Jordan Binnington has changed everything for the St. Louis Blues goaltenders. At the beginning of the year, there was a very realistic chance that the team would simply part ways with the aging goalie this summer. Now, after he’s set a record of 16-3-1 in his first 22 games, Binnington is clearly here to stay.
That creates a big issue for the rest of the Blues goalies, though. The organization has three very promising goalie prospects in their system, all fighting to hopefully make the NHL lineup one day. Now that Binnington has guaranteed a roster spot for himself, there is no clear path for everyone else.
The rest of the Blues goalie group paints an interesting picture. It’s a group that has seen a lot of struggles and a lot of success. Most importantly for the Blues, though, is the fact that the three goalies making up this group are all still promising goalies that could all end up in the NHL one day.
Looking at What Else the Blues Goalies Have to Offer
The Other Stories
Ville Husso was supposed to be a star goalie by now but clearly hasn’t shaped up. He proved himself as an elite goalie during his time in Finland’s top league. His dominance was only matched by Juuse Saros during his three years playing overseas. A lot of fans were heavily anticipating his move to the AHL for the 2016-17 season.
He didn’t disappoint. Despite there being a notable difference between European and American hockey, Husso had an amazing rookie year in the AHL. He set a record of 13-6-0, ranking among the best of the rookie goalies that year. Since then, though, Husso has been far less efficient.
This year has been notably difficult. Husso currently sits at a record of 6-15-0 through 25 games played. His goals-against average (3.61) and save percentage (0.875) do a good job of showing his struggles so far. This season was supposed to be his breakout year but a few tough losses early in the season have clearly rattled the young goalie. Now, he looks considerably shaken up in net and has lost a considerable amount of confidence. If he wants to get back to elite, NHL-caliber stardom, he needs to regain that confidence fast.
Evan Fitzpatrick has come out of the woodworks in the past two seasons, establishing himself as a star goalie prospect. Fitzpatrick was a bit of an iffy pick when the Blues selected him in the second round of the 2016 NHL draft. While he was the top-ranked Canadian goalie, even topping Carter Hart in terms of the Central Scouting Services, his stats didn’t help him very much. Prior to being drafted, he allowed an average of 3.42 goals-against each game, on his way to a bleak record of 18-26-8. The following year he struggled again, with a record of 16-27-3.
After this, a lot of fans who solely follow stats considered Fitzpatrick to be a bust. With Husso on the rise, Fitzpatrick became fairly obsolete to fans. That was until he was traded to the Arcadia-Bathurst Titan during the 2017-18 season. With Arcadia, Fitzpatrick quickly became the best goalie in the entire CHL. He carried a strong Arcadia roster on his back, setting a record of 17-3-0 over the rest of the regular season. During their championship playoff run, he was even better. With a goals-against average of 2.10 and a save percentage of 0.925, he went 16-4-0 and led the Titan to their second franchise championship.
Following up his championship winning 2017-18 season hasn’t been very easy for Fitzpatrick. He has a sub-par goals-against average (3.23) and save percentage (0.876) but has been banked out by his teammates, who average over three goals a game. Still, there’s a lot of promise in the young goalie. He has a great skillset, being very agile despite standing at 6’3”.
Fitzpatrick simply needs better experience in the AHL before any long-term assumptions can be made. While Husso struggled with an injury, Fitzpatrick filled in and was able to play in three AHL games. Of those, he started in one, a 3-2 win over the Ontario Reign. Next year will be very important for the 21-year-old. He’ll likely be competing with Husso for the AHL starting role. If he can win it over, he’ll be in prime position to establish himself as the star goaltending prospect he was ranked as.
Joel Hofer might be my personal favorite of the three goalie prospects. The 18-year-old is the newest addition to the goalie charts, being picked in the fourth round of last year’s draft. This year, he took over the starting role for the Swift Current Broncos. This should’ve been a huge honor but it was very short-lived. The Broncos were easily one of the worst teams in the WHL and relied almost entirely on Hofer every night. He averaged an amazing 38 saves each game and still managed a goals-against average of 4.02. He had a modest save percentage of 0.904, though, going to show just how much offense he faced each game.
Hofer was, luckily, dealt to the Portland Winterhawks during the WHL Trade Deadline. The Winterhawks paid a hefty price of six draft picks for Hofer, showing just how promising they think the young goalie is. With Portland, he’s done much better and is slowly taking over the starting role. He averages 30 saves and 3.13 goal-against each game, both much lower than his numbers with the Broncos.
There’s no doubting that he is a much better goalie than the beginning of the year showed. At this rate, there is no reason why Blues fans shouldn’t be overjoyed about Hofer. With a bit of wishful thinking, he could become an elite goalie. He’s an agile goalie who clearly doesn’t mind having to stand on his head on a nightly basis. As he transitions into minor league play over the next few years, he could quickly prove that he is a top prospect in the NHL.
With how young he is, though, it’s all a waiting game. His age also helps him avoid a bit of the traffic that the current depth chart is going through. He has years to spare, while the older Fitzpatrick and Husso are in much more of a rush to break into the NHL.
The Biggest Issue
Jake Allen’s Reserved Seat
Of course, there’s one looming issue for every goalie mentioned. None of them are going to be able to make the NHL as long as Jake Allen has a firm grasp of the backup role.
In a sense, that makes an Allen trade all the more appealing. Not only would the Blues get a massive monkey off of their back, but they’d also open the door to let the rest of the goalie prospects prove their worth in the NHL. Obviously, this is risky with none of the prospects being guarantees, but it might be a bit more secure than keeping Allen in net.
Either way, the Blues need to decide how to handle their prospects fairly quickly. Now that Binnington has established his worth in the NHL, the only way the team could get a true look at any of these prospects is if they moved Allen out of the way. While Husso’s struggles and Fitzpatrick’s inexperience have bought St. Louis a bit of time, they still are in a precarious position. Both players have likely earned another year of minor-league hockey with their performances this year but should be NHL-ready before the 2020-2021 season.