Goalkeeper fights in NHL training camp: Western Conference

Here’s a common hockey phrase: “He won the job after training camp.” I know you’ve heard it. I have even been told it. But how long is a position actually available? And is it sustainable over the course of a season?

Answering those questions is not easy because every team and situation is different. Entering the NHL 2022-23 season, some organizations need clarity on goals. And I don’t believe it will happen until the end of the season – if at all.

Here are four Western Conference NHL teams that are destined for a scoring battle.

COLORADO AVALANCHE: Pavel Francouz & Alexander Georgiev

In early July, Avalanche sent a draft package to the New York Rangers in exchange for Georgiev. And it would be easy to assume that the 26-year-old from Belarus will be the successful defender of the Stanley Cup Champion’s new starting keeper.

But don’t count Francouz. While carrying pistols for Darcy Kuemper during the regular season, Francouz played meaningful games in the Stanley Cup knockouts. And he hasn’t had a savings rate of less than 0.916 in more than a decade playing professional hockey in four different leagues.

The only blow is that Francouz is 32 years old and still hasn’t played more than 34 games in an NHL season. But the level of experience is about the same for Georgiev, who has been unable to claim Rangers’ decline over the course of five seasons.

Georgiev’s savings rate has dropped every year of his professional career in North America. Last year, he saved less than 90% of face shots. That won’t cut it off in Denver.

I think Georgiev still has potential. But he is a project. Francouz is about to win the Stanley Cup. Colorado is in win-now mode. And I think Francouz – if he can stay healthy – has a chance to play more games for Avalanche.

LOS ANGELES KINGS: Jonathan Quick & Cal Petersen

I don’t think last season went as planned in the Kings target. Petersen is expected to replace Quick. But Petersen faltered and Quick started the season in classic form. The two-time Stanley Cup champion finished 46 games with Petersen’s 37.

But for all the accolades Quick brings, and the potential Petersen has shown before, the Kings are in a precarious position. Unless changes have been made during the season, neither Petersen nor Quick possess the necessary techniques to be consistent in today’s NHL.

Both goalkeepers won more than 20 games for the kings last year. But Petersen’s .895 savings rate is worrisome. And so is his contract. The 2022-23 season is the first of a three-year, $5 million annual deal for Petersen.

That’s a huge number for a goalkeeper with only 91 NHL games on his résumé, especially with a career. 908 percent savings. Petersen has to be better this year, or else his contract will be a boat anchor.

When Quick is locked, he can still steal the game. But it’s been a great season for Petersen, and I think the Kings will do everything they can to make him successful. The team’s future in goal hangs in the balance.

SAN JOSE SHARE: James Reimer & Kaapo Kahkonen

Last season was supposed to be reset in the Shark Wrinkle. Reimer was signed to become a stable of veterans, and Adin Hill was brought in via trade from the Arizona Coyotes to become the future goalkeeper in San Jose.

The Sharks have given Hill most of the start of the new year even though Reimer is playing in extreme form. And at the decisive price, San Jose will win. Hill’s inability to claim the No. 1 spot led San Jose to finally acquire Kahkonen by the 2022 NHL deal deadline.

On Monday, Sharks GM Mike Grier slayed the three-headed goalkeeping monster by handing Hill over to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in 2024. Reimer and Kahkonen will become a duo. of San Jose.

I believe the Sharks have the same plan with Kahkonen as they did with Hill: let him play and develop into a No. 1 goalkeeper. Kahkonen is still young at 26. But the Finn has been beaten. defeated in Minnesota by veteran Cam Talbot, which led GM Wild Bill Guerin to consider Kahkonen possibly exterminated.

Without a major overhaul to his game, I’m not sure Kahkonen would have been able to improve his career stats. He plays with an extremely wide stance and has an uncomfortable tendency to get his feet stuck in the ice, which prevents him from turning around effectively. Kahkonen spent a lot of time chasing the match.

But the Baz Bastien Award winner as the AHL’s top goalkeeper in 2020 has incredible reflexes and fitness. He’s a compelling prospect if the Sharks can find a way to streamline his game.

Reimer is the complete opposite: cyborg at times, but very consistent in his routes and mechanics. Reimer doesn’t have great hands, but he rarely feels out of place thanks to his precision skating.

Working with two goalkeepers with different styles will be a challenge for newly hired coach Thomas Speer. If Kahkonen has a solid training camp, look for him for an early start. But the Sharks know they have a reliable goalscorer in Reimer. And the team needs to improve from last season. I think the relationship will be short this year for both San Jose scorers.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS: Laurent Brossoit, Logan Thompson & Adin Hill

Both Brossoi and Thompson featured in last season’s Golden Knights, with Brossoi putting on admirable performances in the first half of the campaign until injury caused his season to be derailed. Thompson stands out for the long haul. And now, with Robin Lehner sidelined for the entire 2022-23 NHL season following season-long hip surgery, Adin Hill has been added in preparation for a goal goal in Vegas.

On paper, the trio looks risky. Brossoit has never been a No 1 goalkeeper in the NHL, and he struggled last season. Thompson had just 20 NHL games under him, but he was already the AHL goalkeeper of the year during the shortened 2020-21 season. And despite clearly showing strong play with the Arizona Coyotes and the Sharks, Hill held on to his spot last season with San Jose.

Thompson experienced a meteoric rise through the professional levels after his WHL career with Brandon Wheat Kings ended in 2018. The Calgary, Alberta-born player has just been dropped from playing college hockey. studied Canada for Brock University for 3 seasons. Over 40 games in ECHL, Thompson dominated. He then repeated his success at the AHL after signing with Vegas ahead of the 2020-21 season.

Last year Thompson enjoyed the NHL action for the first time and responded with a .914 save in 19 games – the best of any Golden Knights netminder. And I think he’s fit to start the majority of games for Vegas this season.

Brossoi has experience. He played 106 NHL games. But his .905 save percentage matches his longtime status as a No. 2 goalkeeper. The British Columbia native has never played more than 24 games in an NHL season.

Not long ago, Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon announced Thompson and Brossoi as the team’s duo for this season. So the transaction for Hill was something of a head-scratcher. Either Brossoi is injured, or Vegas doesn’t believe in him.

As for Hill, the 6-foot-6 netminder has a 0.908 savings on 74 NHL games played. Last season didn’t go as planned in San Jose, where he was arguably the goalkeeper of the future. Hill has good instincts. But his hands – and especially his ability to skate – are questionable.

The X-factor is the new Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy has no loyalty to any goalkeeper. It’s an empty board and the team is in win-now mode. But if I were the Vegas manager, I’d want Thompson to take the top spot. He made less than $800k per season for the next three seasons. It’s worth noting that he’s the only netminder out of the three to get an exemption.

Not every team can get a bargain in the net. But if Thompson can perform at the level he did last season – or better – then the Golden Knights will find tremendous value. I think he will be motivated. But the Golden Knights have options.

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