In April, we took a look at the state of things in terms of the Panthers’ goaltending. After an entry draft, and an offseason full of player moves, the landscape has changed. Not many changes were made on the Panthers part, but there were a few, and it did affect the depth of goaltending within the organization. Five months later, and we’re back with another look between the posts.
Dan Ellis became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and on July 4th, signed a one-year, two-way pro contract with the Washington Capitals.
Michael Houser became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and after not being presented with a qualifying offer by the Panthers, decided to test the market. On September 14, Houser was signed by the AHL’s Ontario Reign, affiliates of the Los Angeles Kings.
The 2015 NHL Entry Draft took place on June 26-27, 2015 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL. The Panthers drafted two goaltenders: Samuel Montembeault and Ryan Bednard.
Samuel Montembeault was drafted in the 3rd round, 77th overall. The 18 year old, 6’2″, 173lb goalie came out of his second season playing with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL. In 52 games played, Montembeault put out a 33-11-7 record, an .878 save percentage, and a 2.32 goals against average. In the 2015 QMJHL Playoffs, Montembeault played 6 games with a 2-4 record. The Armada were knocked out in six games in the first round by the Gatineau Olympiques. Montembeault was invited to Team Canada’s World Junior evaluation camp this past August. We recapped how he performed in the 2 exhibition games he played at the camp, and you can find that by clicking here. The Panthers announced on September 21st that Montembeault will return to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, his junior team in the QMJHL, for the coming season. Scouts are very high on Montembeault and many see him having a chance to become a number 1 goaltender down the road.
Ryan Bednard was drafted in the 7th round, 206th overall. The 18 year old, 6’4″, 179lb Michigan native spent most of his time with the Johnstown Tomahawks of the NAHL in 2014/15, but he played one game with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL. In 37 games played in Johnstown, Bednard posted a 16-16-5 record, with a 2.66 goals against average and a .873 save percentage. Bednard is a verbal commit to Bowling Green State University of the WCHA in 2016-2017, and will most likely spend the 15/16 season in Youngstown of the USHL. Bednard most recently earned a 34-save shutout for the Phantoms against the USA U-18 team in the USHL’s Pittsburgh Showcase.
Mike McKenna was signed on July 1st. McKenna spent the 2014/15 season with the Arizona Coyotes organization, playing with their (now former) AHL affiliate Portland Pirates. During the span of 52 games with the Pirates, McKenna posted a record of 27-18-6, and in one game with the Coyotes, he allowed five goals. In 2015/16, McKenna will likely be the starting goaltender, but will face competition from up-and-comer Sam Brittain.
Names we know:
Sam Brittain spent the most of 2014/15 season with the Panthers’ former ECHL affiliate Cincinnati Cyclones, and played seven games with former AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage. Brittain was called up to the Panthers in mid-March after both Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured in the same game. Brittain backed up Dan Ellis for a stretch of game, and while he never started for the Panthers, he was impressive in the 7 games he played with the Rampage after being sent down in late March. In 27 games played with the Cyclones, Brittain put up a 14-11-1 record, an .895 save percentage, and a 2.71 goals against average. Brittain’s record in San Antonio was 4-2-1 in seven games played. After performing well at the Panthers’ Rookie Tournament, expect Brittain to play backup or compete for the starting role in the AHL this year. It will be interesting to see whether he can build on the success he had towards the end of last season.
Evan Cowley is entering his third year at the University of Denver. Last year, he posted a record of 9-6-2 in 20 games for the Pioneers. He ranked 2nd in the NCHC in shutouts (3), 3rd in save percentage (.924), 4th in goals against average (2.16), and 5th in win percentage (.588). As a junior, expect to see Cowley start between the Denver pipes in 2015/16. Cowley and the rest of his Denver squad will face off against the rival Colorado College on February 20, 2016, in a special outdoor game at Coors Field.
Colin Stevens, Union’s championship winning goalie, is with the Panthers organization now. Signed by the Cats in March 2015 after a mediocre senior season in the ECAC, Stevens was sent to the Panthers AHL affiliate Portland Pirates on September 21, 2015, after saving 8 of 10 shots in the Panthers’ first game of their doubleheader against Nashville on Sunday. The jury is still out on what Stevens will become as many are split on him becoming a starter or a borderline AHL starter / NHL backup.
Hugo Fagerblom is currently playing with the Västra Frölunda HC Junior team in Sweden. Since he is a young goalie who was drafted in the seventh round, and hasn’t really played with any NHL/AHL/CHL caliber talent, it is difficult to project where he will be in coming years. He has the build of a “typical” NHL goalie, so it is possible that he will make the NHL someday. However, it is often that European goalies don’t get a good chance to develop, and he could end up not progressing past the SHL or Allsvenskan. At this point, it’s hard to tell.
The Panthers have decent goaltending depth. It’s not amazing, but we have good goalies in the system who will help the team once they develop more. Our revered hero Roberto Luongo will obviously start for the Panthers, and “el grande Cubano” Al Montoya, will back him up. In the AHL, Mike McKenna will start, and it’s likely that Sam Brittain will back him up, with Colin Stevens probably playing backup for a couple of games. Bednard, Montembeault, Cowley, and Fagerblom will continue to develop with their respective junior teams, with the aspiration of one day making the big club and playing in Sunrise.