Welcome back to another prospect profile here at AATJ! Today, we are going to take a look at the top ranked North American goalie prospect in this year’s draft according to Central Scouting. As you know, we have seen some top ranked goalies go fairly high recently, with Yaroslav Askarov going 11th overall to Nashville back in 2020. However, that is not the norm, and the top goalies are generally not going to be lottery picks. Brennan might be the top goalie taken this year, it will be either him or the top European goalie prospect in Topias Leinonen, but regardless of who gets taken first, it will most likely not be in the first round, and might not be in the second either. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at Brennan, what makes him the top NA goalie prospect, and where he might go this year.
Who is Tyler Brennan?
Brennan is one of the older players in this year’s draft class, having been born in September of 2003. He hails from Winnipeg, the hometown of one Travis Zajac as well, never mind the Jets or anything like that. He has the size to be an NHL goaltender one day, standing 6’4 and weighing 190 pounds. That would most likely put him over 200 pounds by the time he gained an NHL role, so he has the frame to succeed, and you know size like that always makes teams excited.
Being from Winnipeg, Brennan was more or less destined to play in the WHL, barring a move to play collegiate hockey, and this he has done for the last few years for the Prince George Cougars. The hard part, and this is true for basically all prospects this year but especially true for goaltending prospects, is that we really only have one full year to go off of. Brennan played one game for the Cougars in 2018-19 as a 15 year old, and then played in 15 games as a 16 year old in his first full year with the club. 15 is not a huge sample size, but enough to see that at that age, he still needed some tuning up against the mostly 17-18 year olds he was playing against. He had a .887 save percentage and a 3.34 GAA, going 4-6-1. Those are not great numbers, but as a 16 year old against older competition, it was promising.
The next year, of course, was mostly sunk. He played in 4 games, going 2-0-2 with a .933 save percentage and a 2.16 GAA. Those are fantastic numbers, but it was only 4 games and really does not mean much. He obviously was hot at the time, and maybe he could have kept it up for a longer season, but we will never know. This past season, we finally got a full slate from him, to the tune of 39 games played. His numbers, overall, do not scream top goalie talent in the draft. He posted an .899 save percentage, 3.58 GAA, and went 11-25-2 for a subpar Cougars team. Where he absolutely shined, however, was the playoffs, where he posted an immaculate .954 save percentage and a 1.86 GAA across four games. Sadly, he went 0-3-0 as Prince George really could not muster anything in front of him, but he did his part.
Brennan does have some international experience for Team Canada, but not a significant amount. He played in the U17 World Hockey Championships in 2020, posting an .872 and 3.35 across four games, going 2-2-0. This past year, he was on Team Canada for the World Juniors, but was a backup, and thus did not get any playing time. So overall, we are looking at someone whose numbers do not really scream top goalie talent in the draft. Hence why his ranks are nowhere near the first round despite his top grade for the position.
Where is Brennan Ranked?
-As mentioned, Central Scouting has Brennan as the top North American goaltender in the draft.
-Future Considerations has him as the 2nd best goalie in this draft behind the European Leinonen, and ranks him #94 overall, compared to #76 for Leinonen.
-Craig Button is high on Brennan, ranking him #36 overall in his March rankings, and in those rankings, calling him someone “that’s just got really strong potential to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL.” Leinonen, on the other hand, was ranked #72.
-Bob McKenzie likes him too, although not as much. He ranks him #62 overall, and does not rank Leinonen in his top 80.
-Smaht Scouting has Brennan tops among goalies as well, ranking him #76 overall compared to Leinonen at #93.
-The Puck Authority has Brennan ranked #78 overall, and the second best goalie. Interestingly, their top goalie is Hugo Havelid, who is the #2 ranked European goalie from Central Scouting. They have him #60.
-The Hockey Writers have Brennan as the top ranked goalie and #100 overall.
What Others Have Said About Brennan
I am going to start with The Hockey Writers, who did a write-up on him back at the end of May. I want to start with them because they have a nice explanation for what has to be confusing you at the moment. Why is Brennan ranked so high when his numbers are so mediocre? I will blockquote that answer here:
“Brennan obviously has the size that NHL general managers crave, but what really makes him so exciting as a prospect is the way he moves laterally in a very composed and precise manner. He has excellent reflexes and closes off the post well which are both important attributes for taller goaltenders to have.
The reason the Brennan is still so high on many people’s lists is that the areas in which he excels, his instincts and athleticism, are the hardest things to teach to a goaltender. On top of that, the areas in which he has plenty of room to grow, puck-handling and close shots, are skills that can be developed consistently and easily by NHL goalie coaches.”
