Toronto Maple Leafs: State of the Crease Part 2 The Pipeline


In Part 1 of “State of the Crease”, there was an overview of the current NHL options in net for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In Part 2, the focus is on what the Leafs have in the pipeline and some of their options for augmenting those options through the draft.

Of the current netminder prospects (outside of Garret Sparks), Antoine Bibeau is the name that stands out as having the most upside. Coming into this season, many viewed him as being ahead of Sparks in the future pecking order and in potential.

Unfortunately for Bibeau, this season has not been very strong to date. His current save percentage with the Toronto Marlies is 0.891 with a 3.11 GAA. These numbers are up from his 0.913 save percentage with a 2.69 GAA the previous season with the Marlies (per HockeyDB).

While the numbers would seem to indicate a regression, the consensus is that the Toronto Maple Leafs are still high on his potential. The numbers may be attributed to a slump that was prolonged by lack of consistent playing time.

The Maple Leafs have shuffled Bibeau between the NHL and AHL a couple times this season. During his stints in the NHL he has yet to see game action. This could be making it difficult for Bibeau to find consistency in his game. A string of starts for the Marlies should help him find his groove and improve his numbers.

Outside of Bibeau and Garret Sparks, there are no other netminders of note in the system that project as a potential NHL starter or even a backup. This is where the Maple Leafs need to use the draft to create some other options moving forward. Even if Bibeau or Sparks make the claim to the Toronto net or become a solid NHL tandem, depth in the net is a must.

Looking forward to the 2016 NHL draft, there are no definite 1st round goalies currently projected by the draft services. Even if there was, it is not in the Leafs best interest to pick a goalie in the first round.

In most cases, a goalie takes more time to develop into an NHL level player than a skater. With that in mind, the focus of drafting some goalie depth should be in the middle rounds. Currently the Leafs have multiple picks in every round except the 4th (1st round is depending on where the Penguins finish), allowing the Leafs to take a shot at a goalie or two.

Despite the multiple goalies that are draft eligible and could receive consideration, the following are a few that may be worth keeping an eye on.

If the Maple Leafs look to take a goalie early in the draft, Carter Hart of the WHL’s Everett Silvertips and Filip Gustavsson of Lulea HF in the SHL have been the two names mentioned the most as goalies to come off the board early. Use of a second round pick would be required to nab either of these young netminders, but with the difference between these two and the rest of the pack being minimal, use of a third – fifth round selection may be a better option.

Jack Lafontaine has opened eyes this year with his play for the Janesville Jets. The Mississauga, Ontario native has good size and athleticism. His game has continued to grow and scouts like his calm play between the pipes and the way he stays square to the shooter.

Positioning has been where Lafontaine has made great strides over the past year. He has been growing from a reactionary goalie who made highlight reel saves into a more stable, efficient netminder. He can still pull off the great saves, but is learning to be more positionally sound to make life easier on himself.

Prior to the season, a later round pick would have been sufficient to obtain the local boy, but his stellar play this season has seen him move up the draft boards. A third round pick should be able to get him, but if he continues to impress in Janesville, then the University of Michigan recruit could make his way up into the second round.

Evan Cormier of the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL is another goalie who projects in the middle rounds of the draft. Cormier like Lafontaine, has good size. He shows good poise and efficient movement when going post to post.

In his first season with Saginaw, Cormier impressed while playing on one of the OHL’s youngest teams. He was the lone bright spot in last spring’s playoff loss to Sault Ste Marie, facing a barrage of shots throughout the series.

Like any young goaltender, Cormier will need a lot of seasoning before he is ready to jump to the higher levels. He may be available as late as the fifth round, but a fourth round pick would potentially be a good investment if used on Cormier.

Some other names that may pop up on the Leafs radar are Moose Jaw’s Zach Sawchenko and Joseph Raaymakers of Sault Ste Marie. Both appear to be mid round picks, but with the draft still several months away, a lot of movement up and down the board can happen.

The Toronto Maple Leafs do not need to spend a high pick on a netminder, but using a third rounder and maybe a sixth or seventh round selection to add more net depth to the organization is a necessity.

Next: Toronto Maple Leafs: State of the Crease Part 1

In Part 3 of “State of the Crease”, we will take a look at options in goal in the trade market.