2023 NHL Draft: Top 15 goaltenders to watch


Goaltending will always be the biggest wild-card position in hockey.

That’s especially true in the draft. It can be so hard to evaluate them for many reasons. Some are still growing. Others have to share the net. Some might not have great competition, while others might be getting lit up with a brutal lineup in front of them.

And we all know goalie evaluations don’t get easier once they make the big leagues.

There’s no true No. 1 starting goalie this year, but a couple could become first-rounders. Michael Hrabal and Trey Augustine are two of the best options, while some think Adam Gajan or Carson Bjarnason could jump him up there. There’s a better bet a few will land in the second round, but it seems up in the air.

We’re less than a month away until the NHL Draft, with almost all prospects done for the season. Here’s a look at 15 of the best goaltenders available later this month:

Michael Hrabal, Omaha (USHL)

Hrabal’s base stats might not look special, but make no mistake: Hrabal is the best goaltender on the market. At 6-foot-6 with incredible athleticism, Hrabal has the perfect size for the NHL, and his ability to carry the load even when his team gets outshot is quite something. He’s coming off of a difficult end to the U-18 World Championship but still stood out with 48 saves against the eventual champions from the United States. It was his best game of the year before the final 10 minutes, but it also capped off a season that saw him routinely give Omaha a chance every night. Hrabal originally told Daily Faceoff he was going to return back to Omaha, but it looks like he’s headed to the University of Massachusetts for the 2023-24 NCAA season. He should be the starter, and the competition will be fierce.

Trey Augustine, USNTDP

You could call Augustine’s season decent: he boasted a 30-1-2 record, a .926 save percentage, bronze at the world juniors and capped it off with a gold medal at the U-18 World Championship. The young goaltender just never seemed fazed, no matter the competition. That includes the world juniors, and despite a brutal, high-scoring final game killing his stats, he had some standout performances against Switzerland and Finland despite being the youngest starting goalie in the tournament. The Michigan State University goaltending prospect isn’t huge by any means at 6-foot-1, but it doesn’t seem to affect him negatively. He’s mobile, great at tracking the puck and has a great glove hand. There’s starter potential here, for sure.

Carson Bjarnason, Brandon (WHL)

There aren’t many Canadian-born goaltending prospects to watch this year, but Bjarnason is definitely one that made noise. You have to take WHL goaltending stats with a grain of salt because the games are typically high-scoring, but Bjarnason was rarely the reason why the Wheat Kings lost. A terrible first game against Sweden and an injury-shortened effort in the medal round really hurt Bjarnason’s numbers at the U-18 World Championship. Still, he had some good showings to get Canada into a medal position. Some scouts think he’s the best goaltender on the market, while others are more bullish. Either way, he has the tools and traits you seek from a young goaltending prospect.

Jacob Fowler, Youngstown (USHL)

Take your pick: World Junior A Challenge champion. USHL goaltender of the year. USHL Clark Cup champion and MVP. It was an incredible season for Fowler with Youngstown, helping to improve his draft standing all year long. The statistical contrast between him and backup Colin Winn was quite staggering, with Fowler taking it to the rest of the league. Fowler is rarely caught out of position, tracks the puck well and has great rebound control. Just from a pure, raw skill perspective, Fowler looks like someone with a bright future.

Adam Gajan, Chippewa (NAHL)

The world junior darling for Slovakia a few months ago, Gajan arrived on the scene in a big way. He started the tournament as the third-stringer but then helped Slovakia get within a goal of advancing to the final four over a Connor Bedard-led Team Canada. That tournament put him on the map, but he kept things rolling with good runs with the USHL’s Green bay Gamblers and the NAHL’s Chippewa Steel. Gajan, a University of Minnesota-Duluth commit, is one some scouts think could be taken at the end of the first round by a team willing to take a big swing. It has to be quite a significant one, but with 6-foot-3 frame and other translatable skills in his game, there’s a chance Gajan can be a high-reward prospect.

Thomas Milic, Seattle (WHL)

It’s been one heck of a season for the 20-year-old. He led Canada to gold at the World Junior Championship with a perfect 5-0-0 record with a .932 save percentage, including some huge performances in the medal round against Slovakia, USA, and Czechia. He then finished off by helping Seattle win the WHL title, earning playoff MVP honors and taking home the league’s top goalie trophy. You expect huge performances from a 20-year-old, but with just six losses between the regular season and playoffs, Milic truly deserved all the praise he received. One of the biggest knocks against Milic is his small six-foot frame, but from an athleticism and competitiveness angle, there’s no reason for him to go unselected this time around. The raw potential is there, and Dustin Wolf has shown it might be worth throwing a bone to a smaller goalie.

Scott Ratzlaff, Seattle (WHL)

Ratzlaff knows the difficulties of sharing a net in a draft year, and Milic was simply lights out. But Ratzlaff still had a .918 save percentage and five shutouts, making him a top talent in his own right. Canada’s star goaltender at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer, Ratzlaff was lights out at the CHL Top Prospects Game, adding to a belief that he shows up in big games. Ratzlaff stands at 6-foot-2, so he has good size, but he also has excellent rebound control, does a good job of sifting through traffic and is quite athletic.

