An NHL team is supposed to be built from the net out, but when it comes to drafting goalies hockey executives tend to err on the side of caution.
Goalies are projects, and even though they are highly touted prospects many goalies take years to develop. Only five netminders — Jack Campbell, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Malcolm Subban, Jake Oettinger and Spencer Knight — had been selected in the first round since 2010.
It’s become an annual tradition for the top goalie prospect to wait until Day 2 to hear his name called. The 2021 NHL draft was a bit different.
Despite its perceptions as a down year for skaters, it was a highly touted draft for netminders. 21 goalies were picked over two days, and two goalies were chosen in the first round for the first time since Vasilevskiy and Subban were picked in 2012.
Many teams valued size when choosing goalies in the 2021 draft as eight of the 10 netminders on this list are 6-3 or taller. These are the top 10 goalie prospects from the 2021 NHL draft.
1. Jesper Wallstedt, Lulea (SHL)
Height/Weight: 6-3, 214
Drafted by: Minnesota Wild (1st round, No. 20)
The skinny: Sebastian Cossa may have been chosen ahead of Wallstedt, but that’s not because Cossa is superior. Wallstedt was ranked fifth on McKeen’s final list of prospects and was the first Swedish goalie ever chosen in the draft’s first round.
He’s been compared to his idol Henrik Lundqvist since he began playing junior and has attended King Henrik’s goalie camp in Sweden.
With Finnish-born Kaapo Kahkonen, who finished 15th in Calder Trophy voting, also on the roster, the future looks extremely bright in net for Minnesota, particularly since Wallstedt believes he can contribute in 2021-22.
“I’m preparing myself to be ready for next season,” Wallstedt told TwinCities.com.
“If the Wild feel they’re really ready to put me in the NHL, I’ll prepare myself to be there. I’ll be ready for wherever I am going to play and really compete for a good spot to keep developing.”
2. Sebastian Cossa, Edmonton (WHL)
Height/Weight: 6-6. 210
Drafted by: Detroit Red Wings (1st round, No. 15)
The skinny: Steve Yzerman knows a thing or two about assessing talent, so who are we to doubt him for choosing Cossa over the Swedish-born Wallstedt? The top goalie on NHL Central Scouting’s list of North American netminders is a monster who pitched eight shutouts and only lost seven games in 52 appearances over two seasons for the Oil Kings.
He’ll be unlikely to contribute for the Red Wings in 2021-22, but look for him to become a fixture in goal in Detroit.
“He’s 19 [in November], he’s got another year of junior then he turns pro,” Yzerman told 97.1 The Ticket. “If he’s playing in year three I’d be really, really happy. … Just let the natural development happen.”
3. Aleksei Kolosov, Dinamo Minsk (KHL)
Height/Weight: 6-1, 185
Drafted by: Philadelphia Flyers (3rd round, No. 78)
The skinny: Kolosov may only be 19, but he is the only goalie on this list to play against actual professionals. Kolosov spent 2020-21 in the KHL, the second-best pro league in the world, and even represented Belarus at the 2021 IIHF World Championship.
He’s expected to spend at least one more season in the KHL before the Flyers hope he and Carter Hart can make a dynamite goalie duo.
4. Patrik Hamrla, HC Karlova Vary (Czech)
Height/Weight: 6-3, 194
Drafted by: Carolina Hurricanes (3rd round, No. 83)
The skinny: Hamrla was the third-ranked prospect on Central Scouting’s list of European goalies, despite the fact he just turned 18 in May. Aside from being a good puck-handling goalie, he also is an elite skater and competitor as this clip from the 2020-21 season in Czech Republic indicates.
“Big, athletic goalie,” Hurricanes assistant general manager Darren Yorke told the Charlotte Observer. “His power to go side to side is something you can’t teach, especially at his size.”
5. Benjamin Gaudreau, Sarnia (OHL)
Height/Weight: 6-2, 175
Drafted by: San Jose Sharks (3rd round, No. 81)
The skinny: The Sharks, who have had goaltending problems for the past three seasons traded up with St. Louis to choose Gaudreau in the third round. The No. 2 rated North American goalie by Central Scouting only played five games at the IIHF U18 championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and posted an .890 save percentage and 4.34 goals-against average in his only season for Sarnia, 2019-20. Still, Gaudreau was dominant at the U18 tournament, going 5-0 with a .919 save percentage and 2.20 goals-against average.
6. Tristan Lennox, Saginaw (OHL)
Height/Weight: 6-4, 190
Drafted by: New York Islanders (3rd round, No. 93)
The skinny: Lennox, like Gaudreau, did not play a junior season because the OHL canceled its campaign due to COVID-19. But Dobber Prospects calls him an athletic goaltender with good size and puck-handling ability and states he “has the tools to become an NHL goalie.”
The Islanders, who already have Calder Trophy candidate Ilya Sorokin, should be set up in goal for years to come.
7. Aku Koskenvuo, HIFK U20 (U20 SM Sarja)
Height/Weight: 6-4, 173
Drafted by: Vancouver Canucks (5th round, No. 137)
The skinny: Koskenvuo was ranked fourth on the Central Scouting list of European goalies, who told Sportsnet 650 that he models his game after Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He told the radio station the pandemic upended his team’s season for 2020-21, and he will come over to North America to study and play at Harvard University in the fall.
8. Rasmus Korhonen, Assat U20 (U20 SM Sarja)
Height/Weight: 6-5, 201
Drafted by: Arizona Coyotes (4th round, No. 122)
The skinny: Korhonen comes from the same league as Koskenvuo, and he led his team in save percentage (.908) and goals-against average (2.18) despite splitting time with Juuso Helomaa. Korhonen’s father Markus was also a goalie and has been Rasmus’ goalie coach in Finland. Rasmus is big, and the Coyotes were excited to select him with their fourth-round pick.
9. Talyn Boyko, Tri-City (WHL)
Height/Weight: 6-7, 196
Drafted by: New York Rangers (4th round, No. 112)
The skinny: No 2021 netminder was taller than Talyn Boyko. Boyko, ranked 12th on Central Scouting’s list of North American goalies, has struggled in Tri-City but also has improved each season — his save percentage jumped from .862 to .901 in three seasons, and goals-against average improved from 5.30 to 3.01 from 2018-21.
10. Gage Alexander, Winnipeg (WHL)
Height/Weight: 6-6, 206
Drafted by: Anaheim Ducks (5th round, No. 148)
The skinny: Alexander, like many others on the list, is enormous and something of a late bloomer as far as prospects are concerned. He posted bad numbers in seven starts in 2019-20, but had a breakout second season for the Ice, leading the team with a .917 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average.
Alexander was only the 28th prospect on NHL Central Scouting’s list of North American goalies but McKeen’s scouting list at No. 150.
There were others chosen before many of the names on this list — notably Jakub Malek who was taken by the New Jersey Devils with the No. 100 pick. But they are not quite on par with the goalies listed, though that may change in the future.