The middle of the 2016 NHL Draft continues with the New Jersey Devils making their second pick of the fourth round. For that second pick of the fourth round, the Devils selected goaltender Evan Cormier out of Ajax, Ontario with the 105th overall pick. He is a big goalie, standing at 6'3" and weighing around 200 pounds, and he currently tends the net for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL. He was the 11th ranked North American goaltender by Central Scouting in their final rankings, but was ranked 7th at the midterm.
My initial reaction is that they ventured off the path of picking loads of forwards, and instead of going defense, they went goaltender which is interesting indeed. The Devils just took Mackenzie Blackwood last year in the second round, and he had a quality season this past year for the Barrie Colts of the OHL. Plus the Devils do have other options behind all-star Cory Schneider, especially Keith Kinkaid who has not been bad at all in replacement duties. And let's not forget that Schneider is signed as the starter through 2022, so there is not a pressing need for a starter either So I personally felt that goaltender was perhaps the strongest area for the Devils, both in Newark and on the farm. Nonetheless, it just got even stronger.
Evan initially played major junior hockey for the North Bay Battalion in the OHL before being traded to Saginaw. In terms of traditional numbers, they do not look all that amazing, with a .890 save percentage and a 3.72 goals against average in 58 games played for Saginaw this past season. The year prior, it was at .893 and 3.48 in 22 games. So those are really not sexy, to say the least. Here are the specifics from Elite Prospects:
So again, not great. However, to get a fuller picture, let's also look at how Saginaw performed over the last couple seasons. This past year, the team went 24-36-5-3, and the year prior they went 29-36-2-1. So both seasons the team was under .500 and really not a major contender. Now, you could blame that on Evan as not a great goalie, or as I am assuming the Devils realized, the team in front of him was not great and he was peppered. Listening to the NHL Network after he was picked, the analytics team mentioned that he had seen the second most shots of any goaltender in the OHL this past year. Given that knowledge, the numbers make a little more sense, although it still does not make them look pretty.
The debate that the analytics team on the NHL Network had quickly, and one that is worth mentioning, is what is the best development process for a goaltender? Some goalies play in great systems for great teams, win a lot of games, have quality numbers, but do not see a lot of shots. Other goaltenders, like Cormier, play for poorer teams, have worse numbers, lose more games, but see a boat load of shots. There is no blueprint for the right path, but the argument for Cormier's path is clear. Seeing more shots gives a goalie more opportunities to hone his craft. He sees more shots from more angles, and thus has much more experience seeing these shots already, which he certainly will at the NHL level one day. On the flip side, he also has more wear and tear on his body already, has not been proven to be a winner, and may not know how to play in a better defensive system where he only sees 20-25 shots per game. That adjustment may not go well. So there are both sides, I let you come to your own conclusion. However, Cormier definitely falls on the side of being peppered but having poor numbers.
In the end, I am a little confused by the pick, and not because of anything having to do with Evan Cormier himself. He may end up being a quality goaltender in the system, and it is never a bad thing to have too many good options at goalie. Trades can always happen, and injuries do happen which lead to opportunities, and Evan may certainly get his opportunity to play at the highest level for the Devils one day. However, I am confused because of the position being drafted. In the first three rounds of the draft, the Devils scouting team went full throttle with drafting forwards in a clear attempt to replenish the forward prospect pool in the farm system, with the eventual hope of improving the NHL team's scoring capabilities. And the Devils desperately need to improve their scoring capabilities. That all made sense, and I was fully on board with it. Drafting a goaltender is a clear shift away from that plan of attack, and it is not even a shift to a defenseman. The Devils could certainly use a quality defensive prospect or two as well, so I would have been all for taking one or two. But the team is stacked with netminders, so this pick confuses me.
All the same, regardless of my initial thoughts. I welcome Evan Cormier to the New Jersey Devils organization. I wish him the best of luck in his development within the organization. Maybe he will become the next Cory Schneider. It is possible!
Stay tuned to this page as I will update it throughout the day with more information and reaction about the player. In the meantime, please have your say about the pick in the comments. Do you think it was a good pick or not and why? What do you expect this player will become for the Devils? Of course, don't forget to vote in our quick poll on the selection. Thank you for reading.