Among the possible risks with goaltender Benjamin Gaudreau’s game ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft, the biggest knock was that he simply hadn’t played hockey all season before being draft eligible. . Indeed, in the Ontario Hockey League, where Gaudreau still currently plays, the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered any chance of a start to the 2020-21 season.
Gaudreau actually played five games in that span – for Team Canada at the 2021 U18 World Junior Championship. Canada won its fourth Under-18 league title, thanks in large part to Gaudreau’s play. He finished the tournament with a 5-0-0 record, a 2.20 goals-against average (GAA) and a .919 save percentage (SV%).
Naturally, that wasn’t much for NHL teams, who themselves likely had to collectively change their draft strategy during the pandemic year to target more surefire prospects whose seasons haven’t. been cancelled, or were at least playing somewhere overseas to avoid a sabbatical year. But Gaudreau’s opportunity to do so was thwarted by visa issues.
It was definitely a risk for the Sharks to draft the goaltender. Still, they mitigated the risk by trading their 71st pick for the 81st and 177th picks overall to select Gaudreau — plus Swedish center Theo Jacobsson, who was the result of that extra sixth-round pick. the St. Louis Blues, who received the top pick in the deal, selected Simon Robertsson, a Swedish winger. A few small compromises.
Given the fact that Gaudreau was considered the top North American goalie prospect in the draft, taking him mid-draft at 81 seems like a win. The North Bay, Ont., native and San Jose’s second pick in the 2021 draft represents one potential item the Sharks hope to see come to fruition: the return of a franchise starting goaltender.
For what it’s worth, the Blues themselves are great exponents of this formula: Jordan Binnington was drafted 88th overall in 2011 by St. Louis and became the de facto starter in the 2018-19 season, when he led the Blues to a Stanley Cup. Other examples include Chris Driedger of Seattle Kraken and Ilya Sorokin from New York Islanderswho are active NHL goaltenders with similar draft pedigrees.
The Sharks last drafted a goaltender in 2018, when Zachary Emond was picked in the sixth round. Of the 27 guards drafted by the franchise, the most notable are Evgeni Nabokov (1994, ninth round), Vesa Toskala (1995, fourth round), Miikka Kiprusoff (1995, fifth round), and Alex Stalock (2005, fourth round). Still, the fairest comparison for Gaudreau, as far as the draft goes, might be Thomas Greiss (2004, third round), who is still active with the Detroit Red Wings.
Now that the OHL is back in full swing, Gaudreau’s sample size is less enigmatic and the Sharks’ development team has a better understanding of what they need to do to bring the former prospect back into the league. Top 60 through what is usually a long journey through the system for NHL goaltenders.
Aside from a few tantalizing accolades – seventh in the draft in the OHL, top goaltender honors in the U18 WJC; a 20-0-0 record during the 2018-19 season in the Great North Midget League (an U18 AAA league), where he averaged 1.13 GAA against older competitors at 16 – his stock probably rose the most with the franchise during the 2021 Rookie Faceoff tournament.
During the tournament, Gaudreau started against the Vegas Golden Knights rookies and played impressively in a 5-2 Sharks win. During the game, he showed the familiar athleticism and vision acclaimed in his pre-draft scouting reports. He also appeared in goal for a single period during the Sharks’ development camp. Although he’s yet to sign an entry-level contract with the Sharks and isn’t eligible for the AHL until 2023-24, he appears to be able to hold on to pro-level competition.
In the OHL this season, Gaudreau’s stats have improved since his first junior season with Sarnia in 2019-20. That year, he posted a 4.34 ERA and 0.890 SV% on a bottom-ranked Sarnia team. The 2020-21 season was canceled but in the current season he is posting 3.26 GAA and 0.905 SV% in 20 games with a slightly better squad which is a few shades better.
But for OHL goaltenders, you can’t trust the numbers entirely. The league, among the majors and juniors, is more renowned for its offensive skills than the defense-rich WHL, for example. This means that OHL goaltenders probably have slightly skewed stats compared to a WHL goaltender.
Ultimately, there’s a positive development for the Sharks if Gaudreau faces more high-risk chances in a tough league, on a weak team, night after night until he’s ready to play. in the NHL.
What we like
Throughout his international and junior career, there have been many games where his team has been vastly outshot – these are the games where Gaudreau shines. On January 16, for example, he stopped 49 of 51 shots against a strong London Knights team to lead the Sting to a 4-2 win. He has impact in the best moments, which we considered essential to win this year with James Reimer and, to some extent, Adin Hill.
He also has similar tools to both goalies: rebound control, awareness, and a glove like Reimer, and size, vision, and athleticism like Hill. Gaudreau also ranks very well against his peers in the draft when it comes to saves on high-to-medium danger shots and rebounds (chances from inside lunge and high lunge).
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With Gaudreau, the Sharks have a big kid performing in big games and big times, and the rights to raise a legitimate No. 1 goalie prospect in the franchise for years to come. It’s something they haven’t been able to do since Nabokov.
Areas of improvement
Similar to how it stops high danger and medium danger chances, it drops below average for low danger shots (shots from beyond the slot). While that’s not too alarming, we can all remember times in Sharks goaltending history when such chances resulted in backbreaking goals.
Gaudreau has also been criticized by the scouting community for being slow to make decisions when handling the puck. Here’s another area where competition in the NHL can really make opponents pay for easy mistakes. That being said, I think where Gaudreau is lacking can possibly be improved through coaching and development.
Here’s another example of a game where Gaudreau’s reliability was high, if only to make huge saves to keep the lead. Notice the vision through the traffic and the awareness of seizing a close range chance. It does not disappoint.