Tomas Suchanek, Tri-City (WHL)

What a whirlwind year it’s been. Suchanek took the starting role over at the summer WJC, and while his stats weren’t pretty, he was easily one of the team’s most important players. He then joined the Buffalo Sabres for development camp, turning some heads, before embarking on a fantastic campaign with the Americans. Suchanek had the best stats at the 2023 World Junior Championship, bringing the Czechs within one goal of the gold. He was a workhorse with Tri-City, facing 40 or more shots in regulation 10 times. His best was a 48-save victory in an 8-2 win just a few weeks after returning home from the WJC. The harder the challenge, the better Suchanek plays.

Juha Jatkola, Kalpa (Liiga)

After helping the Finns to the gold medal game of the 2022 world juniors, only to fall short, Jatkola meant business. He was KalPa’s starter in his first year in the top Finnish league, posting a 20-11-8 record with five shutouts, good for second behind Ottawa Senators prospect Leevi Meriläinen (eight) for the most among U-21 goalies. Jatkola was good in the Liiga playoffs, even earning a shutout in a game against the Pelicans, but the team ultimately fell short. The second-ranked European-based goaltender by the NHL’s Central Scouting, Jatkola has another year left on his Liiga deal, where he’ll likely be the No. 1 goalie again. Given he’ll be 21 by then, and set for another year of pro hockey, he’s already farther along the development process than most other goalies.

Alexander Hellnemo, Skeleftea (SHL)

Hellnemo is another re-entry and one with some pro experience already. The top-ranked European goalie on NHL Central Scouting wasn’t viewed highly on many public charts, but he has a solid 6-foot-2 frame and is quite athletic. He has had some impressive outings in the SHL and has been one of the better goalies in the Swedish U-20 league. I’m not sure how many NHL teams share the same opinions as Central Scouting about his play, but it’ll be interesting to see if his improved play as a Draft+1 prospect makes a big difference.

Carsen Musser, USNTDP

Sharing the crease with Trey Augustine couldn’t have been easy, but it was still a good year for Musser. The Colorado College commit had a 14-6-1 record with the USNTDP this year, with a .947 save percentage in two starts at the U-18 World Championship. His season-long stats starkly contrast Augustine’s, but the matchups weren’t always favorable. Musser has a big 6-foot-4 frame, and teams love that.

Ian Blomquist, Vasteras (Allsvenskan)

Projected to challenge for Sweden’s starter at home at the 2024 World Junior Championship, Blomquist’s season was considerable because he spent most of it playing against pro. The 20-year-old overager played on a poor Vasteras team and was one of just two goaltenders to play at least five games in Allsvenskan. The other was Vegas prospect Carl Lindbom with Djurgardens, who was in his own world. But of Blomquist’s four wins, he still managed to snag a shutout through it all. In fact, between international play, his U-20 league action and his time in Allsvenskan, Blomquist was 4-1-4 when facing 35+ shots a game, earning him valuable poitns for his team. That doesn’t go unnoticed.

Damian Clara, Farjestad (Sweden U-20)

Clara is one of the most intriguing names, given there has never been an Italian-born goaltender drafted to the NHL. The 6-foot-6 goaltender won his first men’s national team game earlier this season and was a third goalie at the 2021 World Championship at 16 years old. He’s the future of Italian goaltending, and right now, he’s put up some strong performances in the Swedish U-20 league and even got some HockeyAllsvenskan action in, too. Clara uses his size to his advantage, and scouts think teams will take a chance on him for his size alone. Plus, goaltenders from smaller hockey countries typically spend their whole career trying to scratch and claw their way onto pro team’s radars. He’s used to facing a ton of shots, which helps.

Samuel Urban, Sioux City (USHL)

Did Urban heat up at the right time? While his final stats are pretty average, his play at the U-18 World Championship – especially his 54-save effort against Finland – was a big reason why the Slovaks were so close to winning the bronze. He was a runner-up for the top goaltender award in a year that didn’t have a ton going for him. He had just two wins in 17 games with Slovakia’s U-18 league team, but had a decent .918 save percentage in four USHL games. He’s not huge at 6-foot-1, but is very athletic and proved he can handle heavy shot-loads in pressure situations. Will it be enough for him to get drafted? Who knows, but scouts liked his play in Switzerland.

Noa Vali, TPS (Finland U-20)

One of the smaller goalies on the list at 6-foot-0, Vali is set to challenge for full-time duty in the top Finnish league next year. He briefly had a taste of pro hockey with TPS in a seven-save relief effort in October. Vali was excellent in the U-20 league and played maybe his best game against the USNTDP in February, a 31-save win. He’s set to play with TPS’ big club next year, which is great to see, but will scouts be wary of his 6-foot-0 frame? He’s quite skilled, but size typically matters here.

Other notables: Adam Dybal, Karlovy Vary (Czechia U-20), Jan Spunar, Portland (WHL), Stephen Peck, Avon Old Farms (High School), Zachary Bowen, London (OHL), Lukas Matecha, Pardubice (Czechia U-20)


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