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A Look at the New Jersey Devils Goaltending Prospects Before the 2021-22 Season

In today’s post, I will take a look at four New Jersey Devils goaltending prospects. I’ll look back on what they have already done in their short careers and what the future could hold for them.

Augsburger Panther v ERC Ingolstadt - DEL
Nico Daws got his first taste of pro hockey by playing in Germany last season with the OHL shutdown. Now he will make his North American pro debut for Utica in 2021-22.
Photo by Peter Fastel/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

With the 2021-22 season already underway in Europe and just around the corner in North America, I wanted to take a look at the Devils four goaltending prospects. These goalies are Akira Schmid, Cole Brady, Nico Daws, and Jakub Malek. I didn’t include Gilles Senn as he returned to HC Davos in Switzerland. The Devils hold his rights until his 27th birthday and considering he turns 26 in March, it’s unlikely he has a future in the organization. I decided to look at these four goaltending prospects from their pre-draft season through the 2020-21 season. Since Malek is the youngest of these four, I decided to go back to his draft-2 season. I’ll be utilizing traditional stats and a few more comprehensive stats which I will post below. I’ll also be utilizing the Hockey Prospecting model. For each season I noted how relative is what to the players draft year and their age as of February 1 of that season. Now here are descriptions those extra stats:

Goals Allowed Percentage Minus (GA%-): =100*((1-Goaltender SV%)/(1-Leauge Average SV%))

- Goals allowed percentage relative to league goals allowed percentage. Lower is better, 100 is average, below 100 is above average, above 100 is below average.

Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA): =Saves-(League Average SV%*Shots Against)

- The goals this goaltender prevented given his save percentage and shots faced vs. the league average save percentage on the same number of shots.

Goals Saved Above Average per 60 Minutes (GSAA/60 MIN)

Goals Saved Above Average per 30 Shots (GSAA/30 SH)

Workload (WL): Shots on Goal faced per game

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. I’ll be using Quality Start% (QS%) in the tables below. Here is how a goaltender can record a Quality Start:

- 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. I’ll also be using these as percentages (RBS% and BO%) in the tables below. 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.

Now, on to the goaltenders.

Akira Schmid

Bio: 6’5”, 205 lbs. - Born: May 12, 2000 (21 Years Old), From: Bern, Switzerland, Drafted: 2018 (5/136), Catches: Left, Contract: 2023-24, 2021-22 Team: Utica Comets (AHL)

Stats via Elite Prospects and the USHL.

First up, we have Akira Schmid who was drafted by the Devils out of Switzerland in 2018. I don’t have much more than very basic data for his draft-1 and draft seasons but we can infer from what we see is that he was a big part of the SC Langnau Tigers junior system. They even gave him a senior debut in a relegation game for them in 2018. This solid performance led to Schmid being drafted 20th overall by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the 2018 CHL Import Draft.

This would be where his career would go through some ups and downs. He made one appearance for Lethbridge, gave up 7 goals, and was cut from the team. His CHL options would be non-existent giving the timing of the move. Schmid did manage to land with Corpus Christi in the NAHL, the 2nd tier of junior hockey in the US, before landing with Omaha in the top tier USHL. In that 2018-19 season, Schmid would lead the USHL with a .926 SV%, 70 GA%-, 31.48 GSAA, 0.94 GSAA per 60 minutes, and 0.96 GSAA per 30 shots. He put up a solid 66.67 Quality Start% (above 60% tends to be the cut off for the top goaltenders). Things were looking up heading into 2019-20 but a hip injury would derail his season. He started the season with Omaha before being moved to Sioux City as he struggled to play through the injury. His numbers tanked with a .889 SV%, negative GSAA, and a sub 50 QS%. After the season, Schmid would undergo double-hip surgery to fix the problem.

