Being a goalie prospect with Carey Price entrenched in Montreal probably feels like trying to make headway in New Jersey during Martin Brodeur’s lengthy run (or doing the same with the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist now).
Canadiens prospect Zachary Fucale seems OK with the idea of being patient, at least according to what he told NHL.com on Thursday.
“My goal, my dream, my vision is to play in the NHL,” Fucale said. “That’s where I want to play. Every time I get to be in an NHL camp, that’s a chance to be up there. So my goal is to play in the NHL, whether I’m 18 or 30. That’s what I want to accomplish, I want to prove to the Montreal Canadiens that I can play.”
(Does anyone else picture “13 Going on 30” Photoshop scenarios after reading that quote? No? Fair enough …)
It’s an interesting scenario for Fucale, who turned 20 in May.
While Price definitely stands as a barricade to his goal of being the top guy – backup duty wouldn’t be as tough to come by – it’s clear the Canadiens organization will eventually give him a chance to prove himself.
Montreal selected Fucale with a second-round pick (36th overall) in 2013, so it’s not like Fucale is some obscure prospect.
One most easily imagines him making an impression as a backup before perhaps being traded somewhere to get a starting gig, but the young netminder is right in pointing out that things can change pretty quickly at the goalie position in the NHL.
Indeed, Price could probably relate to Fucale’s situation, as Jose Theodore was the guy in net when he was drafted back in 2005.
Ultimately, it’s wise for Fucale to take the “step by step” approach right now. Then again, does he really have a choice?
Carey Price dominated the NHL last season, winning the Hart and Ted Lindsay Trophies in addition to the Vezina, so it seems only fitting that his virtual counterpart would be exactly effective.
Price will be the top goaltender in the upcoming video game NHL 16 with a 94 overall rating, per EA Sports’ release. That’s allowed him to leapfrog Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick, who led all netminders in last year’s ratings. Price’s rise didn’t push either of them down though as he went from a 92 to 94 while Lundqvist and Quick have once again been listed as a 93 going into the season.
Rounding out this year’s top five is Boston’s Tuukka Rask (92) and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (92). Rask received the same rating last summer, but Rinne is up from his previous mark of 91.
Braden Holtby (91), Sergei Bobrovsky (90), and Cory Schneider (90) are the remaining goaltenders with a rating above 90. That’s a new position for both Holtby and Schneider, although Bobrovsky simply maintained his rating from the year prior.
Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov remained level too with an 89 rating that was good enough for ninth place this season. After a strong showing in his first full campaign as the Anaheim Ducks’ starting goaltender, Frederik Andersen (89) was selected to round out the top 10.
NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe.
While the Columbus Blue Jackets have become a stronger team offensively thanks to the rise of Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen as well as the recent acquisition of Brandon Saad, there’s no question that they still need a dominant season out of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The problem is that might not happen.
Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy in 2013 by posting a 2.00 GAA and .932 save percentage in the lockout shortened campaign. In the process, he nearly propelled Columbus into the playoffs. He wasn’t quite as strong in his follow up campaign, but his 2.38 GAA and .923 save percentage were nevertheless impressive as well as good enough to push the improved Blue Jackets into the postseason for just the second time in franchise history.
It seemed like Columbus had found a goaltender that it could rely upon not just to be solid, but play at an elite level. The Blue Jackets’ belief in that was highlighted in January when they signed him to a four-year, $29.7 million deal that will begin this season.
Bobrovsky didn’t play at that level last season though. He suffered a groin injury that cost him part of the season, but even when he was healthy he was inconsistent. Although a late surge partially salvaged his numbers, he did still finish with a 2.69 GAA and .918 to make it the second straight season he declined from a statistical perspective.
There were certainly still positives to be found, but Columbus needs Bobrovsky to be more than a mixed bag. After all, he’ll enter this season with the second highest cap hit in the league among goaltenders, behind only Henrik Lundqvist, so it seems reasonable to describe anything other than a top-tier season as a disappointment. More to the point, anything short of that might not be enough to get Columbus back into the playoffs.
To that end though, the Blue Jackets believe they’ve dealt with the issue by modifying his summer conditioning program and have a strategy in place for how they will continue to handle his conditioning during the season.
“We all know how hard a worker he is,” Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark told NHL.com. “Some of that was he was working so hard he was exhausted.”
So we’ll see if that’s the magic bullet needed for a comeback performance.
If you’re fascinated by athletes chasing big numbers in contract years, then the New York Rangers have been a go-to source of entertainment in recent years.
It’s difficult (if not nebulous) to try to quantify the impact of “greed is good,” but the Rangers are a hungry team with plenty of motivation in 2015-16. That’s what happens when you mortgage bits of your future via trades and employ some players chasing their next checks.
You never really know how wide open a Stanley Cup window might be.
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault saw that in action in Vancouver, as the franchise declined from a huge contender to a bubble team in little time.
We’ve asked more than once if Henrik Lundqist’s elite days are numbered. It’s also worth noting that at 31, Rick Nash is in the middle of that age in which snipers see a slide in production.
The contract year situations aren’t of “uh oh, we better re-sign Henrik Lundqvist/our current captain/Derek Stepan” enormity, but they’re still intriguing.
On defense, you have veteran Keith Yandle and fading graybeard (literally) Dan Boyle. Antti Raanta also enters a pivotal year as an NHL backup.
The forward group might be the most intriguing.
Just look at the pending RFAs alone: Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T Miller and Emerson Etem. There’s some fascinating potential for all four of those players.
Even with Boyle’s $4.5 million cap hit set to expire, salary cap gymnastic may be required once again in the summer of 2016.
Paying players after strong years – and learning to let some of the less essential ones go – has been a pretty rewarding process for the Rangers, even if there’s been the occasional miss (see: Anton Stralman).
Martin St. Louis’ final NHL season is a jarring testament to how quickly someone’s window can close in sports.
After years of being an underrated point producer and consistently defying age, it almost felt like a switch flipped for St. Louis; he looked very much like a 40-year-old during the final stretch of his career.
The New York Rangers need to do whatever they can to avoid a parallel fate.
Granted, the Rangers aren’t rife with older players. Aside from Dan Boyle (who’s 39), the Rangers are well-stocked with prime-age players. Life is pretty good when you’re worried if your 33-year-old superstar goalie can remain the star that Henrik Lundqvist is.
Still, there’s a risk that they could decline. Despite winning a Presidents’ Trophy with two teams this decade, head coach Alain Vigneault can be a little polarizing.
On top of that, there is the possibility that Lundqvist may finally hit a wall. That’s a scary thought for a team that still depends heavily upon their goalie.
Heck, the Rangers may also miss St. Louis, after all.
One would expect to see the Rangers as at least a playoff pick for most prognosticators, but what do you expect from a team still shooting for a Cup?