Scott Wheeler's top 10 drafted NHL goalie prospects ranking, 2022 edition

Scott Wheeler’s top 10 drafted NHL goalie prospects ranking, 2022 edition

Welcome to the second part of the 2022 edition of my drafted NHL prospect rankings.

Today’s top 10 goalie prospects list follows yesterday’s top 50 drafted skaters ranking. Together, this package of content serves as the conclusion of all of my work from the preceding season and the start of my prospect coverage for a new one.

Collectively, it follows thousands of hours spent watching these players on tape and in person, as well as speaking with sources and studying the ins and outs of their games and the data that comes with it.

After producing a combined annual ranking in 2018 and 2019, the skaters and the goalies were divided in 2020, 2021 and now 2022. This is done to evaluate for our readers a greater number of goalies (when it was one top 50 list, I only ever liked two or three goalie prospects enough to rank them) reflective of the one-sixth share they represent on the ice. Separating the two lists also allows me to use a separate set of criteria for the goalies, one which better understands the different rates at which goalies develop and the different reasons for which they’re drafted in the first place.

As such, the criteria for a goalie’s prospect’s inclusion in this ranking differs from the parameters I use for skaters. To be eligible, a goalie must be:

• Under 25 years old. This expanded age criteria (I used to lump goalies in with my under-23 cutoff for skaters) allowed for the continued consideration of goalies like Stuart Skinner and Connor Ingram, who are still very much prospects.

• Not currently established as one of their NHL club’s two primary options, with rare exceptions for goalies on the younger side. I give myself some arbitrary leeway here. You’ll notice that 22-year-old Lukas Dostal, who played four games for the Ducks last year and should again challenge John Gibson and Anthony Stolarz for starts this season, and 23-year-old Skinner, who played 13 times for the Oilers last season and should back up Jack Campbell beginning in the fall, still feature in the ranking. But other young goalies from last year’s list who established themselves further than Dostal and Skinner last season, like Boston’s Jeremy Swayman and Florida’s Spencer Knight, are no longer eligible.


1. Jesper Wallstedt, G, 19 (Minnesota Wild — No. 20, 2021)

Wallstedt’s the best goalie prospect on the planet for me. And that’s not meant as a slight to the next four names on this list, who each belong in that group or not far behind. But there’s just a control to his game that is so singular and rare in goalies his age. I’ve written about it in the past as almost robotic, and that’s truly the best descriptor for it. Wallstedt’s a big 6-foot-3 (he fills the net for his size) goalie who plays sharp lines positionally, holds those lines, and swallows the first shot so that he doesn’t have to make a ton of second saves. His movement is compact, he tracks through layers incredibly well to find pucks, and he reads opposing shooters so well that he’s rarely beat cleanly.

There’s a minor question mark or two around every young goalie in the sport and with Wallstedt I don’t see a single hole or area of weakness that worries me. I’d maybe like to see him develop a little more quickness (he’s strong across the net and low-to-high on pushes, but he sits a little heavy over his skates and I wouldn’t say his feet are fast per se). But otherwise, he’s got all of the makings of a true No. 1 starter and he’s the best bet on this list to join the shrinking number of goalies (Andrei Vasilevskiy, Igor Shesterkin, Jacob Markstrom and Connor Hellebuyck, with Juuse Saros, Thatcher Demko and Ilya Sorokin maybe angling to join them?) that we can say that about.

2. Yaroslav Askarov, G, 20 (Nashville Predators — No. 11, 2020)

Last season was the first real valley on Askarov’s trajectory, after the three prior had followed a steep incline. I had to remind myself, though, when I found myself watching him and he was struggling, that he was still a 19-year-old playing for the entire year (he just turned 20 in June) — and playing at Russia’s top two pro levels. My belief in his tools or his upside as a starting NHL goalie is not deterred, but I did pause at times and his play wavered just enough to make Wallstedt an easy choice for the top spot on this list. Askarov’s raw talent certainly makes him unique. His ability to change directions in the net, stay on top of shooters, track their hands, and make reactionary saves is elite. His athleticism is, too. He regularly makes second- and third-chance saves holding firm in his positioning even when he’s laying on the ice. But there are tools in his game that still need some refinement.