Last season, Schmid was back in form and dominated the USHL as Goaltender of the Year. He led the league with a .921 SV%, 67 GA%-, 35.81 GSAA, 1.00 GSAA per 60 minutes, and 1.18 GSAA per 30 shots. He posted an insane 80.56 QS% which really highlights his performance. Now of course he did this in his age 20 season, so it’s what a NHL caliber prospect should be doing, but it still was a big upgrade on his performance from even two seasons ago. Here’s how the Hockey Prospect model views Schmid:

Projection via HockeyProspecting.com

The Hockey Prospecting model uses a Goalie Equivalency which is described here. This model hasn’t really changed it’s forecast on Schmid since his draft+1 year, giving him a 30% chance of becoming a NHLer (100+ games). Schmid is set to compete for playing time with Scott Wedgewood, Nico Daws, and Mareks Mitens in Utica, the Devils new AHL affiliate. Wedgewood figures to be the veteran mentor and 3rd goalie for New Jersey, so it’s more likely it’s a competition with Daws for a significant amount of playing time. Schmid is entering his age 21 season so this is a good chance for the organization to see where he’s at in his development. He’s a real wildcard in my opinion.

Cole Brady

Bio: 6’5”, 181 lbs. - Born: February 12, 2001 (20 Years Old), From: Pickering, Ontario, Drafted: 2019 (5/127), Catches: Left, Contract: Unsigned, 2021-22 Team: Arizona State (NCAA)

Stats via Elite Prospects, the OJHL, the NAHL, the USHL, and the NCAA.

Next, we have Cole Brady who was drafted by the Devils in 2019 out of the NAHL. Prior to his draft year, he spent the 2017-18 season with Markham in the OJHL, a junior A league in Canada that is a level below the major junior leagues that make up the CHL. With Markham, Brady had a near average season with a 102 GA%-, -0.97 GSAA, 57.14 QS%, and 19.05 RBS%. In his draft season of 2018-19, Brady moved on to Janesville in the NAHL as he opted eventually go the NCAA route instead of CHL. With Janesville, he once again was a near average goaltender compared to his peers with a 101 GA%- and a -0.07. Brady then went on to play his draft+1 season in the USHL with Fargo where he started to show signs of breaking out. He posted the 9th highest SV% in the league at .903 which also led all rookies. Among goaltenders that played 20+ games, his 91 GA%- ranked 9th and his 10.93 GSAA ranked 7th. His 60.53 QS% was solid though his 21.05 RBS% and 18.42 BO% was not great.

Last year, his age 19 season, Brady battled through a lot of adversity to put in a solid freshman season at Arizona State. The team played an exclusively road schedule against the Big 10 so to get the GA%-, GSAA, etc. stats I compared ASU’s goaltenders with all the others from the Big 10. Despite playing all road games and having to go through a bout with mono, Brady still finished close to average with a 103 GA%- and -1.16 GSAA. Given how difficult the circumstances were in his freshman season, I’ll give Brady the benefit of the doubt and say it was a solid season. Not great by any means but he at least held it down well compared to his peers.

Projection via HockeyProspecting.com

The Hockey Prospecting model hasn’t changed it’s forecast too much on Brady either. The model gives him a 36% chance of becoming a NHLer at the moment. Brady should see plenty of playing time for ASU after he played a bit under half of the games last year. Evan Debrouwer who played the most games for ASU has now transferred to Bentley for his senior season. Justin Robbins who played sparingly the past two seasons for ASU has now joined Sacred Heart for his junior year. Bronson Moore has returned for his senior season, having played two years for ASU in the ACHA, and then just a single game for the team last season in the NCAA. Ben Kraws figures to be the biggest competition to playing time for Brady this upcoming season. Kraws spent the last two seasons with Miami where he had a .872 SV% in 19 games. It looks like Brady could be ready for a breakout season with ASU as a sophomore. Past that, the Devils own his rights until August 15, 2024, so should he play well over the next season or two, then I would expect him to be signed by the team. His game is still a work in progress but Brady is definitely an interesting prospect.

