Today, I'm going to focus on the Devils goaltending prospects and how they did in 2016-17. Mackenzie Blackwood and Ken Appleby both split time in Albany with Scott Wedgewood injured most of the season, though the results were mixed. Evan Cormier was the starting goaltender on a rebuilding OHL team which led to him often having to carry the load to keep his team competitive. Recent draft pick Gilles Senn was one of the youngest starting goaltenders in the Swiss top flight. Let's quickly review some statistics that you'll see below.
In addition to referencing traditional goaltending stats, I'm also going to focus on a few of my favorites to use in evaluating goaltending performance. I know I've mentioned these in the past but here's a quick refresher on what these stats are and where they came from:
Quality Starts - A metric developed by Robert Vollman; a quality start is used to determine a start in which the goalie gave the team a good chance to win the game.
In order to record a Quality Start, the starting goalie must stop at least a league average number of shots or play at least as well as a replacement-level goalie (88.5%) while allowing two goals or fewer.
Really Bad Starts and Bail Outs - Metrics also developed by Robert Vollman that determine how much a goaltender hurt his team and how often his team was able to bail him out. Explanation of Really Bad Starts and Bail Outs:
The Really Bad Start, where a goalie fails to stop even 85% of the shots, leaving his team barely a 10% chance of winning. The opposite of a Wasted Quality Start is a Bail-Out, which is defined by being awarded a win despite failing to achieve a Quality Start.
Goals Allowed Percentage Minus (GA%-) - A metric developed by Hockey-Reference to compare a goaltender's performance among their peers. 100 is average, below 100 is above average, and above 100 is below average.
The formula is 100*((1-player save %)/(1-league average save %)).
Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) - Another metric developed by Hockey-Reference to compare a goaltender's performance among their peers. The higher the number the better the goaltender was compared to the league average and vice versa. I’m also going to use a per 60 minutes version of this stat (GSAA/60).
GSAA = Saves-(League Average SV%*Shots Against)
Now let's take a closer look at the goaltenders.
Mackenzie Blackwood's AHL debut last season was certainly eventful. After Scott Wedgewood went down with a torn labrum in his right shoulder in November, Blackwood assumed the starting duties. Blackwood came to Albany after a standout career as one of the best goaltending prospects in the OHL. As a whole his numbers aren't anything special with a nearly league average GA%- of 101, GSAA of -0.98, and GSAA/60 of -0.03. Going through his game logs, I thought it was interesting to see how he improved once the calendar flipped to 2017. In 14 games in 2016 he had a .884 SV%, 23.08 QS%, and 15.38 RBS%. In 22 games in 2017, he had a. 920 SV%, 50.00 QS%, and 9.09 RBS%. Sure he had some hiccups here and there which is why he and Appleby split time, but for the most part he was solid in 2017 and seemed to be adjusting to the higher level of play. I'm cautiously optimistic about Blackwood heading into next season. He's still young (doesn't turn 21 until 12/9), has size, is athletic, and seems to be trending upwards in the AHL.
Ken Appleby was a late bloomer in the OHL a few years ago, has had success in each of the past 2 seasons in the ECHL (.923 SV% in 35 games), and due to Scott Wedgewood's long term injury, had the chance to spend much of the season with Albany. On the surface his numbers seem comparable to Blackwood but slightly a bit worse with a .903 SV%, 105 GA%-, -4.33 GSAA, and -0.14 GSAA/60. While he had had a higher Quality Start% at 56.25% he also had a higher Really Bad Start% at 18.75%. Like Blackwood he had a similar split in his game log, just the opposite as he tended to struggle in the 2nd half. In his first 16 starts Appleby had a .930 SV%, 68.75 QS%, and 0.00 RBS%. For whatever reason, he slumped in his final 16 stats with a .877 SV%, 43.75 QS%, and 37.50 RBS%. Due to his struggles in the 2nd half, Appleby ended up backing up Blackwood down the stretch instead of splitting time and hardly featured in Albany's brief playoff run. Binghamton seems crowded on paper as of this writing, so I suppose Appleby could be ECHL bound again to start next season to ensure he gets adequate playing time to develop. He turned 22 in April so he's still relatively young and has time left to figure things out on a more consistent basis.