There are still times where he gets frozen over his glove hand, something NHL teams will exploit. He still looks jittery in the net, bouncing on his toes and moving to pucks (which he says is to keep himself focused and make some of those quick-twitch saves I talked about). But his agility and reads are so impressive that he can steal games when he’s at his best, and make the difficult saves that others just can’t get to or stick with. There isn’t a goalie prospect in the world with quicker feet through shuffles or more explosiveness side-to-side or low-to-high than Askarov. That blend of power and speed combines with his extended early track record to give him high, high upside.

3. Sebastian Cossa, G, 19 (Detroit Red Wings — No. 15, 2021)

Between the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in September, a pair of Calgary camps with Canada in August and December, and the Memorial Cup in June, I’ve watched Cossa play live more than double-digit times this season. In those viewings, I’ve seen him look unflappable. I’ve also seen him look rattled as shots sneak through holes they shouldn’t be finding. The same was true this year for him in the WHL, where his previously-stellar numbers came back down to earth.

Cossa’s a huge (6-foot-6), powerful, athletic goalie and those last two things don’t always come with the first. He’s a fiery, confident, talkative competitor who doesn’t like to get beat (which contrasts with the stoic demeanour we see in many goalies) and wants to command the net and the room. Bigger goalies often struggle with their movements and their recoveries but neither are an issue for Cossa. His positioning (he does a really good job holding his outside edges to be patient on shots) and reflexes (he’s got great hands up high) help him block and grab a lot of pucks. But it’s his ability to bounce back into his stance or change directions with passes that separates him. His power through his pushes gives him rare side-to-side ability for a goalie as big as he is.

But there are also some question marks. Some of them are contextual, like how good the Oil Kings have been in front of him these last three years. But others are about the tools, including some of the trouble he faces closing his five-hole because of his size (this is a major recurring issue, even though he does a really good job kicking pucks aimed for the lower corners) and the way he can occasionally lose himself in his net on scramble plays (those strong pushes to get to tough lateral saves can pull him off his lines). He can get pulled out of his net overcommitting on dekes too. His natural gifts give him undeniable upside though. When he’s set and square to shots (as he almost always is), he’s tough to beat. I still think he’s got starter upside due to his combination of size, dexterity and rare explosiveness in the net, but I wouldn’t quite consider him in the same tier as Wallstedt or Askarov at this stage.

4. Dustin Wolf, G, 21 (Calgary Flames — No. 214, 2019)

I seriously considered ranking Wolf third here. That’s how good I think this kid is. And if you’ve been following my work for any amount of time, you’ll know that Wolf is my favourite goalie prospect in the sport, so that won’t come as a surprise to you. When the Flames drafted him at the end of the seventh round, he ranked in the second round of my 2019 draft board, as my second-ranked goalie behind only Knight. He possesses elite footwork and tracking. He never loses sight of the puck and anticipates the movements of opposing carriers so, so well, making him extremely hard to beat with a deke. You’ll rarely see a player beat him side-to-side on a breakaway because he can stick on top of them. He has everything you look for in a top goalie prospect today except for the size. The results are there, he’s athletic and his technical ability is refined.


Dustin Wolf. (Christopher Mast / NHLI via Getty Images)

Small goalies are expected to be quicker through their footwork and edges than bigger goalies, but that can often pull them out of position and force them into a scrambling style. Wolf’s game is remarkably compact, though. He holds his edges and angles beautifully, making himself look bigger than he is in the net and helping him to stay centre. I fully expect Wolf to push for the backup job at some point in the not-too-distant future in Calgary. He and the next name on this list are proof NHL clubs are still too concerned about size in their netminders — and reason enough that other small, successful goalies like Hugo Havelid, Brett Brochu and Thomas Milic should have been drafted.

