St. Louis Blues Flush With Too Many Goaltending Prospects

BLAINVILLE-BOISBRIAND, QC - OCTOBER 07: Goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick
BLAINVILLE-BOISBRIAND, QC - OCTOBER 07: Goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick /

The old adage usually says you cannot have too much of a good thing. When it comes to goaltending, that might not apply quite as much.

The St. Louis Blues have loaded themselves up with goaltending prospects over the years. They’ve done so much drafting of the position that it’s become almost a joke during the drafts that they are likely to add another one.

The reality of the situation is that the Blues are really no different than most NHL clubs. They’re trying to find their goaltender of the future, keep their minor league system stocked and hedge their bets.

The problem the Blues have is they have a good goaltender right now but also have too many “goaltenders of the future” in waiting. It’s a good problem to have, but one that will have to be dealt with eventually.

For a little while now, Ville Husso has been the name that came to lips most often when discussing the future of the Blues net. Seeing him in person during the Blues prospects camp in 2016, he had the most NHL ready skills as well.

It doesn’t hurt that he was playing professionally in Finland, a nation known for producing some very good goaltenders. He sputtered at first, being forced to play in the ECHL due to the Blues already having a logjam of goaltending at the AHL level.

However, due to some disagreements with the Missouri Mavericks, the Blues were forced to go with a three-goalie system briefly in the AHL. Husso jumped right ahead of the line and became a starter more often than not.

Husso seems ready to ascend to the next level sooner rather than later, but the Blues depth at the position gives them time. Unfortunately, time might also cause problems.

Now we hear that Evan Fitzpatrick is being considered a goaltender of the future as well. Fitzpatrick is much farther away, but with only three years difference between Husso and Fitzpatrick, eventually a choice will need to be made.

The powers that be are liking what they see in Fitzpatrick, which is more than I can say for myself. Having viewed him in prospect camp in 2016, he got scored on more than the camp invitees who are there just to make sure there are enough goalies to go through drills.

I’m not saying Fitzpatrick does not have the skills or attributes, but it just is not as visibly there yet. The Blues feel otherwise.

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“He’s got the full package,” Blues scouting director Bill Armstrong said. “He’s got size and ability, and for a goaltender, he’s got a good hockey IQ. He’s got kind of the whole package, and that’s one thing we loved about him.”

Martin Broduer knows a thing or two about goaltending. He knows the kid is a ways away, but likes his attributes as well.

“I like how athletic he is,” said Brodeur. “He’s a big kid, he’s a strong kid. At that age to be able to push so hard and be in control like that, he was pretty impressive. When I first saw him, he was 18 years old, now he’s grown a little bit since then. He tested really well with our strength coach, he keeps getting himself stronger and stronger. I like his ability. There’s a lot of things he needs to work on. But as a young goalie it’s normal.”

Fitzpatrick has a ways to go though. His defense has not given him much help, but his numbers even in juniors simply are not very good (3.49 goals against, .899 save%).

Still, the Blues are not thrown off by his current development. “He needs to start winning,” Brodeur said, “and get a little more confidence. It’s good to have a lot of shots, but eventually your confidence needs to be higher. I’m looking forward to him (developing). I really like him. I liked him from the get-go when we drafted him. Billy asked me to take a look at him and talk to him. I like his attitude. He’s really genuine; he wants to be a goalie.”

Clearly the Blues are not putting too much pressure on either of these guys right away. With Jake Allen solidifying himself as a pure starter this past season, the Blues won’t even need someone to be a backup until 2018-19 at the earliest.

Still, the Blues are eventually going to have more guys than they have spots. Beyond just Fitzpatrick and Husso, the Blues also have Jordan Binnington and Luke Opilka.

Binnington has been a pro long enough now that he seems destined to either be an AHL goaltender or NHL backup. Opilka has the whole local boy aspect to him, but needs to prove he can stay healthy before St. Louis can even think about giving him a look at a professional level.

The issue the Blues are going to run into, beyond just pure numbers, is not having enough spots to fill. Right now the Blues are without an AHL affiliate of their own.

That will likely be rectified in 2018-19, but St. Louis doesn’t have an ECHL affiliate either. They proved that a “working relationship” with the Missouri Mavericks did not really cut it already. They might need to find true partners at both levels just to give all these guys time to grow.

It’s not a big issue right now because Husso has made the jump to the AHL and some of the others still have time left in their junior careers. That won’t last forever though.

People who are more in the moment are probably wondering what the big deal is if this is still years away. Again, it’s not a terrible problem to have, but it forces you to make choices eventually and the Blues have a history of not making the right choice with goaltenders.

The flip side to my argument is you can never quite tell how things pan out. The L.A. Kings thought Jonathan Bernier was going to be the one to supplant Jonathan Quick.

He felt he was ready before that time, was dealt away and has never fully flourished. He’s been a serviceable player, but is joining his fourth team in six seasons now.

So, perhaps the Blues are right to load up with goaltenders. You never really know who will be able to handle all the pressure once they get all the way up to the NHL.

Some guys are built for juniors and others are only meant to go as high as minor league hockey. You don’t truly know until they get there.

Next: Blues Future Backup Goaltender Options

The Blues have definitely left themselves with options and few current places to slot them. Hopefully these guys live up to the hype they are currently getting.

Personally, I still think Husso has the better upside. Fitzpatrick just has not shown me enough yet and simply has prototypical size.

That can all change in a heartbeat. Time will be the ultimate judge of this question.