Goaltenders are difficult to analyze at such a young age. While the goalie is the only player who can play the entire length of a game, they only have one main job: make saves. If the defense is having a bad night and leaves opposing players wide open, then the goalie will suffer. If the team as a whole is playing poorly, the goalie suffers. Of course, if the goaltender has a bad night, then he obviously suffers. It works in the other way: a hot streak and/or strong play by the team can boost a goalie's results. Throw in the fact that it takes quite a bit of time and a lot of shots against to get an understanding of what to expect and it's really a challenge to figure out what to expect from a goalie even if you breakdown his technique and play.
The New Jersey Devils have three goaltenders in the system. The hope is that one of them may be a NHL-caliber goaltender some day. Maxime Clermont is one of them and he ranked the lowest on our Top 25 Devils Under 25 list. Given the above disclaimer, we can only make judgments on what the player has done so far. A big reason why he's ranked 22rd and not any higher is because of his numbers. As shown at Elite Prospects, they certainly don't look good.
#22 - Maxime Clermont - G - Height: 6'0" - Weight: 201 lbs. - Age: 20 - 2012-13 Team: Albany (AHL) for now
After completing his junior eligibility with Gatineau, Clermont went pro in 2011-12. Due to the numbers game at Albany, Clermont was assigned to Kalamazoo in the ECHL. His rookie season didn't go so well. While he got the opportunity to play for the K-Wings, his 89.1% save percentage and goals against average of 3.42 makes it clear that he wasn't a rookie sensation. While he got two games in the A and appeared to do well, Clermont far from sparkled for Kalamazoo.
When you dig a little deeper into those stats, Clermont comes out looking worse. First, check out the stats on the "Top Goalies" at the ECHL website. Out of the thirty goaltenders who played at least 1,440 minutes, Clermont ranked 27th in save percentage. The average overall save percentage among that group was 90.7% and Clermont didn't come close to meeting it. Second, he was the worst rookie among that group. Granted, anyone who does really well in the ECHL is likely going to get called up; but it's rather telling that six rookies were in the top ten for save percentage. So among his relative peers, Clermont brought up the rare. Third, Kalamazoo wasn't a bad team at all. Far from it, the K-Wings won the North Division and even if the division winner wasn't guaranteed a playoff spot, they had enough points in the conference standings to make it into the post season. It's not like Clermont played behind a lousy squad and just got shelled based on the results alone. Fourth, Clermont saw significant ice time in the regular season but none at all in the playoffs. When the postseason began, Riley Gill played in nearly all the games save for 35 minutes where Clermont appeared. Gill wasn't a save-machine either with his 90.3% save percentage; but the coaches clearly knew who to go with when every game became important. It wasn't Clermont.
To summarize all of that, Clermont played on a good team with a goaltender who wasn't league average in save percentage ahead of him on the roster in a league where rookie goalies can and have done well. Clermont didn't do well in that situation in 2011-12. He didn't have to unseat Gill as the top goalie or be the league's best guy, but Clermont wasn't even decent over the course of his 31 games of play. That's an auspicious start to his pro career and the main reason why he's ranked so lowly on our Top 25 list.
I can understand that you read all of that just now and may be wondering why he's even in the Top 25 at all. Again, the nature of looking at goaltenders is different than most players. Clermont had a bad year; but at the same time, it was only 31 games. If he had a hot streak or two instead of some absolutely miserable games, then his numbers would be all the better and we'd have a higher opinion of him. It appears that he didn't, so we don't. Just some better luck in 2012-13 could turn that around. It's also worth pointing out that Clermont is still quite young. He'll turn 21 at the very end of this year. To me, he's got a lot of time to work on his skills at the professional level. More experience can only help him at this point. I understand it sounds more like hope or cop outs than anything else, but there is room for improvement. As much as I've pointed out how bad he was in 2011-12 from our distant perspective, it's unreasonable to declare him a bust after his first pro season of hockey. It's too soon.
It is reasonable, however, to modify our expectations. At least in my eyes, Clermont has plenty to prove before we can reasonably consider any hopes of playing in the NHL. He at least has to show he can get the job done at the minor pro level first. As of right now, Albany is still sorting out their roster for the 2012-13 season. He's one of four goalies in camp and I believe they're not going to carry all four of them. I don't know if the Devils, Albany or New Jersey, has an ECHL affiliate plan in place; but unless Clermont is having an awesome camp, I expect him to go back to the "AA" league. Regardless of where he plays in the ECHL, he's got to at least perform at a league average. It would be splendid if he became the #1 goalie on his team or was among league leaders in save percentage; but I'll settle for league average results. That can be bypassed if he makes Albany or if he plays well with a significant amount of times - not two games - with the A-Devs. Essentially, wherever he goes, he needs to do more than just get into games, he needs to perform well. Until he does that, though, he should be seen as the weaker of the three goaltending prospects.
That's our take on Maxime Clermont, now I want to know yours. Do you agree with where we ranked Clermont in our list? If not, do you think he should be higher or lower? Regardless of the ranking, what do you make of Clermont's poor first year in pro hockey? Has that affected your expectations as much as ours? Do you think he'll perform much better in his second year in pro hockey? Where do you think he'll even play in his second year of pro hockey? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Clermont in the comments. Thank you for reading.