2023 NHL Draft: 10 goaltenders you need to know

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The goalie draft can be an absolute dice game.

Scouts’ views on goaltending vary more than any other position, and it’s the group with the smallest player base to choose from. You’re often dealing with goalkeepers who have to split playing time with older opponents – or, in some cases, against each other. And then you see the volatility of the NHL goalie market year after year and you’re just confused.

This is why it is always difficult to spot the guards. We’ve seen some elite talent over the past few years leave early – Spencer Knight, Jesper Wallstedt and Yaroslav Askarov come to mind – but those are rarities. We could see some goaltenders challenge late first-round picks this year, like Michael Hrabal, Carson Bjarnason or Adam Gajan, but that depends on a team’s positioning needs down the road.

Here’s a look at 10 of the best goaltenders available for the 2023 NHL Draft right now, which includes a handful of passes:

Michael Hrabal, Omaha (USHL)

Sometimes you have to look beyond the statistics. Hrabal’s numbers with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers are nothing special, but scouts love his raw potential. He’s 6-foot-6, faces a significant number of shots a night, tracks the puck well, has good athleticism and covers the low net well. One of the biggest knocks, style-wise, is how he can be caught falling too soon, but he’s a towering figure that’s hard to beat on any given night.

Carson Bjarnason, Brandon (WHL)

It’s sometimes hard to judge CHL goaltenders because the stats can look downright awful — and having Connor Bedard and Zach Benson in the same division, among others, doesn’t help. But Bjarnason carried the burden of a bad Wheat Kings team, making him the highest-ranked North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting. Bjarnason has what teams are looking for: good size, quick reflexes and the ability not to get jerked around after a goal. Some scouts believe he has real No. 1 potential.

Adam Gajan, Green Bay (USHL)

Scouts I spoke to at the World Junior Championship fell in love with Gajan, who many thought was a diamond in the rough. Gajan was not drafted from the Slovak league last year, but made some noise in the NAHL and USHL before joining Slovakia as the team’s third goaltender to start. Before too long, he was the No. 1, giving adjustments to teams like Canada and the United States. Gajan doesn’t have a major sample size, which probably knocks him back a bit, but he does have a great size, great athleticism, and seems to improve with more viewings.

Trey Augustin, USNTDP

USNTDP goaltenders typically get lost in the shuffling with the amount of high-quality talent in other positions. But Augustine was the only current player in the program to represent the United States at the World Junior Championship. He landed the starter role as the tournament’s youngest No. 1 and played quite well, leading the United States to bronze. Although not tall, Augustine relies on his individual movements in the crease to compensate. They’re fast and focused, and he always has his eyes on the puck. In my opinion, the Michigan State University commit has a bright future and is one of the highest-ceilinged goalie prospects.

Jacob Fowler, Youngstown (USHL)

It’s been a good few months for Fowler, who led the United States to gold at the World Junior A Challenge and was named USHL Goaltender of the Week three times. The 6-foot-2 goaltender has been excellent with Youngstown, leading the league with a .914 save percentage and four shutouts. Fowler tracks the puck well and has good athleticism and when he gets tagged it’s rarely because he’s out of position. He plays like a much taller goalkeeper, with strong shoulders and fluid movements that allow him to cover high shots quickly.

Scott Ratzlaff, Seattle (WHL)

Ratzlaff seems to be playing his best hockey when everyone is watching. Ratzlaff made 24 saves on 25 shots against Connor Bedard & Co. in the CHL Top Prospects Game and went 4-0-0 with two shutouts and an incredible .976 save percentage en route to the gold at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Canada. Scouts notice big game performances like this, even though he didn’t have the toughest competition at the Hlinka. In the league, Ratzlaff has had good numbers with Seattle, so it’s not like he needs a lift. He’s not a great goalkeeper, but he has great rebound control, does a good job of sifting through traffic, and is also very athletic.

Tomas Suchanek, Tri-City (WHL)

Having been passed twice before, Suchanek is unlikely to be passed again. Since the 2022 draft, he’s played for Buffalo’s prospect team, saved the Czech Republic’s Junior World Championship summer tournament and given them a huge victory over the United States, then won the best goalkeeper of the 2023 edition after leading his country to silver. Add to that a decent run with Tri-City and his resume looks impressive at 19. It’s not uncommon for goalkeepers to be over-aged, especially when COVID-19 has impacted key elements of a player’s development time. There is decent potential here.

Adam Dybal, Karlovy Vary (Czechia, U-20)

Dybal has posted ridiculous numbers in the Czech U-20 league, registering six shutouts and a .941 save percentage in 33 games. He is the fourth-ranked goaltender in Europe ranked by NHL Central Scouting. Dybal’s dominance saw him rise through the ranks, and he even featured in a second-tier Czech league game and U-18 national team action. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to tougher competition at other levels, and he’s on the smaller size at six feet. But, clearly, the talent is there.

Thomas Milic, Seattle (WHL)

It’s not easy sharing the net with Ratzlaff, but Milic has already turned enough heads this season. The Canadian World Junior Championship star is 20-3-1 in the WHL and WJC this season and is 5-0 in starts since returning to the Thunderbirds. The biggest knock against Milic is his six-foot frame, but he’s fast, athletic and never gives up a scoring chance. There’s enough raw talent to turn it into something tangible at the next level.

Alexandre Hellnemo, Skeleftea (SHL)

Hellnemo is another comeback and one with some professional experience already. The top-ranked European goaltender at NHL Central Scouting wasn’t highly rated on many public charts, but he’s got a solid 6-foot-2 frame and is pretty athletic, to boot. He had impressive outings in the SHL and was one of the best goalkeepers in the Swedish U-20 league. I don’t know how many NHL teams share the same opinions as Central Scouting about his game, but it will be interesting to see if his improved game as a Draft+1 prospect makes a big difference.

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