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Selecting Team Canada’s Top Four Goalies

After watching all six games of the Subway Super Series, I took some time this weekend to put myself in Ron Tugnutt’s and Kevin Prendergrast’s scouting shoes, and selected four goalies to attend Team Canada’s tryouts for the 2012 World Junior Championships.

Below are my selections, along with some scouting notes and insights on why I think they fit the bill for Team Canada. I also discussed the goalies below on The Pipeline Show last weekend, which you can listen to by clicking here.

Malcolm Subban: I think the starting job is clearly Subban’s to lose, and rightfully so. Only in his fifth year as a goaltender, the 18-year-old’s athletic blueprint is extremely impressive. His sheer speed, flexibility, and puck-stopping instincts were consistently on display in his 30 minutes of action in Game 3 of the Subway Super Series, just as it has been all season long in Belleville.

Malcolm’s natural traits like vision, balance, and eye-hand coordination proves he’s a gifted athlete, but he still has the solid technical base to lead Team Canada in the World Juniors. That was likely the main reason Boston drafted him in the first round last summer.

I also really like Subban’s glove hand positioning. It’s out in front of his body, but with the elbow tucked in and activated. If he sees it cleanly, he’s catching it, and that’s an important skill for a goalie to have in today’s game.

Subban tracks pucks well and seals the ice down low with strength and stability, and his wide stance allows him to build a wide butterfly wall on low shots, while still utilizing his reflexes to stop deflections or pounce on loose pucks. With great net coverage at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he also has plenty of swagger in his game, so I think he’ll embrace the pressure of leading Canada at the World Juniors.

Laurent Brossoit: The 19-year-old workhorse for the Oil Kings brings a solid combination of size and athleticism to the crease. His shutout in the 1-0 shootout win over Russia in Game 5 was considered (along with Andrey Makarov’s shutout) the most impressive performance in the tournament.

Brossoit deserves a spot because he brings a mature and composed mindset to the crease, and he’s starting to get hot at just the right time. Heading into the Subway Super Series, he was 3-1-0 with only seven goals allowed on 123 shots (.943 SV%).

What I like so much about his game is the decision-making and the adaptability. If he needs to fill space and rely on blocking pucks to make saves, he can do it. If he needs to rely on flexibility and make a timely reaction save, he can do it. He has good patience on his edges and knows how to stand up to make a save.

Brossoit also has a strong core and a lanky frame, so he can extend a foot while in the down position to take away space at the last moment. He can also make the crowd-pleasing reflex glove save by snaring pucks out of the air, and he can stay square to shooters by gaining depth in the crease, making himself bigger, and relying on that lanky frame to eliminate space in the upper and lower corners.

Laurent wasn’t very controlled or consistent in Game 6 against Russia, but his overall skill-set has him likely slated for not only a camp invite, but a potential spot as Subban’s backup.

Jordan Binnington: The cool, calm, and collected workhorse for the Owen Sound Attack is having a stellar season so far. In fact, he was just voted as the OHL’s Player of the Week after going 2-1-0 with two shutouts and a .956 save percentage. He’ll have his detractors since he allowed two goals in a botched 2-1 loss in Game 3, but he bounced back with a solid outing in Game 4.

The main thing to take away from Binnington is that he’s a smooth operator in goal. He’s a solid positional goalie that relies on his size to let pucks hit him, but he has good hands and instincts as well. When it comes to selecting goalies for a tournament like the World Juniors, the poise and even-keeled demeanor he brings goes a long way, and that’s why I feel he deserves a camp invite.

Zach Fucale: The toughest decision in my book was selecting the fourth goalie to attend camp. I narrowed it down to the two 1995-born goalies in Fucale and Eric Comrie, as both are clearly at the head of their class. In the end, I sided with Fucale, and here’s why.

In his 30 minutes of action against Team Russia, the only goal he allowed was on a shorthanded rush where a shot went off Nail Yakupov’s body and under the blocker. It was a tough and tricky goal to allow at the time, but Zach’s demeanor and body language didn’t change at all. He remained even-keeled in all areas, from rebound control to his ability to square up and seal holes.

That is one of Fucale’s shining traits – he seems to absorb everything, regardless of the situation. The more shots he absorbs, the more he controls the pace and the flow of the game, and the more it helps Team Canada dictate the game’s momentum.

Secondly, the 80 games he played last season allowed him to gain wisdom from experience that Comrie hasn’t yet gained. Fucale won a Gold Medal in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament over the summer, a tournament that was played on the Olympic-sized ice. To me, that’s an advantage worth noting, because it breeds a level of familiarity that can benefit Team Canada. Comrie was Fucale’s backup for that tournament, so while he did get some experience on the Olympic ice, it’s not as significant as Fucale’s performance in the event.

On the flip side, there are certainly plenty of good reasons why Comrie deserves to earn an invite to Team Canada’s training camp as well. Both goalies are exceptional for their age, and they will continue to be touted as the top goalies available in this summer’s draft.

But for the sake of this report, knowing I had to choose just four goalies for the World Juniors, I sided with Fucale.