Quick! Who’s the OHL’s best goalie? That’s the question I asked an OHL team executive the other day.
He rhymed off a few names—McNiven in Owen Sound, DiPietro in Windsor, Parsons in London, and mentioned a few more people might look to but he didn’t think were the right answer. But the first name out of his mouth was Peterborough’s Dylan Wells, which was perfect because, based on the numbers, that’s who I wanted him to say.
Wells’s play is making him look like a good pick for Edmonton at No. 123 in the draft last June and has the 18-year-old at least on Hockey Canada’s radar for the world juniors, hence his inclusion on Team OHL’s roster for Thursday’s contest versus Russia in North Bay.
|5v5 stats, courtesy Prospect-Stats.com|
|Name||Team||adj.GSAA||SA||Sv%||HD SA||HD Sv%|
That chart lists every OHL netminder who’s faced 80 5v5 shots and has a positive adjusted goals-saved above average mark. (I included Parsons since he was mentioned by the OHL executive thanks to his track record, but he’s been hurt for three weeks and hasn’t played.)
Don’t know what GSAA is? Not a problem. In this piece, Nick Mercadante describes it and why it works without getting too math-speaky. The Coles notes: Using a formula that weights shots by level of danger, we can calculate the number of goals a goalie stops above or below the league average. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.
Notice the lead Wells has on Kingston’s Jeremy Helvig. The gap between Nos. 1 and 2 is wider than any other on the list—really quite an amazing feat. Wells is also tops in save percentage and T-5 in high-danger shots faced. (As an aside, you really have to feel for Leo Lazarev in Ottawa. Yowza.)
Now, you might be concerned by Wells’s high-danger save percentage (just six of the 21 netminders listed have a lower mark), but it’s important to note that not all HD shots are created equal. That is, there’s a big difference between a clear breakaway from the red line or a tic-tac-toe passing play through the crease and a weak backhand from the high slot with two defenders in the lane.
The Petes are a team that has fought through a spate of injuries this season, especially on the blueline; a team with a 9-6-0-2 record but a negative goal differential overall and at 5-on-5; a team with the 10th-ranked power play and the 15th-ranked penalty kill; a team without a point-per-game player. They haven’t been a very good team.
That’s not to say there isn’t some talent on the roster—it’s just that Wells has been keeping the Petes in games from beginning to end. Case in point, a 3–2 win over Hamilton Friday: He stopped Will Bitten on two breakaways in the second period and made 16 saves in the third, including a spectacular game-saver on a Bulldogs 2-on-1 late.
Look for Sportsnet’s 2017 NHL Draft Rankings all season long.
Wells’s work early this season is even better considering his 2015–16 numbers were worse than those he posted during his rookie campaign. Last season he played well at the Ivan Hlinka, but some said he looked to be fighting the puck and battling positional problems in the Peterborough net.
This season, he’s been steady, the Petes’ best player for sure. And through the first 25 percent of the campaign, he’s been the OHL’s top neminder.