Last Thursday the Canadian Hockey League conducted it’s 2018 Import Draft where teams had the chance to select foreign (non-North American) players. As a reminder, teams in the CHL are allowed to dress and play a maximum of two import players per season. This year’s draft was interesting as it was the first time since 2013 that foreign goaltenders were eligible for selection. There had been a ban on selecting foreign goaltenders as the CHL felt it was harming the developmental opportunities for Canadian goaltenders. This ban being lifted opened up another path for Devils prospect Akira Schmid (2018 5/136) who has primarily featured at the Elite Junior level in his native Switzerland.
Schmid was selected in the 1st round at 20th overall by the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. He was the 3rd goaltender selected after Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1/3 Sudbury; 2017 2/54 Buffalo) and Ivan Prosvetov (1/15 Saginaw; 2018 4/114 Arizona). In total there were 7 import goaltenders selected in the 2018 draft. Last Friday Dennis Schellenberg, the European Head Scout for Future Considerations, had this tweet which suggests an official move for Schmid is imminent:
According to his agent, #NJDevils prospect Akira Schmid is going to play in NA for the upcoming 2 yrs and is close to signing a deal with the @WHLHurricanes #2018NHLDraft #CHLImportDraft— Dennis Schellenberg (@ScoutingFactory) June 29, 2018
This news has also been backed up by SwissHockeyNews.ch, which also includes that Schmid’s Swiss club SCL Tigers is supportive of a potential move to the WHL. Let’s take a look at how Lethbridge and their goaltenders performed in 2017-18 and see what competition Schmid could face for playing time.
Lethbridge Goaltending in 2017-18
Last season Lethbridge finished 2nd in the Central Division of the WHL’s Eastern Conference with 72 points from a 33-33-6-0 record. They had a -16 goal differential after scoring 244 goals and allowing 260. That was the 7th most goals allowed in the 22 team league. Despite that, Lethbridge had a strong playoff run, making it to the conference finals before losing to eventual WHL champs, the Swift Current Broncos, in 6 games.
They began the season with the tandem of Stuart Skinner and Reece Klassen. Skinner saw the most action with a 14-15-2-0 record and .897 SV% in 31 games. Klassen had a 5-8-3-0 record and .887 SV% in 23 games. Skinner would be dealt away in a blockbuster, 7 player, multiple draft pick trade with Swift Current on January 9, 2018 that netted the Hurricanes goaltender Logan Flodell. Flodell would put up a 14-10-1-0 record and .904 SV% in 26 games for Lethbridge down the stretch. Flodell was the undisputed #1 goaltender through the playoffs with a 10-5-1 record and .906 SV%. Klassen saw 10 minutes of ice time and stopped 3 of the 4 shots he faced.
With Skinner out of the organization and Flodell aging out of the WHL as a ‘97 birthdate, Klassen is the incumbent goaltender on the roster.
Potential Competition for Schmid
In the Lethbridge Hurricanes official press release following the 2018 Import Draft, General Manager Peter Anholt had this to say about Schmid and the goaltending situation:
“Schmid is a 2000-born goaltender and we didn’t have one in our system, so we were happy to get him and think he fits perfectly into our depth chart,” said Hurricanes General Manager Peter Anholt. “We think with Reece Klassen coming back, along with Carl Tetachuk and Bryan Thomson, and Schmid in the fold, we will have some competition during training camp.”
Anholt has named the 4 goaltenders that he expects to compete for the 2 goaltending spots. Let’s start by the taking a look at Klassen who has the leg up on the competition as of right now due to experience. Klassen will turn 19 on August 8 and is coming off of his rookie season where as mentioned above he went 5-8-3-0 in 23 games with a 3.62 GAA and .887 SV%. The 6’1, 175 lbs. product of Cloverdale, BC also played in 5 games last season with the Lloydminster Bobcats of the Alberta Junior Hockey League where he had a 2.67 GAA and .920 SV%. While I think he has the inside track to the top goaltending spot, it’s far from a guarantee.
Carl Tetachuk is the next name that Anholt mentioned and is an interesting prospect. He was signed by Lethbridge on February 9, 2018 after excelling for the Lethbridge Hurricanes Midget AAA team in 2017-18 with a 15-2-1 record, 1.81 GAA, and .919 SV%. In 8 plaoff games he had a 1.58 GAA and .944 SV% as his team won the Alberta Midget Hockey League (AMHL) Championship. This was the 3rd season in a row that Tetachuk won a championship, previously winning at the minor midget level in 2016-17 and bantam level in 2015-16. The 5’11, 161 lbs. goaltender from Lethbridge will turn 18 next January and seems to be a promising option for the Hurricanes.
Bryan Thomson is a recently turned 16 year old goaltender from Moose Jaw, SK. The Hurricanes took the 6’1, 163 lbs. netminder in the 2nd round, 37th overall of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft and signed him on July 13, 2017. He spent last season with the Notre Dame Argos Midget AAA team in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. In 28 games he had a 4.22 GAA and .890 SV% and it seems he’s not likely to crack the WHL roster for Lethbridge this upcoming season.
Lethbridge’s pre-season camp should be competitive with Schmid, Klassen, Tetachuk, and Thomson all competing for a roster spot. Due to his age and stage of development, I think it’s likely that Thomson isn’t a serious contender in this race. That essentially leaves Schmid, Klassen, and Thomson competing for the 2 roster spots and #1 role. Klassen has the inside track but is by no means a sure thing based off his limited success as a back up last season. Tetachuk seems to be a really solid WHL prospect despite not being drafted and at 17 years old could be their goaltender for the next few seasons. I’m intrigued to see how he fares against major junior competition since he’s found success at the lower levels. Schmid has had success at the junior level in Switzerland and has had a brief taste of professional hockey.
With all that said I don’t think Lethbridge would use a high draft pick on Schmid and be close to a contract if they weren’t serious about having him on the roster. I also don’t think Schmid or his agent would sign a deal without a real chance to get some ice time. Prior to the CHL Import Draft, SwissHockeyNews.ch noted that while Schmid has 2 years left on his development contract with SCL Tigers, he was looking to both Sweden and North America - with North America the preferable option - for a new opportunity. Should Schmid sign for the Hurricanes, I expect him to be on the roster and at least playing in half of the games to start out. I also think this opportunity to adjust to life in North America, style of play, and competition could only help further his development. I hope to see the news that he is officially a Lethbridge Hurricane soon.
How do you feel about Schmid’s likely move to Lethbridge? Are you in favor of it or not? Would you rather see him stay in Switzerland and try to break through professionally or do you think playing at the major junior level is right for him? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!