright brutal at the U-18 World Championship come springtime. But this year has been better – the stats might not be special, but it’s difficult being a starter in a pro league at 18. Vinni didn’t get a start at the world juniors, but he’s arguably been Finland’s best goaltender in U-20 national team competition this year. At 6-foot-2, he has decent size and, fortunately, he isn’t overcommitting on shots as much as he was a year ago.

Nicholas Kempf (USNTDP)

Opinions seemed split on Kempf – some think he’s one of the best goaltenders in the class. Others seem unsure. He’s had some down moments – he has just one win in four USHL outings when he has faced 30 or more shots – but you can see the raw potential. He’s been excellent in international competition, is very athletic and is never caught watching the puck from the crease. Kempf never quits on a chance, and his quick reads allow him to make some huge stops. I think he’s better than the stats suggest.

 
 

I haven’t seen a bad game from Cowan this year, but that’s not a huge sample size, either. What I did notice is how well he covers the net with his 6-foot-3 frame, especially down low. He has quick legs that make him hard to beat and his active glove hand comes up big often. Cowan can be caught reacting too slowly to a shot, and his rebound control isn’t great. But other times, he’ll just turn on a switch and it becomes difficult to get a shot past him.

Mikhail Yegorov (Omaha, USHL)

So, yeah, the record is awful. Three wins in 30 games? Yegorov’s transition to North America has been far from ideal, facing 30 or more shots in 21 outings this year. So it’s no surprise it’s been difficult, but scouts still see a ton of potential from the 6-foot-4 keeper. The size helps, but he battles so hard. He never gives up on a play, even with a terrible lineup in front of him. The Boston University commit is very athletic for his size and seems to stay focused no matter what. I could see Yegorov being one of the biggest goaltender steals of this draft because he has all the tools needed to succeed, but just doesn’t have the results.

 

Ilya Nabokov (Magnitogorsk, KHL)

 

Set to be 21 come draft day, Nabokov is one of the oldest players available this year, after putting up tremendous numbers as a KHL rookie. He has outplayed former Calgary Flames keeper Artyom Zagidulin and, with 42 games played, was the most active U-21 goalie in the KHL this season. Nabokov isn’t big at six-foot, but he’s athletic, and the numbers have been excellent.

Lukas Matecha (Tri-City, WHL)

Another re-entry option, Matecha looked excellent at the CHL Top Prospects Game last month, and scouts noticed. He’s in his first year in North America, and his numbers have been good despite often getting shelled with Tri-City. He’s no stranger to 40-shot contests and often plays some of his best hockey when busy. At 6-foot-3, Matcha has the size teams crave, and I can’t imagine he’ll go undrafted again this time around.

 

Zach Pelletier (Gatineau, QMJHL)

The QMJHL doesn’t have many prospects worth getting excited about in the draft this year, but Pelletier has drawn some attention. He’s 6-foot-3, he’s quick and has good rebound control. Positionally, I feel like it’s still a work in progress. Pelletier will get beat on simple wristers that leave you concerned, but then he’ll rob someone with an excellent glove hand on the next possible opportunity.

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2024 NHL Draft: Top 10 goalies

Yegorov, George, Vinni among best prospects at position

 

Yegorov_Omaha

© Dan Hickling, USHL

ByAdam Kimelman
@NHLAdamK NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and rounds 2-7 are June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1).

 

NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, a look at the top eligible goalies. NHL.com's full draft coverage can be found here.

Mikhail Yegorov's numbers this season with Omaha of the United States Hockey League is not what earned him the No. 1 spot in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

 

It's the how the 18-year-old continued to progress and develop despite a difficult season.

 

Yegorov was 8-25-3 with a 3.86 goals-against average and .892 save percentage in 43 games as Omaha finished with the worst record in the USHL.

 

"He didn't end up playing on a very good team this year, unfortunately, so he faced a lot of shots, a lot of quality shots," Al Jensen of Central Scouting said. "When he's on he covers a lot of the net and quickly. I just see a huge upside on him, and it was actually an easy choice for me to put him at No. 1 for the final rankings."

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The 2024 NHL Draft is headed to Sphere in Las Vegas

Here are NHL.com's top 10 goalies available for the 2024 draft:

1. Mikhail Yegorov, Omaha (USHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 1 (North American goalies)

Yegorov (6-foot-5, 188 pounds) improved as the season went on, and in his final 10 games he allowed three goals or fewer nine times and had a .906 save percentage. He's expected to return to Omaha next season, then move onto Boston University in 2025-26.

"He's very smart and his technical game is sound. ... here's a kid that size, moves well, great structure in his game," Jensen said. "You've got 4-6 years with this kid and to develop. I just see such a huge upside with this kid."

2. Carter George, Owen Sound (OHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 2 (North American goalies)

George (6-1, 194) was 23-21-9 with a 3.30 GAA, .907 save percentage and four shutouts in 56 Ontario Hockey League games, but helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August with a 2.25 GAA, .889 save percentage and one shutout in five games. The 18-year-old capped his season by helping Canada win gold at the 2024 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in April, going 6-0-0 with a 2.33 GAA, .915 save percentage and two shutouts in six games, and being voted the tournament's best goalie.