5. Devon Levi, G, 20 (Buffalo Sabres — No. 212, 2020)

Levi had a season for the ages at Northeastern, posting a .952 save percentage across 32 games and winning both the Mike Richter Award as college hockey’s top goalie and the Tim Taylor Award as its top rookie. His journey from the CCHL to the world juniors and then the Olympics all during the pandemic is one of the best stories in hockey these last couple of years. He has exactly the skills smaller goalies need to be successful — impressive control on his outside edges (and the patience to hold them), quick feet on his shuffles so that he can stick with dekes and go post-to-post or low-to-high to get to tough pucks, perfect reads on shooters, excellent tracking through and under traffic, and a battler’s mentality in the net which keeps him in plays even when he looks like he’s down and out on his knees. There aren’t a ton of 6-foot goalies in today’s NHL, at least not starting ones, but Levi, like Wolf, has all of the tools to become one.

6. Lukas Dostal, G, 22 (Anaheim Ducks — No. 85, 2018)

After a slow start to the season (really his first extended run of mediocre play in years), Dostal regained his form after Christmas to again look like the goalie who’d performed so well from Liiga right through to the AHL across the previous three seasons. Dostal’s a smallish goalie who has turned his lean 6-foot-2 frame into an asset by slowly adding some strength and power to a game that was already built on agility. He’s got pristine technical ability, great hands (especially his glove), and quick feet which help him stick with dekes, track the play through screens, and make recovery saves on scrambles. Plus he holds his lines on his outside edges extremely well, limiting his movements when he needs to, staying compact, and playing his angles head-on. He has also proven, time and time again, that while his game requires movement, he’s in complete control and rarely swims. He’s going to be one of the Ducks’ two goalies long-term. The question now is just which one. He looks like he’ll be a tandem goalie at minimum now and has certainly turned me from cautious a few years ago into a believer.

7. Dylan Garand, G, 20 (New York Rangers — No. 103, 2020)

Garand has really emerged these last three years as one of the top goalie prospects in the sport, to the point where he is now the CHL Goaltender of the Year and a lock to be Canada’s starter at the restarted 2022 world juniors in Edmonton in August. That light isn’t going anywhere either. Next year, in his final season in the WHL, he’ll get to backstop his Memorial Cup host Blazers. And though he’s listed at 6-foot-1 by the Blazers and by Hockey Canada, he’s listed at 6-foot by the NHL, making him the fourth consecutive goalie on this list (the next name will make it a fifth) who is below average in size.

Garand’s game is led by his quickness in the net (which helps him make acrobatic saves when he needs to), great hands (especially on the glove side, which can really flash), a studious understanding of the game, his positioning, and how he sees the way plays develop in front of him. He plays on his toes and is active in the net, but he does it without spinning and swimming by holding his outside edges when he settles into his stance before a shot, playing sharp angles, and tracking pucks into his body. He also almost never looks panicked in the net and his post-to-post movement is meticulous so he never seems to pull past his parallels and always seems to find and hold his short side on bad-angle shots (his skate and shoulder are always in the right spot, even off of switches when some goalies lose some of those habits). This may be a little high given his size and the work he still has in front of him in the AHL even once he’s done with junior, but I like the goalie and the kid (he’s got a good head on his shoulders).


Drew Commesso with Team USA during the 2022 Olympics. (George Walker IV / USA Today)

8. Drew Commesso, G, 20 (Chicago Blackhawks — No. 46, 2020)

After a .915 freshman year at BU, Commesso climbed back to a .914 sophomore season with the Terriers following a slow start (for him and the team in front of him, which was banged up and not at its best out of the gate), while also continuing to be a focal point of USA Hockey’s with an invite to the Olympics. I see a mature makeup as a kid and goalie. At 6-foot-2, he’s not big by today’s standards for a goalie, but he blends a studious approach to the position with sharp angles, sound technique, and a calming, poised demeanour to keep shots in his chest, control rebounds, settle down plays and hold firm to his edges. And while he’s not a dynamic athlete, he can fall back on his athleticism when the play does break down, he’s efficient in his movements, he’s quick on his feet and he doesn’t put himself into many scrambles because of the way he reads the play. Commesso reliably makes the saves that he should and plays the same game-to-game. He doesn’t steal a ton of starts and I wouldn’t say he’s got any A-plus tools that really pop, but there’s not a lot in his game that you can nitpick either. I’m not convinced he’s going to be a starter at the next level, but I — and the rest of the hockey world — fully expect him to become an NHL goalie.

