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Daniel Altshuller on the rise with Oshawa

For a goalie scout, there are many different advantages to analyzing a game’s worth of HD video that you simply can’t get when scouting a game live. From multiple wide and tight camera angles to slow-mo replay features, these tools provide essential perspectives and insights you simply can’t get in person.

So thanks to the NHL Network, last Friday night was my first chance to break down video of Carolina Hurricanes prospect Daniel Altshuller. He was up against a strong foe in the Guelph Storm, a team that currently sits third in the Western Conference and is scoring an average of more than 4.25 goals per game.

A third-round draft pick (69th overall) in this year’s NHL Draft, Altshuller has established himself as one of the top OHL goalies in the first quarter of the season. Not only has he logged more minutes than any other goalie, but he entered the game against Guelph after pitching his first shutout of the season, a 29-save effort over Peterborough.

After breaking down his performance against Guelph, I came away fairly impressed with many aspects of his game.

Most notable was the fact that Daniel was extremely patient in the butterfly and very composed when he was in the down position. There was absolutely no panic in his game, which is a vital trait for a goalie to have if he wants to develop into a legitimate long-term starter at the pro ranks.

Even when a terrible bounce off the end boards hit his left shoulder and dropped into the net in the third period, he battled through it with a number of timely, poised saves, giving Oshawa a chance to fight back in the game.

“One of Daniel's most consistent qualities on the ice is his ability to remain calm in all types of situations,” said Oshawa goalie coach Michael Lawrence. “Nothing gets to him during the course of a game, or even over the course of a season. As a result, his bounce back factor is very high.”

Sure enough, so far this season, that bounce-back factor is clearly evident in the stats. Through his first 17 appearances (as of Nov. 5), Daniel has yet to lose two games in a row. More impressive is the fact that after each loss, he rebounded with a quality win, posting save percentages of .957, .914, .963, .906, and .935 respectively.

Another aspect of Daniel’s game that impressed me was his overall body control. Not only do lanky and bigger goalies need to work harder to seal holes and control their slides and lateral pushes, but the six and seven holes (between their arms and sides) can be problematic as well. But Daniel displayed an ability to get very compact when trying to absorb shots in the low stomach and hip area, and he did a great job of keeping his arms tight to his body.

Although it was just one game, he doesn’t seem like the kind of goalie that lets many pucks slip through or under him.

Overall, Daniel revealed to me that he’s generally very aware of what his body is doing in situations where he has to adjust or contort very quickly or suddenly, a sign he has sharp biomechanics for a guy that has clearly been growing and bulking up over the past 2-3 years.

Another interesting trait about his game was his overall frame and profile in the net. While most goalies try to take every advantage possible to wear the biggest pads possible, Daniel doesn’t appear to over-compensate in that area. His pads fit as they should, and I believe this actually improves his movements in the crease, making him a little more efficient and controlled with his slides and recoveries. Since he already has a naturally optimal frame, he moves really well, and his gear moves really well with him.

When he was forced to stay down in the butterfly due to the puck’s proximity, or due to potential scoring threats down low, he maintained a real good seal with the ice, and he relied on his composure and calmness to stay in control. This lack of panic or tension in his low game, especially in scramble situations or on bang-bang plays, was one of his most positive traits, and something that I feel will key his success as he continues to develop into a pro-level goaltender.

“Technically, Daniel is able to control pucks off of his frame and on low shots along the ice by activating his stick. When we talk about frame, we talk about his body position and how he uses his hands,” Lawrence explained. “He's a big, strong athlete who moves very well in the crease. He reads the play in front of him very well and adjusts himself so that he's not only ready to make the first save, but secondary chances as well.”

As the game continued and I broke down more video, it was easy to tell that Altshuller is very well-coached. When pucks were below his goal line and moving behind the net, when he slid post to post, his boot was always on the inside of the post, a sign he receives quality technical instruction from Lawrence in a crucial area of the game.

Overall, Daniel’s demeanor is very calm, and that’s the sign of a goalie who is controlled, relaxed, and comfortable playing in a variety of situations. Whether he’s dealing with bodies crashing the net, odd-man rushes, or a few minutes of frenzied and unsettled action deep in his zone, he impressed me by maintaining that relaxed state of mind.

“There were certain adjustments that Daniel had to make in order to take the next step in his hockey career. Daniel is the smartest goaltender that I have worked with and he was able to improve his game almost instantly,” Lawrence said. “It's no secret that in order to play in the National Hockey League players must be intelligent and adaptable. Daniel is well on his way in development in these areas.”