Why Peterborough Petes goalie Dylan Wells is the OHL’s best

Damien Cox joins Jeff Marek to talk about Dylan Wells of the Peterborough Petes, and his unlikely career as a goaltender.

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%
Dylan Wells PBO 11.41 412 0.939 38 0.816
Jeremy Helvig KGN 6.36 343 0.933 26 0.846
Garrett Forrest FLNT 5.18 207 0.928 30 0.933
Michael DiPietro WSR 4.22 232 0.931 23 0.826
Liam Herbst GUE 4.12 416 0.923 42 0.857
Michael McNiven OS 3.90 294 0.932 21 0.905
Kaden Fulcher HAM 3.84 324 0.923 34 0.882
Troy Timpano ER 3.69 258 0.930 25 0.880
Tyler Johnson LDN 2.39 161 0.932 15 0.867
Leo Lazarev OTT 2.25 332 0.910 53 0.830
Chris McGonigle KIT 1.78 108 0.935 11 0.727
Zack Bowman SBY 1.77 282 0.918 22 0.864
Dawson Carty KIT 1.69 362 0.912 45 0.756
Jake McGrath SBY 1.68 200 0.925 18 0.833
Jeremy Brodeur OSH 1.14 265 0.925 17 0.765
Mario Culina WSR 1.13 136 0.912 16 0.875
Colton Incze NIAG 0.52 100 0.910 18 0.778
Stephen Dhillon NIAG 0.50 445 0.919 38 0.816
Justin Fazio SAR 0.24 402 0.918 40 0.800
Evan Cormier SAG 0.03 268 0.907 28 0.714
Tyler Parsons LDN -1.01 82 0.902 8 0.875

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.)

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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.

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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.

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