Nico Daws

Bio: 6’4”, 203 lbs. - Born: December 22, 2000 (20 Years Old), From: Munich, Germany, Drafted: 2020 (3/84), Catches: Left, Contract: 2023-24, 2021-22 Team: Utica Comets (AHL)

Stats via Elite Prospects, the OHL, and the DEL.

Nico Daws was drafted by the Devils in 2020 as an overager after a breakout season with Guelph in the OHL. As you can see from the table above, Daws hardly played in his pre-draft season of 2017-18 and just a bit more in his draft year of 2018-19. In limited action in his draft year, Daws was average with a 98 GA%- and 1.41 GSAA. His breakout came in his draft+1 season of 2019-20 where he led the league with a .924 SV%, 68 GA%-, 1.17 GSAA per 60 minutes, and 1.08 GSAA per 30 shots. His 44.02 GSAA overall was 2nd to Jacob Ingham (47.54 in 46 games). Daws posted a great 78.38 QS% which was well above his career average prior to that season. For this strong season, he earned OHL Goaltender of the Year honors.

With the OHL shutdown last season, Daws decided to play pro hockey in Germany with ERC Ingoldstadt in the DEL. He only played in 10 games and struggled to adapt to the level in a small sample. His 110 GA%-, -2.52 GSAA, and 40.00 QS% marks all left a bit to be desired. Among the 4 U21 goaltenders to play in at least 10 DEL games last season, Daws ranked 2nd in SV% (.898), GA%- (110), and GSAA -2.52 so he was at least decent compared to his peers.

Projection via HockeyProspecting.com

The Hockey Prospecting model’s forecast of Daws saw him take a slight hit after his brief taste of pro hockey last season. The model now gives him a 34% chance of becoming a NHLer. As mentioned above, Daws will compete with Schmid to play a lot of minutes with Utica this upcoming season. He already has a bit of pro experience so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the AHL level. Hopefully the competition can bring out the best in both of their games and development going forward.

Jakub Malek

Bio: 6’4”, 170 lbs. - Born: April 11, 2002 (19 Years Old), From: Kromeriz, Czech Republic, Drafted: 2021 (4/100), Catches: Left, Contract: Unsigned, 2021-22 Team: VHK Vsetin (Czech 2)

Stats via Elite Prospects and hokej.cz

The Devils caught everyone by surprise by selecting Jakub Malek in the 4th round of the 2021 Draft as an overager out of the Czech 2nd division. When I went back to gather his numbers, I started to see from a stats point of view why they may like the prospect. He performed well in his draft-2 season in the Czech U16 league. Among the 28 goaltenders to play in 20+ games, Malek had the 6th highest SV% (.910), 6th best GA%- (88), and 5th best GSAA (15.16). He put up a respectable 65.71 QS% and kept the Really Bad Starts to a minimum. He would advance to the U19 team in his age 16 season in 2018-19. He was about league average with a 100 GA%- and -0.33 GSAA but did post a 63.16 QS% which was noteworthy. Though he wasn’t able to contain the bad starts and had a 21.05 RBS% and 10.53 BO%.

In his draft year of 2019-20, his age 17 season, Malek moved up to play with the U20 team in the U20 2nd division. He excelled with a .927 SV%, 69 GA%-, 29.36 GSAA, and 79.31 QS%. He really did well to cut back on RBS with a 6.90 RBS%. Of the 15 goaltenders to play in 15+ games, Malek’s SV% and GA%- ranked 3rd. His GSAA ranked 1st as did his per 60 minutes and per 30 shot rates. This wasn’t enough to get him on the draft radar but it did get him noticed by his own club, which promoted him to the senior team following the season.

Last year, as an 18 year old in his draft+1 season, Malek transitioned to the pro game on a full time basis with VHK Vsetin in the Czech 2nd division. He played in 14 games so it’s not a large sample, but he did well in his limited action. He posted a .912 SV%, 90 GA%-, 3.16 GSAA, and 61.54 QS%. A fairly solid debut, albeit in the 2nd division, for a young goaltender.