It feels like Scott Wedgewood has been around for awhile after having been drafted by the organization in 2010. He'll turn 25 in August and it feels like his Devils career is at a bit of a crossroads. After a solid OHL career, he struggled quite a bit as a pro from 2012-2015. An impressive .933 SV% in 22 games with Albany in 2015-16 coupled with a .957 SV% in a hot 4 game streak for New Jersey certainly changed some opinions of his future. However, he has struggled with injuries since then, specifically a the aforementioned torn labrum in his right shoulder last season that caused him to miss almost the whole season. He was solid in his 10 games/8 starts for Albany last season with a .912 SV%, 3 Quality Starts, and just 1 Really Bad Start. Still, with Keith Kinkaid having the back up job in NJ locked down for the next 2 years, Mackenzie Blackwood the prized prospect rightfully being given the chance to develop in the AHL, and Ken Appleby in the fold, it remains to be seen what the future holds for Wedgewood. Can he stay healthy? Was his 2015-16 season truly a sign of him turning it around or an outlier? It will be interesting to see what his future holds and if that's with the Devils organization.
On the surface Evan Cormier's numbers don't seem great but it's important to remember a couple of things. First, he had to play on a rebuilding team in the OHL's ruthless Western Conference. Secondly, the OHL is a fast, fluid, attacking league with lots of goals. Despite a .899 SV%, he was actually just slightly above the league average SV% of .898. I was happy to see his Quality Start% increase for a 3rd straight season from 48.28% in 2014-15, to 56.36% in 2015-16, and finally to 57.14% last season. Being around 60% is a solid place to be. He also managed to drop his Really Bad Start% from 29.09% in 2015-16 to 24.49% last season, the best mark of his OHL career. Cormier seemingly went from a below average OHL goaltender in his first 2 OHL seasons to an average one this past season. If he had played on a more defensively sound team, I wouldn't be surprised to see his numbers look a lot more appealing. I can say from watching a fair bit of Saginaw last season that he often was the thread keeping his team in the game. While he still needs to improve on his consistency, he definitely has the skills to take his game to the next level with quick reflexes and his aggressive approach to challenging shooters. The big question for him is will he be able to put it all together on a game in, game out basis. Hopefully he can have a strong season in 2017-18 to finish his OHL career. I wouldn't be surprised if Saginaw moved him to a contender at some point next season if they are out of the playoff picture. His age 20 season next year will be absolutely crucial and I think there are reasons to be somewhat optimistic about his future.
The Devils surprised everyone at the 2017 draft when they used a 5th round pick on a 21 year old goaltender from Switzerland, Gilles Senn. The 6'5, 192 lbs. Senn was the starting goaltender for HC Davos in the NLA (Swiss top league) last season and put up respectable numbers given this was his age 20 season, having turned 21 on March 1. As you can see above, he started 34 games with a decent 16-14-3 record and just under league average SV% of .911. That left him with a GA%- of 107, GSAA of -5.43, and GSAA/60 of -0.16. While that's not necessarily good, it's important to remember that Senn is young, already playing in a top flight European league, and is very much still developing. Senn also played in other competitions for HC Davos last season, the Champions Hockey Leauge where he had a .919 SV% in 4 games, the Spengler Cup where he had a .924 SV% in 2 games, and the Swiss Cup where he played in 2 games. According to the HC Davos site, Senn is currently under contract until 4/30/2019. They do have Detroit Red Wings prospect, Joren van Pottelberghe backing up Senn despite being just a year younger. I do wonder if they would be willing to allow Senn to move to North America sooner than later if he and the Devils wished.
What do you think of Scott Wedgewood's future in the organization with the backup job in NJ set for the next 2 years and 2 other goaltenders to compete with for playing time in Binghamton? What are your expectations for Mackenzie Blackwood now that he has a season of AHL experience under his belt? What about Ken Appleby's future? How do you view Gilles Senn as a prospect? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!