Tallahassee Journal

NHL draft 2015: Ilya Samsonov, Matej Tomek top goaltender class

NHL draft 2015: Ilya Samsonov, Matej Tomek top goaltender class

As per usual, things are much less settled as far as a pecking order among goaltenders than at either the forward or defense positions. Netminders are just such a volatile commodity, particularly at such a young age, that it’s almost impossible to predict who will mature into the best netminder five or six years down the road. And make no mistake – that’s pretty much the normal incubation time for goalies drafted at age 18 to begin making a mark at the NHL level. Look across the 30-team NHL landscape and count how many netminders age 22-and-under there are in the league; it’s a very short list.USP NHL: NEW YORK ISLANDERS AT TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS S HKN CAN ON

That being said, at Red Line we do see at least two premium talents who might rate as first rounders come Draft Day. The top end of this year’s goaltending crop is interesting in that we grade both Ilya Samsonov and Matej Tomek as first-round values, but wouldn’t confidently place any bets that either will actually be selected in the first round for a variety of reasons.

In the case of Tomek, he has looked dominant for much of the year in Topeka, but we’ve heard scouts from a number of NHL clubs express reservations about the quality of shooters he was facing nightly in the NAHL. He’s got the agility and balance of a cat in a flexible 6-3 frame, and we love his quiet play around the crease with very little wasted movement. He’s also a very hard worker who is dedicated to his craft with great focus both on and off the ice. His calm demeanor and strong fundamentals also stamp him as a safe bet – as much as any goalie can be.

Samsonov has imposing size and is really tough mentally – a competitive battler who never gives up on a play. He could legitimately end up being one of the top 10 difference makers in the entire 2015 draft class. He’s exceptionally athletic and positionally sound, and his long legs and quick footwork make him near impossible to beat down low. Most impressive is the great push he gets off either skate, and he is able to slide cross-crease fully under control and stay squared up to shooters at all times. The only concern that may knock him down a bit is the question of how long his drafting team will have to wait to see him in North America.

The clear No. 3 netminder is Mackenzie Blackwood, and he fits the modern prototype of a huge, athletic goalie who covers a lot of net naturally with his large frame. Blackwood is not as flexible or fluid in his movements as the top two on this list, but he understands angles and positioning and takes an aggressive approach, coming out to challenge shooters and giving them very little space to look at. Rebound control is also a strength.