The Skinny: An eye-opening performance at the 2012 World Juniors resulted in goaltender Andrei Vasilevski leap-frogging many of his rivals into position as the top goaltender available this year.
The World Junior tournament occasionally produces stars who see their stock leap with impressive performances on U-20’s biggest stage and Andrei Vasilevski is a prime example. With a GAA just above two and a save percentage exceeding nine-fifty, he was a major reason – perhaps the most significant reason – for Russia’s return trip to the championship game.
Exceedingly self-assured, Vasilevski exudes the kind of poise teams are looking for in a number one netminder. When one adds in his plus frame and superlative athleticism, it’s going to be hard for many franchises hurting for that elusive top-flight starter to pass on Vasilevski. His aggressive tendencies to challenge shooters give him the ability to use his size to eclipse nearly the entire net when he so chooses.
As a butterfly goaltender, Vasilevski’s athleticism and form are under intense scrutiny from scouts – and he’s passed with flying colors on both accords. He stays big when in the butterfly and is able to remain powerful with quick, strong lateral movements and excellent balance.
With the quickness (both on his feet and with his hands) to deny first and second-chance opportunities and excellent economy of motion plus rebound management, it’s a surprise he’s not more highly rated than he is.
His performance at the Five-Nations U-18 Tournament in Finland wasn’t nearly as polished or dominant as his U-20 showing January in Alberta. It wasn’t a stock-plummeting performance, but it certainly didn’t mirror his outstanding work just weeks before (or his work in the MHL) and he was arguably outplayed by fellow Euro netminder and first-round-hopeful, Oscar Dansk of Sweden. Similarly, his performance at the World U-18 Championships wasn’t the dominating showing that many were expecting.
While Vasilevski is undoubtedly one of the top netminders available in 2012, many will shy away from projecting him as an early first-rounder (or a first-rounder at all) because of three prime reasons: 1. The Russian factor; 2. Jack Campbell blowback; 3. First-Round issues. As the highest-ranked Russian not playing in North America there are significant concerns about the allure of the KHL and its lucrative potential to snatch up young talent.
Additionally, organizations will remember well Jack Campbell, the highly-touted American goaltender who blew scouts away with his performance at the 2010 World Juniors and became a top-fifteen pick in 2010 as a result. His growth since hasn’t exactly given credence to that valuation and teams might be wary of selecting a goalie based on a short (albeit excellent) tournament’s efforts.
Finally, teams have shied away from picking goalies in round-one because of a well-documented low success rate for those netminders. Instead, organizations have recognized that goaltenders present difficult ‘projectability’ issues (even more so than blueliners) and some have gone with quantity over quality, hoping multiple later selections will hit.
With all this in mind, Vasilevski may not find himself called to the podium until late on June 22 (or perhaps even early the next day. Still, we believe he’s the best in this draft class and some squad hurting for goaltending may trade up from a second-rounder to grab him late on Day One.
Ideal Fits: Teams who are looking for a future number-one netminder: Tampa Bay, Columbus, New Jersey, Edmonton, Chicago
Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because his clutch World Junior performance and numbers in the Russian juniors make him exceedingly tempting for the several teams in need of a future #1.
Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because taking a goaltender in round one is a crapshoot and when you consider his status as a Russian playing in Russia, teams might be more than a little anxious about selecting him early.
Strengths: Poise, Athleticism, Size, Upright Form, Lateral Movement, Technique
Weaknesses/Concerns: Consistency, ‘Russian Factor’
Projection: Solid NHL Starter with All-Star Potential
Predicted 2012 NHL Draft Range: 18-32
Overall Rank: 30
Euro Rank: 9
KHL/MHL Rank: 2
Goalie Rank: 2
Russian National Rank: 4
1.) Seth Jones – D – 6’4, 205
2.) Nathan MacKinnon – C – 5’11, 180
3.) Jonathan Drouin – LW – 5’11, 175
4.) Aleksander Barkov – C – 6’3, 205
5.) Elias Lindholm – C – 6’0, 185
6.) Sean Monahan – C – 6’2, 195
7.) Valeri Nichushkin – RW – 6’3, 175
8.) Hunter Shinkaruk – LW – 5’11, 175
9.) Ryan Pulock – D – 6’1, 205
10.) Nikita Zadorov – D – 6’5, 220
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