It’s been a funny season for goalies in the Calgary Flames system. Even leaving aside Miikka Kiprusoff’s rebound performance this season (and devastating loss to the United States at the Olympics) and the bizarre trade that sent away Curtis McElhinney for arguably the NHL’s worst goaltender this season, it’s been a strange year.

The Flames have four goalies getting significant ice-time in their minor league system. It’s an odd group, with one highly-touted draft pick, one late pick, and two older castoffs from other teams. The castoffs form the book ends to the group.

At the very bottom of the Flames goalie depth chart is Glenn Fisher, who joined the team as a free agent in the off-season. Fisher was originally drafted by the Oilers, played possum for three seasons in college before emerging as a capable goalie in the fourth year. He had a rocky professional debut in the ECHL in 2007-08, looked bad in limited action to start 2008-09, and was loaned to the Flames ECHL team. He promptly blew the doors off, posting a 0.930 save percentage over 20 games with the club. The Flames brought him back and he’s since reverted to a subpar ECHL net-minder, with a 0.888 save percentage through 22 games.

The other castoff is in a very different situation. David Shantz was a second round pick in 2004 and had a pretty nice junior career, but only showed flashes over three seasons in the Panthers’ system. He played fairly well in training camp on a tryout, outlasting every other Flames goaltending prospect. He had an ugly start in limited minutes in the AHL; entering January he had a 2-3-0 record with a 4.14 GAA and 0.851 save percentage. He’s been excellent since then; he went 8-3-1 in January with a 0.918 save percentage and has a 0.922 save percentage in the new year. He’s also taken over the starting job, beating out a crowded field.

Shantz’s season is a mirror image to that of his current backup, Leland Irving. Irving was a first round pick (26th overall) in 2006 and had a stellar junior career while putting up decent numbers (24-18-2, 0.912 SV%) last season, his first as a professional. He started strong this season, with a 0.921 save percentage through 2009-10’s opening month, and entering 2010 has a 10-11-2 record and respectable 0.914 save percentage. In six games in the new year he has a 0.880 save percentage, and spent time with the Flames ECHL affiliate in Victoria. Given his strong track record and his junior credentials, I don’t understand why head coach Jim Playfair ousted him so quickly.

The other goalie in the Flames’ system is Matt Keetley, who has had an up and down season. He was cut surprisingly early after a poor training camp, and struggled through October before playing brilliant hockey to close out 2009, stopping pucks at a 0.935 clip. A weak performance through January was followed by consecutive shutouts in February, but a bad game on the 27th was his last in the AHL. He’s been strong through four ECHL games.

As it stands, Shantz currently sits atop the Flames’ minor league goaltending depth chart, and the organization’s treatment of both Irving and Keetley might indicate that it doesn’t regard either as a particularly compelling option over the long haul. Both players have shown enough that it’s possible either could emerge as an NHL goalie down the road. Either might be an option worth investigating for an NHL team seeking a minor league goalie with some upside.

Comments (6)

  1. Just pondering Brent Krahn (9th overall, 2000) and Irving (26th, 2006) and wondering if it would be fair to say the Flames haven’t drafted and developed a starting goaltender since taking Mike Vernon in 1981…

    Not that they’re the only ones with that problem. Certainly the Oilers haven’t drafted and developed a starter since taking Grant Fuhr. More evidence of the folly of using first rounders on goalies, I suppose.

  2. @ Brian P: Silly Brian; Jeff Deslauriers is a starting goalie. For the worst team in the league, sure, but why quibble ;)

  3. Well, sure, if your definition of a starting goalie is the one currently getting the most starts.

    Wait, if he’s the one getting the most starts, then he should be…I mean, then that would by definition make him the…


    Hey, that means the Flames did draft a starter in the first round since 1981: Trevor Kidd! Great goaltender. Deslauriers reminds me a little of him, actually…

  4. To say using your first rounder to pick a goalie is a good move would probably be a massive blunder. Very few turn out to be the great goaltenders just look at Al Montoya, the guy who won good at the World juniors with the U.S. the rangers thought extremely highly of him but within a matter of a few years he was completely forgotten because of a much later pick in Lundqvist and was sent to Pheonix and hasn’t been heard of since his days at the world juniors. A lot of a goaltenders struggles out of junior could have to do with the organization trying to get them to be a certain way. A lot of it could be the fact the team infront of them was much better in junior then the one they come to play on in the AHL.

    Some teams have had success with grooming goaltenders over the last little while that would be the Sens. While some of you might think who the hell have the Sens developed stop and remember Emery before he turned into an idiot and now they have Brian Elliot who was one of the last picks in his draft and while not a super star starter looks to be on his way to becoming a very good middle of the pack starting goaltender. And they’ll soon begin work on Robin Lehner who a lot of people already think extremely highly of. After all his father did train Lundqvist so that has got to be a plus.

  5. I watched shantz alot in junior hockey the kid is a solid goalie, i also think too that a goalie is just like any other player, if there team rushes them to the NHL ( marc andre fluery ), than there going to to struggle, look at all the real good netminders in the league and players, they all spent time in the AHL or another year of junior

    btw jonathan love reading the articles, just wondering can you do one on the prospects in montreal’s system lol thankss

  6. Ceck me out on the ice here: Thanks

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