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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

The inexact science of drafting goalies

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

It is a well-established fact that drafting goalies is difficult. Trying to project how well an 18-year old will be able to handle the most pressure-filled position in the sport in five years time into the future seems almost impossible. This may explain why the recent trend in the NHL, with some high profile exceptions, is to draft goalies later. The days of Rick DiPietro and Marc-Andre Fleury going first overall are long gone. Looking at NHL drafts between 1988 and 1993, you can see some of the cautious approach that is taken today. Below are some fun facts surrounding goalies selected in the six year timeframe mentioned above:

  • An average of 26 goalies were selected each year, or just under 10 per cent of all players drafted. Most drafts are within the average, with the exception of 1993 when 36 goalies were taken. This draft also had four additional teams compared to drafts from the late 1980s with Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Anaheim and Florida.

  • An average of 10.5 goalies from each draft would go on to play in the NHL, with just over 7.5 of those goalies playing 10 games or more in the NHL. Again, all draft years cluster around the average, except for 1989 when only six goalies of the 20 selected would play even a single NHL game.

  • An average of 2.5 goalies per draft were selected in the first two rounds. Out of all those goalies, Olaf Kolzig (19th in 1989), Martin Brodeur (20th in 1990) and Jim Carey (32nd in 1992) would win a Vezina Trophy during their careers.

  • 1990 was arguably the best class, lead by Martin Brodeur, arguably one of the top three goalies of all-time. That draft also boasted Felix Potvin, and solid contributors in Mike Dunham, Roman Turek and Trevor Kidd. 1989 comes close, with Olaf Kolzig, Byron Dafoe and Arturs Irbe.

  • From 1989 to 1991, the Minnesota North Stars took three goalies in each draft. Out of these nine picks, only Arturs Irbe, Roman Turek and Mike Torchia played any NHL games. In 1990 New Jersey not only selected the Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, but also Mike Dunham and Corey Schwab, marking the only team in the time period to draft three future NHL goalies who would play over 100 games in their careers.

  • From 1992 we can't forget the legend of Jim Carey. Selected 32nd overall by Washington, in his rookie season Carey would be named to the all-rookie team, finish second in Calder voting and third in Vezina voting. The following season he won the Vezina and was a first team all-star. Three seasons later he would be out of the NHL for good.

Card 447 - Jamie Leach

A right winger, Leach was drafted 47th overall by Pittsburgh in 1988. The son of Flyers legend Reggie Leach, Jamie scored 45 goals and 107 points during the 1988-89 season with Niagara Falls. The following season he turned pro with Muskegon of the IHL, and played 17 games with the Penguins over the next two seasons, scoring two goals and five points.

1991-92 would prove to be his best NHL season, playing in 32 games, scoring five goals and nine points. Despite not playing during the 1992 playoffs, Leach would get his name inscribed on the Stanley Cup as he played in enough regular season games for the Penguins to qualify for the honour. In November 1992 he was claimed off waivers by Hartford, playing 19 games with the Whalers, scoring three goals and five points.

In 1993-94 Leach played his final two NHL games with Florida, scoring one goal. The next two seasons would be spent in the AHL and ECHL, winning a Calder Cup with Rochester, and spending some time with the Canadian National Team. For the 1996-97 season Leach joined Sheffield in the United Kingdom, where he played for four seasons (three as captain), winning a league title in 1997. He retired following the 2000-01 season.

In five NHL seasons Leach played in 81 games, scoring 11 goals and 20 points. Jamie and his father Reggie are the first Indigenous father-son NHL duo to each win a Stanley Cup, and they work together running hockey camps in Winnipeg.

YouTube clip: during a 1991 IHL game between Muskegon and Indianapolis, Leach scores a goal against future Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek.

Card 448 - Gilbert Dionne

The younger brother of legend Marcel Dionne, Gilbert was drafted 81st overall by Montreal in 1990 after scoring 105 points with Kitchener of the OHL. The left winger turned pro as a 20-year old, scoring 40 goals and 87 points with Fredericton in the AHL while playing in two games with the Habs.