So as you can see, goaltending coaches and scouts love the intangibles about him. He obviously has the size you are looking for, but he also has the instincts, the athleticism, and the ability to move. As noted, he can move from post-to-post quickly, and has great reflexes. What he struggles with, and what has lowered his numbers, are things that goaltending coaches feel can be coached up no problem.
Dobber Prospects has a short blurb report on him from back in January, and here is what they had to say:
“Brennan is the top netminder on NHL Central Scouting’s North American Goaltenders list at the moment, and has a lot of interesting tools upon which to build his game. Behind a losing record (8-12-0), a 3.43 goals against average and a .902 save percentage hides a composed goaltender with great edgework which helps him cover his posts, an active mind and an impressive tendency to divert pucks into areas for his teammates to pick up. As is the case for every goaltender in this draft, there are weaknesses in his game which will likely keep him out of the top-two rounds, such as his inefficiency on shots that force him to squeeze his arms to his chest and his inconsistent puck-playing, both in terms of his handling ability and the moments he chooses to activate behind his net. He reads shooters’ intentions well, but can fall into anticipation easily and can bite hard on redirects, fakes and dekes.”
Finally, check out an article from The Hockey News from the end of March. It talked up how he has added to his game this year, and that it has made him a top prospect. I thought this paragraph was the most interesting, and worth quoting here:
Scouts like Brennan’s combination of size, flexibility and athleticism, but it has been the more recent development of calmness in the 18-year-old’s game that has talent hawks impressed: the kid plays less busy in the crease than he used to, and that’s a good thing. Playing on a middle-of-the-pack Cougars squad, Brennan has often been peppered with shots, facing more than 50 in a game on three separate occasions by early February. The mental side of the game has been crucial for him. “My year has been up and down,” Brennan said. “There’s been some rough games and some really good games, but I’ve focused on bouncing back from those rough games and having a lot more good games. A big part of that is being calm and not letting things bother me, putting the bad things behind me and getting better every day. My ability to bounce back this year has been the best of my entire life, and having a calm mindset has really helped.”
A Little Video
Despite being the top goaltending prospect in North America, there are not many highlight packages for him. The most obvious reason is that he is a goalie, and therefore is not scoring any juicy goals that are highlight-worthy. However, goaltenders always have some good save highlights now and then, but no one has put them together into a package. Here, we have highlights from 3 games from the 2020-21 year. Remember, he only played 4 games that year, and did extremely well, so at least these will be quality highlights.
This is an interesting situation here, and one that might play to the advantage of the New Jersey Devils. Obviously, the Devils are in desperate need of quality goaltending. This is especially true for the big club, but more quality goaltending prospects in the system would be a great idea. Now, on the surface, you would say that this draft is not really great for goaltending, so how could it really help NJ? Well, this is how I see it. The Devils are not going to want to take a goaltender early, even if one was up there. No one is taking a goalie 2nd overall, nor should they, at least in my opinion. So you don’t want the top goalie prospect to be a first round talent. That then brings us to the second round. If the top goalie prospect was a 2nd round talent, this would be acceptable. However, I would still rather take a skater there, as a 2nd rounder still usually has some really good skills and a decent chance at getting into some NHL games.
That then brings us to the third round. At this point, if the top goaltending prospect is still on the board, that’s absolutely perfect for the Devils. They could take Brennan at #69 overall, and most analysts would still consider that somewhat of a reach. But they don’t pick again until #101, so he most likely will be gone before then. It’s either pick #69, trade a pick to get into the 70s or 80s or don’t get him. Now, I profiled Jordan Dumais earlier and said if he is available by round 3, Tom Fitzgerald should run to the podium himself to take him. I still feel that way. However, I could not fault the team for taking the consensus top goalie prospect in the third round, especially because it is a position of major need for this organization. He might have his flaws, and his numbers are mediocre, especially for a top prospect. But he has the size, and according to scouts and coaches, he has all of the intangibles you want, he just needs to be coached up. The Devils might really need a goaltending coach, which is a different story, but assuming they have a good one, they could potentially turn Brennan into an all-star. You never know.
That’s my take, however. What do you think about Tyler Brennan? Do you think he is a quality #1 goaltending prospect this year? What do you find intriguing about him? Would you take him in the third round if you were Tom Fitzgerald? Why or why not? Where is an acceptable position to take him? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!