DRAFT CENTRAL: Show-stopping Backstoppers
By Jason Lockhart
In this year's Entry Draft there are at least two netminders projected to become NHL starters.
With less than two weeks away from the June 24 Draft in Vancouver, here's a glimpse of the two top-ranked goalie prospects.
2005-2006 Team: Lewiston (QMJHL)
2005-2006 Stats: W-L-T: 27-26-0, G.A.A.: 2.70, SVPCT: .908
It doesn't hurt Jonathan Bernier that he's French-Canadian. The province of Quebec is known for breeding quality NHL netminders including the likes of Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, two of Bernier's favorite players.
Bernier is not projected to be in the same class as his idols, but is still expected to be a first-stringer and a first round selection at this year's Draft.
The butterfly-style goaltender has quick feet and challenges shooters well. He covers the cross-ice crease feeds effectively because of his good lateral movement.
Known for controlling his rebounds, Bernier will if necessary battle hard to cover up loose pucks in his crease.
"He is a prototypical NHL goalie," one scout told The Hockey News. "He covers the angles well, he has a good glove hand and his focus is great."
Bernier put up excellent numbers in his second season with the Lewison Maineacs of the QMJHL, placing in the top six in wins (27), G.A.A. (2.70) and SVPCT (.908).
2005-2006 Team: Everett (WHL)
2005-2006 Stats: W-L-T: 37-22-1, G.A.A.: 1.91, SVPCT: .925
If positive attitude lends itself to success, then Leland Irving is looking at a productive NHL career. Everyone raves about Irving's likeable personality.
One scout describes Irving as an "old-time goalie" who isn't fancy, but is a great kid off the ice.
Irving might not dazzle as much as Bernier, but he's steady and reliable, mirroring his game after Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Alberta native has already mastered the "paddle-down" technique used to prevent wrap-around and stuff attempts.
Irving's stick skills are also apparent by his dependability while playing the puck behind his net. He communicates well with his defensemen, making the smart breakout pass.
Along with his skillful stick, Irving displays a strong glove hand.
He also plays his angles well, coming far out of his crease and widening his stance, appearing bigger than his 6-0, 177-pound frame suggests.
Durability is a key component to Irving, who played in 80% of his club's games during the 2005-2006 season.