Dionne continued to tear up the AHL to start the 1991-92 season, scoring 46 points in 29 games before being elevated to the Canadiens, scoring 21 goals and 34 points in 39 games. He added seven points in 11 playoff games, and capped the season by being named to the all-rookie team. 1992-93 brought more highs for Dionne, playing in 75 games, scoring 20 goals and 48 points. The Canadiens won their 23rd Stanley Cup in franchise history in 1993, with Dionne contributing six goals and 12 points in the playoffs.

February 1995 saw Dionne’s time in Montreal come to an end following a trade with Eric Desjardins and John LeClair to Philadelphia for Mark Recchi and a draft pick. Dionne played 26 games that season, recording nine assists. He signed with Florida for the 1995-96 season, scoring three points in five games while dominating the AHL by scoring 101 points in 55 games.

Dionne would continue his scoring assault on the minors over the next five seasons, scoring 80+ points in three seasons with Cincinnati in the IHL, earning a first team all-star selection in 1998 and second team selection in 2000. He played his final two pro seasons in Germany between 2001 and 2003, then played three seasons of senior hockey in Cambridge, Ontario.

In six NHL seasons Dionne played in 223 games, scoring 61 goals and 140 points. While Gilbert may not have had the same impact as his brother Marcel in the NHL, the younger Dionne would have his number 21 retired by the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL in 2006. In retirement Dionne has worked in a variety of different fields according to his LinkedIn profile.

YouTube clip: tipping home a goal in Game 3 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals against Los Angeles, his brother team's for 11 seasons.

Card 449 - Trevor Kidd

Drafted 11th overall by Calgary, Kidd was the first goalie selected in the 1990 draft having won CHL Goalie of the Year that season. The next season he won a Memorial Cup, then in 1991-92 join the Canadian National Team where he played in the 1992 World Juniors, Olympics and World Championships. Kidd turned pro after his international experience, playing two games with Flames, winning one.

His first full pro season came with Salt Lake City of the IHL in 1992-93, after which he graduated to Calgary as Mike Vernon’s backup, posting a 13-7-6 record. 1994-95 saw Kidd earn the starter’s role with the Flames, leading the NHL with 43 games played and finishing second in wins with 22 (a career-high). That season he earned all-star and Vezina votes, but the Flames, who won the Pacific Division, would be upset in the Western Conference Quarter-Finals by San Jose in seven games.

The next two seasons with Calgary Kidd posted win totals of 15 and 21. In August 1997 he was traded to Carolina with Gary Roberts for Andrew Cassels and JS Giguere. In his first season with the Hurricanes he posted his third 20+ win season out of the last four, but was relegated to a backup role to Arturs Irbe during the 1998-99 season.

June 1999 saw Kidd selected by Atlanta in the expansion draft and traded the same day to Florida for three players and a draft pick. He won 14 games in 28 appearances in his first season with the Panthers, but missed a significant amount of time due to an injury suffered during the team’s skills competition. He returned later in 2000-01, playing in 42 games, winning 10.

Following a third season in Florida Kidd signed with Toronto in 2002-03, winning six games each over two seasons. He capped his pro career with two seasons in Europe before retiring. In 12 NHL seasons Kidd posted a 140-162-52 record, 2.84 goals against average and .901 save percentage. He currently works as an analyst for TSN radio in Winnipeg.

YouTube clip: Kidd’s career synopsis video from the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 2019.

Card 450 - Tony Amonte

A right winger, Amonte was drafted 68th overall by the New York Rangers out of prep school in his home state of Massachusetts. He graduated to play two seasons of college hockey at Boston University, averaging over a point per game. Amonte made his NHL debut in the 1991 playoffs, recording two assists in two games.

In his first full NHL season he scored 35 goals and 69 points, was named to the all-rookie team and finished tied for second with Nicklas Lidstrom in Calder Trophy voting behind Pavel Bure. Amonte increased his point total to 76 in his sophomore season, but with his production lagging during the 1993-94 season he was traded to Chicago for Brian Noonan and Stephane Matteau.