Projection via HockeyProspecting.com

The Hockey Prospecting model only has his draft+1 season to go off of, but it gives him a 33% chance of becoming a NHLer. It will be interesting to see how he can improve his stock this season. He’s already played 4 games and has a 2-2 record with a 1.96 GAA and .938 SV%. He has 3 Quality Starts already, notably including a 31 save shutout last Wednesday which he followed up with a 42 saves on 45 shots performance last Saturday. I was surprised when the Devils drafted him, but looking at his Quality Start numbers throughout his short career, it’s easy to see why they like him. They can afford to be patient with his development as they hold his rights until June 1, 2025. Though I’m sure that he will be playing first division hockey soon whether that’s in Europe or North America within the next few seasons.

Concluding Thoughts

While there has been plenty of front office changes over the years, I find it interesting that the team has drafted one goaltender in every draft from 2015 to 2021. The highest pick they used on a goaltender in that time frame was when the selected Mackenzie Blackwood in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft. He at least looks like he can be an above average starter for the team long term with the jury still out on if he can be a full #1 or a #1A. The two other goaltenders drafted after him, Evan Cormier (4th round 2016) and Gilles Senn (5th round 2017) have already moved past the point of being able to help the Devils in the future. That leaves the four prospects that I discussed above.

One thing that stood out to me about these four is how the Devils used mid to late round picks on all of them. They took Nico Daws in the 3rd round, Jakub Malek in the 4th round, and used 5th round picks on Akira Schmid and Cole Brady. It seems they didn’t want to use too high of a pick on a goaltender and are fine using a lottery ticket on a mid to late round goaltender that is projectionable with upside. Another thing that I noticed is that they don’t seem to mind taking an overager, as they did with Daws and Malek. Goaltenders are hard to project, so having another year of data and viewings on a goaltender can be beneficial.

They also don’t seem to mind where a goaltender is playing. They took Schmid out of the Swiss juniors who was on a path to play junior hockey in North America. They took Brady, a Canadian opting for the NCAA route, out of tier 2 junior hockey in the US, knowing he would play tier 1 and then college hockey. They took Daws out of the OHL which is a more traditional route. Finally, they took Malek out of the Czech 2nd division. Finally, all of these goaltenders, as do many nowadays, have serious size. All of them are listed at 6’4” or 6’5” with Schmid and Daws being over 200 lbs.

While the Devils don’t have a “top” goaltending prospect or anyone that is a sure thing, I think they’ve done well to use those mid to late round picks to get some guys that have the potential to breakout into a legitimate NHL prospect. Hockey Prospecting ranks their goaltending pool 18th in the NHL so while it’s not great, it’s not terrible. I think we should learn a lot about what Schmid and Daws can do as they battle for playing time in the AHL with one of them likely to perhaps see some ECHL time to stay sharp. This is an absolutely huge season for each of them. I’m excited to see what Brady can do as a sophomore in what should be a more normal season for ASU. I’m also encouraged by the start that Malek has had to his 2021-22 season.

I also want to briefly mention Mareks Mitens, who is signed to an AHL deal with Utica. While not a Devils prospect, they’ll have a great chance to evaluate his game this year and see if he can prove himself as a potential NHL goaltender. He’s not young, as he’s entering his age 24 season in 2021-22, and he’s not big, listed at 6’1”, 185 lbs. The Latvian is coming off of a successful NCAA career with Lake Superior State where he had a .914 SV% in 94 games from 2017-21. His senior season of 2020-21 was his best as he played in 25 games with a 1.96 GAA and .930 SV%. He managed to get into 4 games with Binghamton to finish the AHL season last year so he has at a cup of coffee at the AHL level. I expect him to start mainly in Adirondack (ECHL) given that Wedgewood, Schmid, and Daws are battling for two spots in Utica. He’s certainly on the outside looking in but it will be interesting to see if he can take advantage of the opportunity he has in 2021-22.

Your Take

What do you think about each of these prospects? Which of these goaltenders are you most optimistic about? What are your expectations for each of these goaltenders in 2021-22 and beyond? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!