1. Samu Perhonen, Finland Jr. A, 29 GP, .922 save percentage
Samu Perhonen is the latest prospect to emerge from Finland's goaltending factory. His numbers in Finland's top junior league has been very impressive, and he punctuated that with an outstanding performance at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, where he put up a .918 save percentage in five games. At 6'3" tall, he also has the physical frame necessary for success at the NHL level, and the scouts I've read all seem to have positive things to say about his technique. Take, for instance, the one Kirk Luedeke talked to in his excellent goaltender piece:
One NHL scout very familiar with him oozed about his technical excellence, mental toughness and mature game despite being a few days short of 18.
There is no doubt that statistically Perhonen is the cream of the crop when it comes to European goaltenders. My ranking: 1st, with a bullet.
2. Stefan Steen, Sweden Jr., 13 GP, .904 save percentage
Steen has been a mainstay with Swedish teams at the U-16, U-17 and U-18 tournaments the last few years, but despite that, his numbers in various Swedish junior leagues are really not all that good, and honestly most of his tournaments haven't been much to write home about either. He's got good size at 6'2" tall, but I think Central's got him ranked too high. My ranking: 5th.
3. Jaroslav Pavelka, Czech Jr., 38 GP, .926 save percentage
I wonder if a little bit of Pavelka's ranking behind Steen on CSB's lists has something to do with his dismissal from this summer's Ivan Hlinka tournament. From Russian Machine Never Breaks:
According to a story that was published last Thursday on LifeSports.ru, three Czech players were dismissed from the Czech Republic National Under-18 Team during the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. The reason? Prospects Tomas Kvapil, Jaroslav Pavelka and Mateja Beran were caught smoking and drinking in their hotel room after their team's 3-2 victory over rival Russia. The prospects, "while in the heat of a fun moment" also smashed the room they were staying at in the team hotel.
Leaving aside that little bit of immaturity, Pavelka's numbers are very good. He's had a breakout year after two decent seasons in U-18 play and he could be a sleeper in the 2011 Draft. Certainly he was characterized that way by Red Line Report scout Radim Jelinek:
there is bunch of prospects who I regard as sleepers; guys with long-term potential/upside however all having serious flaw. Here belongs: Jaroslav Pavelka, athletic, flexible goalie with quick gloves, strong reflexes and excellent legs. Needs to work on technique and improve reading and anticipation. Already 6-1 with potential to add another inch or two.
Pavelka's already a big goaltender with "strong reflexes", but more importantly he's putting up the numbers. My ranking: 2nd.
4. Benjamin Conz, Switzerland, 46 GP, .906 save percentage
I can't help but think that CSB's scouts are remembering Conz's tremendous performance for Switzerland at the World Juniors. Why else would they rank a 5'10" goaltender two years older than his compatriots (and who went undrafted last summer) so high?
Conz is a decent goaltender at a young age in a men's league, but he's too small to be spending a draft pick on. As an NHL general manager, I'd pass on him in the draft
although I'd happily offer him an entry-level contract afterward if the other 29 teams pass on him again. My ranking: 6th.
5. Joel Lassinantti, Sweden Jr., 9 GP, .894 save percentage
Lassinantti stands 5'10" tall, isn't playing very much, and isn't putting up great numbers when he does play. He's not big enough to project athletically, he doesn't play enough to really get a firm read on his talent level, and if he were playing 35 games with a .894 save percentage I still wouldn't be all that interested. My ranking: 8th.
6. Niklas Lundstrom, Sweden Jr., 14 GP, .895 save percentage
Lundstrom's .944 save percentage in three games at the Ivan Hlinka tournament stands out as the highlight of his year to date. The 6'3" goaltender hasn't been able to replicate last season's success this year and it's easy to drop him a bit as a result, but the reality is that we're dealing with such tiny sample sizes that I still think he's a pretty interesting prospect. My ranking: 3rd.
7. Lars Volden, Finland Jr., 24 GP, .907 save percentage
Norway's best draft-eligible goaltender got lit up at the World Juniors this past winter, but he's still a player worth liking thanks to his excellent work in Finnish Jr., which comes on the heels of a few solid years in Norway. He was the best goaltender at least season's Division 1 World Junior tournament, posting a .958 save percentage and capturing the gold medal, which is a big part of the reason Norway was promoted to the upper tier of the WJC this season. My ranking: 4th.
8. Richard Ullberg, Finland Jr. A, 20 GP, .876 save percentage
A disastrous season has dropped Ullberg to the bottom of CSB's mid-term rankings. He was highly touted after a great year in Finland's Jr. B league and didn't disappoint early, posting a .923 save percentage in U-18 play. Since then, it has been one bad performance after another and I'd be surprised if any team called his name on draft day. My ranking: 7th.
Jonathan Willis is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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