PHILADELPHIA — They sure aren’t drafting goalies the way they used to.
None went in the first round this year, the second straight year none went in the opening 30 picks and the ninth straight year in which no NHL team has used a top-10 selection on a netminder.
The last goalie to go in the top 10 was Carey Price, picked fifth overall in 2005, which Montreal would tell you has worked out just fine.
But he was the last.
A revolution in thinking, or a blip? We shall see.
The top-rated North American goalie in this year’s draft — the intriguing, San Diego-born and -raised Thatcher Demko — didn’t go until Vancouver took him with the 36th pick today, and he wasn’t the first goalie to go. That honour went to Charlottetown Islanders goalie Mason McDonald, who was part of a complicated three-way swap earlier this season in which Toronto Maple Leafs goalie prospect Antoine Bibeau went to the Val-d’Or Foreurs and took that team to the Memorial Cup.
McDonald was selected by Calgary with the 34th pick. After Demko went two picks later, Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina), Vitek Vanecek (Washington) and Brandon Halverson (New York Rangers) were picked, making it five goalies in the second round after none went in the first.
Buffalo then took Jonas Johansson out of the Brynas juniors with the first selection of the third round.
Only five goalies have been top-20 picks since Price, a major change from earlier in the century when Rick DiPietro (2000) and Marc-Andre Fleury (2003) were both selected first overall.
This change comes at a time when Canadian hockey authorities are looking at significant changes in the way in which goalies are trained and developed, including banning European goalies from the CHL.
It appears NHL clubs are now of the belief that they have no more chance developing a star goalie if they take one high in the draft. Jonathan Quick, who has won two of the past three Stanley Cups, was a third-round pick. Chicago won the 2013 Cup with Corey Crawford, a 52nd-overall pick, in goal.
This year’s NHL all-rookie team goalie, Frederik Andersen of Anaheim, was initially a seventh-round pick by Carolina and later a third-round selection of the Ducks.
He and highly touted John Gibson may share the job in Orange County next season, and Gibson was a second-round pick. Bibeau, who set the Memorial Cup on its ear this spring, was a sixth-round pick. Zach Fucale led Halifax to the Memorial Cup a year ago, and Tristan Jarry did the same for the Edmonton Oil Kings in London this year. Both were second-round picks in the 2013 draft.
The last goalies to go in the first round were Andrei Vasilevski (Tampa) and Malcolm Subban (Boston) in 2012.
Although this year’s Stanley Cup finalists, New York and Los Angeles, used netminders they had drafted, the connection between the thinking on drafting goalies and how teams deal with their needs between the pipes may be further illustrated next week when a slew of experienced netminders hit the free agent market.
Anaheim may yet decide to buy time for Gibson and Andersen by signing Ryan Miller, particularly if Miller is interested in a short-term deal for less money than he was making last season. The same may be the case in Vancouver, where right now Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom are the netminders.
Toronto traded for its starter, Jonathan Bernier (11th overall in 2006, Los Angeles). New Jersey replaced the soon-to-be-departed Martin Brodeur by acquiring Cory Schneider a year ago from the Canucks. Edmonton traded for both Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth last year.
For now, the rule seems to be this: If you want a goalie, you don’t take one in the first round.
We’ll see how long that lasts.