9. Erik Portillo, G, 21 (Buffalo Sabres — No. 67, 2019)

After waiting for his turn in the Wolverines goal as a freshman, Portillo ran with the net as a sophomore, playing every night to some of the best non-Levi results in college hockey, with a .926 save percentage across 42 games (second only to Hobey Baker winner Dryden McKay’s 43) to backstop Michigan to a Frozen Four appearance. Portillo is massive, with a 6-foot-6 and 225-pound frame. He uses that frame to play a poised, deep-in-his-net style, rarely overcommitting to shooters in an effort to play within his net and avoid scrambles when things start to break down. At his best, Portillo takes away all of a shooter’s space and looks unbeatable. He’ll let the odd soft goal squeak through and his rebound control can sometimes disappoint him but he’s got impressive control, coordination, skill and mobility for a goalie his size. I also like how loud he is in the net. You can really hear him back there (a lot like Cossa) and it’s clear he wants to command play with directions and his impressive ability to play the puck and start breakouts. He’s also, like Levi but with very different tools, an excellent goalie one-on-one with shooters on breakaways.

10. Stuart Skinner, G, 23 (Edmonton Oilers — No. 78, 2017)

I’ve been slow to come around on Skinner and this ranking is me admittedly playing a little bit of catch-up. For a few years, I saw him as kind of slow in the net and believed he struggled to make the tougher reactionary saves while moving that many of today’s goalies excel at. And while I think I misread that a little, I also believe he has made real progress in those areas these past two seasons to put it all together and earn his NHL promotion. He’s never going to be the quickest goalie on his feet but he’s got desirable size (6-foot-4, over 200 pounds), he has some legitimate power and his habits have become so consistent that he’s consistently square to the first shot. His emergence has been all about learning to play within himself and developing efficiency in his movements. I don’t think he has the upside of the goalies in front of him here but the results are starting to speak for themselves and suggest he’s probably here to stay as a solid NHL goalie now. He’s not going to be on this list this time next year because he’ll be considered fully graduated, I’d wager.


The Ranking

All told, 20 goalies were strongly considered for this year’s ranking, with the 10 who missed the cut featured below as honourable mentions.

As always, the ranking is broken down into tiers to give you a better sense of where the divisions are between one group and the next. This year’s ranking is divided into three tiers. They are: 1-2, 3-5 and 6-plus. Consider that third tier as a group that runs from 6-20 (give or take).

Top 10 drafted NHL goalie prospects

Rank

  

Player

  

Age

  

Draft

  

Team

  

1

Jesper Wallstedt

19

2021

2

Yaroslav Askarov

20

2020

3

Sebastian Cossa

19

2021

4

Dustin Wolf

21

2019

5

Devon Levi

20

2020

6

Lukas Dostal

22

2018

7

Dylan Garand

20

2020

8

Drew Commesso

20

2020

9

Erik Portillo

21

2019

10

Stuart Skinner

23

2017

Honourable mentions (sorted alphabetically): Justus Annunen (COL), Joel Blomqvist (PIT), Calle Clang (ANA), Joel Hofer (STL), Connor Ingram (NSH), Pyotr Kochetkov (CAR), Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (BUF), Cayden Primeau (MTL), Arvid Söderblom (CHI), Mads Søgaard (OTT).

(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; Getty Images: Bailey Hillesheim / Icon Sportswire, Maksim Konstantinov / SOPA Images)


#Scott #Wheelers #top #drafted #NHL #goalie #prospects #ranking #edition

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