While the Rangers went on to win their first Stanley Cup in 54 seasons in 1994, Amonte would develop into a top-tier goal scorer with the Blackhawks, scoring 30+ goals in six straight seasons. He scored a career-high 44 in 1998-99 (second in the NHL), followed by 43 the next season (third in the NHL). Amonte also earned 70+ points in four straight seasons, scoring a career-high 84 in 1999-2000. Spending the latter part of his time in Chicago in the Dead Puck Era, the Hawks won only one playoff round during Amonte’s time, which includes three seasons as an assistant captain and two as captain.

After nine seasons in Chicago Amonte signed with Phoenix for the 2002-03 season, playing 59 games and scoring 36 points before he was traded to Philadelphia. In his first season as a Flyer he broke the 20 goal barrier for the 11th time and helped the Flyers to the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals. Philadelphia was defeated by Tampa Bay in seven games, with Amonte scoring three goals and eight points in the playoffs.

Following the 2004-05 lockout season, Amonte signed with Calgary, playing two seasons with the Flames before retiring. In 15 NHL seasons he played in 1174 games, scoring 416 points and 900 points. Amonte played in five straight all-star games (1997 to 2001). From 2010 to 2022 he coached his former high school hockey team, Thayer Academy, leaving to become a pro scout with Florida. Amonte was named to the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.

YouTube clip: scoring the opening goal in the 2002 Olympic Gold medal hockey game. Amonte’s Team USA would be defeated 5-2 by Canada that day.

Card 451 - Pat Murray

A left winger, Murray was drafted 35th overall by Philadelphia in 1988 after his freshman season at Michigan State. He played two more seasons with the Spartans, scoring 24 goals and 84 points in his junior season.

Murray turned pro for the 1990-91 season, playing primarily with Hershey in the AHL while also appearing in 16 games for the Flyers, scoring two goals and three points. The following season would prove to be his final NHL action, playing in nine games, scoring one goal.

Murray spent the 1992-93 season with Hershey in the AHL before splitting time in the IHL and ECHL the next two seasons. In 1995-96 he played second-tier hockey in Germany, scoring 84 points in 39 games. Murray concluded his pro career with two more seasons in Germany and one final season in 1997-98 in Slovenia, winning a league championship.

In two NHL seasons, Murray played in 25 games, scoring three goals and four points.

Card 452 - Stephane Fiset

A goalie, Fiset was drafted 24th overall by Quebec in the 1988 draft. He played two more seasons of junior hockey with Victoriaville, being named CHL Goalie of the Year in 1989 and winning a world junior championship with Canada in 1990 where he was named best goalie and a tournament all-star. During this time Fiset also made his NHL debut, playing in six games with the Nordiques during the 1989-90 season. He turned pro the following season, playing in 36 games with Halifax in the AHL, winning 10.

Fiset earned a regular spot with the Nordiques in 1991-92, playing in 23 games as he split time with veteran Jacques Cloutier and fellow prospect Ron Tugnutt. Following Tugnutt’s trade to Edmonton, Fiset’s playing time increased, posting a 18-9-4 record in 1992-93 and as a starter playing in 50 games the following season, winning 20.

Moving with the franchise to Colorado for the 1995-96 season, Fiset got off to a hot start with the Avalanche, posting a 22-6-7 record and 2.93 goals against average to start the season. Despite these solid statistics, when the Avalanche were given a chance to acquire Patrick Roy, they took it and he took over Fiset’s starting role. Fiset would end up with his name on the Stanley Cup that season, albeit as a back up.

The following season Fiset was traded to Los Angeles with a first round pick for Eric Lacroix. Over the next four seasons with the Kings Fiset played 42 or more games each season, twice winning 20 or more games, including a career-high 26 in 1997-98. A knee injury early in the 2000-01 season precipitated the end of Fiset’s career, as he would play in only seven games that season. In March 2002 he was traded to Montreal where he played three games before retiring after the 2001-02 season.

In 13 NHL seasons Fiset played in 390 games, posting a 164-153-44 record, 3.07 goals against average and .899 save percentage. Since 2016 he has been a goalie coach/assistant coach with Thetford Mines in the QCHL, the Quebec equivalent of elite high school hockey.

YouTube clip: two minutes of the best acrobatic saves throughout Fiset’s career.

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