The St. Louis Blues know they have their starting goaltender and hope it will be for years to come. Still, the nature of the position means none of their goalies can ever get comfortable as they can easily get passed up
Things can always change. They often do, and quickly.
In May of 2018, Evan Fitzpatrick was basking in the glow of a Memorial Cup win as the champion of all Canadian junior hockey. He would sign a pro contract and start playing for Blues affiliates the following season, seeming like he was on his way.
Fitzpatrick has hit some bumps on the road. After playing 25 games in the ECHL in 2018-19, as well as eight with San Antonio of the AHL, Fitzpatrick fell off the horse a bit.
He only featured in seven games for the Tulsa Oilers in 2019-20 and then got loaned to the Brampton Beast. Fitzpatrick only played in five games for the Canadian ECHL team and his numbers were even worse than they were in Tulsa.
In 2018-19, Fitzpatrick had a 3.30 goals against and a .874 save percentage in Tulsa. With more skilled teammates, his numbers were 2.66 and .901 in San Antonio.
Compare that with 2019-20 and he is going the wrong way. In Tulsa, his numbers were 3.39 and .891 and in Brampton they were 4.73 and .838.
Unfortunately for him, those are not numbers that get you called back up. He is going to have to use any future camps to get himself back into the good graces of the Blues because it would seem he has been passed up.
Going into 2019-20, most would have figured Fitzpatrick was the Blues fourth goaltender. You had Binnington and Allen in the NHL, Ville Husso in the AHL and then Fitzpatrick. Joel Hofer might have done a little leapfrog.
The Blues could have brought in any number of goaltenders since the NHL was not restricting that position, but Doug Armstrong always said he was going to bring in four goaltenders to the Phase 3 camp. Fitzpatrick was not one of the four and Hofer was. That has to sting.
Hofer is just 19, which is a baby in goaltending terms. Still, he played in 48 games for the Portland Winterhawks in 2019-20 and had a goals against of 2.49 and a save percentage of .915. He also helped Team Canada win the gold medal in the 2020 World Junior Championships.
Just like that, it would seem Hofer, who is not even a pro yet, has jumped past Fitzpatrick on the depth chart. That’s going to bring up a lot of questions once next season starts, assuming it does.
The Blues have decisions to make. They decided to put Fitzpatrick in the ECHL to be a starter and allow Husso to be a clear number one in the AHL without pressure to get anyone else games.
Playing 12 games in the ECHL doesn’t sound like he got starter consideration, injuries or not. So, would the Blues put Fitzpatrick in the AHL in 2020-21, just to get his groove back with better teammates and competition?
That would depend on what they do with Hofer. Hofer told Jim Thomas, in his article, he would prefer to turn pro in 2020-21, if given the option.
That will be up to the Blues and what they consider Hofer’s future. It’s slightly dangerous, from a developmental standpoint, to have three goaltenders all in the pros if you think all three might be something.
Time will tell. Hopefully Fitzpatrick can get himself right and back on track. It was not that long ago that he was helping his team win a championship, so the talent is there.
But even for teams with their NHL situation sealed up, the goaltending carousel never ends. There is always someone else coming up.