"He doesn't have a huge presence, but his net positioning and his coverage is better than a lot of the big goalies that are that are eligible in this draft," Jensen said. "He's very smart. He's very strong. He holds his ground well. He handles the puck extremely well too, which is great.

"There's a lot to like about him even though he doesn't have that big, tall status. He plays bigger than his size and he's so consistent. I really like the way this kid plays."

3. Eemil Vinni, Jokipojat (FIN-2)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 1 (International goalies)

Vinni (6-3, 187) was 17-9 with 10 ties, a 2.72 GAA and .891 save percentage in 37 games in Mestis, the second-highest professional league in Finland. The 18-year-old also helped Finland win bronze at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with a 1.75 GAA and .927 save percentage in four games.

"Vinni is a hybrid type of goalie with active feet," NHL director of European Scouting Jukka-Pekka Vuorinen said. "Plays on top of his crease. Uses his glove hand with confidence. Solid in his movements in all directions. Looks strong and balanced with good control while moving. ... He has good technical abilities and he's got the quickness to make the big saves."

4. Nicholas Kempf, USA U-18 (USHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 4 (North American goalies)

The 18-year-old was 23-7-2 with a 2.99 GAA, .897 save percentage and three shutouts in 37 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team, including 5-1 with a 1.89 GAA and .919 save percentage to help the United States win the silver medal at the World U-18s.

Kempf (6-2, 189) is committed to play at Notre Dame next season.

"I've really liked the feel of the game he has, he's not a cookie-cutter goalie," Jensen said. "He's got great instincts. He's got great competitiveness. I like his footwork. He's got an excellent butterfly and I just like that part of his structure in his game. He's got great mechanics, and he's very efficient in his crease movements. There's a lot that I like about his game and one of the key ones is his instincts. I feel he doesn't rely specifically on just his structure. He's got his instincts and his compete."

5. Ilya Nabokov, Magnitogorsk (RUS)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 2 (International goalies)

Nabokov (6-foot, 179) was named most valuable player of the Kontinental Hockey League playoffs after going 16-6 with a 1.82 GAA and .942 save percentage to help Magnitogorsk win the Gagarin Cup as league champions.

The 21-year-old was 23-13-3 with a 2.15 GAA and .930 save percentage in 43 regular-season games and won the Alexei Cherepanov Award as KHL rookie of the year.

After being passed over the past two years in the draft, this will be Nabokov's final season of eligibility.

"Nabokov looks composed, has sharp skating and is competitive," Vuorinen said. "Very athletic and focuses on challenging shooters and playing high in the crease, being aggressive. He's got very good footwork and moves throughout the crease with control and quickness. He reads the play very well, makes smart challenges with quick reflexes and good athleticism."

6. Pavel Moysevich, SKA St. Petersburg (RUS)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 4 (International goalies)

Moysevich (6-4, 187) played at three different levels of hockey in Russia this season. He was 3-2-2 with a 1.25 GAA and .942 save percentage in 13 KHL games. In 19 games with SKA Neva St. Petersburg in the VHL, the second highest pro league, he was 10-7-2 with a 2.31 GAA and .927 save percentage.

The 19-year-old also helped SKA St. Petersburg Jr. win the championship in the MHL, Russia's junior league, going 8-2 with a 1.93 GAA and .946 save percentage in 10 games.

7. Kim Saarinen, HPK Jr. (FIN-JR)

NHL Central Scouting rankings: No. 3 (International goalies)

Saarinen (6-4, 176) was named the best goalie in Finland's junior league after going 14-5-0 with a 2.41 GAA and .917 save percentage in 23 games.

The 17-year-old also made his debut in Liiga, the top league in Finland, and had a 2.46 GAA and .909 save percentage in two games for HPK.

8. Evan Gardner, Saskatoon (WHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 7 (North American goalies)

Gardner (6-foot, 175) led the Western Hockey League with a 1.91 GAA and .927 save percentage in 30 games as a rookie. The 18-year-old was 21-5-2 and tied for second in the league with four shutouts.

In the playoffs, he helped Saskatoon reach the third round, going 10-4 with a 2.33 GAA, .910 save percentage and one shutout in 15 games.

9. Dawson Cowan, Spokane (WHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 5 (North American goalies)

Cowan (6-2, 186) was 18-20-2 with a 3.59 GAA and .899 save percentage in 43 games for a Spokane team that allowed 283 goals, most among the 16 teams that reached the WHL playoffs. The 18-year-old started three of Spokane's four postseason games in its first-round loss to Prince George.

10. Lukas Matecha, Tri-City (WHL)

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 3 (North American goalies)

After being passed over in the 2023 NHL Draft, the 19-year-old left his native Czech Republic to play for Tri-City this season. Matecha (6-3, 196) went 13-19-1 with a 3.42 GAA and .901 save percentage.

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