Drafting a goaltender and projecting their potential is incredibly difficult when compared to a forward or defenseman. The Panthers have been trying to find a future number 1 goalie in the draft for years just like every other NHL team, and fortunately, the stellar play of Roberto Luongo has bought them some time.
In our second edition of ‘In The System,’ we’ll take a look at the newest and most underrated goaltender in the Panthers’ system: Samuel Montembeault of the QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
The Panthers drafted Samuel Montembeault in the 3rd round of the 2015 Draft this past June at the team’s home arena in Sunrise, Florida. It apparently wasn’t a difficult choice at all for Dale Tallon; he said after the draft that the team “got the number 1 goalie on [their] list,” and that was after 4 goaltenders had already been selected prior to the Panthers’ 3rd-round position. Scott Luce, who was the Panthers Director of Scouting prior to this season, said they “were real happy Montembeault fell to [them] at that point,” and that’s because he was one of the more underrated goaltenders in the entire draft. The NHL’s Central Scouting department ranked Montembeault as the 3rd-best North American goalie eligible for the 2015 Draft and most scouting services ranked him within the top 100 overall.
Despite being just 18 years old, Montembeault is already in his 3rd season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) where he’s playing for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. He played just 14 games as a rookie during the 2013-14 season and served as the primary back-up goaltender for the Armada, and he did an admirable job posting a 2.34 goals-against average, a save percentage of .898, and a record of 9-2.
Last season, which was his second in the QMJHL as well as his draft year, Montembeault set an Armada franchise record with 33 wins (coincidentally, that’s also his jersey number) in 52 games to go with just 18 losses. Nine of those wins came in consecutive games which set another franchise record for a winning streak. He also posted a goals-against average of 2.59 which was good enough for second in the QMJHL and helped the Armada allow the fewest goals in the league overall (185). He currently has a lifetime goals-against average of 2.58 which is good for 2nd in league history behind Ondrej Pavelec.
Being a goaltender in the QMJHL is a tough task as it’s historically been the highest-scoring league out of all the juniors leagues in the CHL, as well as when compared to the NCAA and overseas. It’s usually why you’ll see goaltenders drafted out of the QMJHL with save percentages in the high 80% range whereas goaltenders in the WHL and OHL will be around or above 90%. The same goes for goals-against averages; goaltenders in the QMJHL will typically hover around the low- to mid-3’s (and some higher) where as in other leagues, the better goaltenders will be around the mid- to low-2’s.
Montembeault measures in a 6’3″, 188 pounds, so while he could stand to add a few pounds, he’s just above the average size for a goaltender. His style of goaltending is hybrid, meaning he employs both butterfly and stand-up techniques. His size allows him to cover the bottom of net very well, which you can see in the clip below.
His wide stance doesn’t give shooters much to shoot at while standing up, and he’s lanky, so he covers the net well down low, bringing us to his next best attribute: his reflexes. Montembeault is very good at reacting quickly once the puck is in motion, whether it be because it was shot by a player, or because it was a cross-ice pass. As you can see in the above clip, his ability to drop down quickly and dart his leg out to make the save is impressive and something you don’t see often from young goaltenders. It’s even slightly reminiscent of a save Roberto Luongo would make.
In this clip, Montembeault tracks the puck incredibly well and doesn’t move more than he has to in order to make the save. He’s very calm, composed, and conservative in net; he’s not one to move all over the crease. Before the puck even leaves the shooter’s stick, Montembeault is ready for the shot. He also makes himself look big in the net and gets down low in anticipation of a shot that will likely not be placed very high due to the shooter being on his off-hand.
Montembeault is also very good with his glove hand. Time after time, he’s shown the ability to react quickly with his glove as you can see in the clip above and this one below. Montembeault ranked first among all goaltenders in the category of specialized reaction at the 2015 CHL Top Prospects Sports Testing Combine, so saves like these come as no surprise.
Montembeault also ranked first in the categories of agility and movement at the 2015 CHL Top Prospects combine. His lateral movement and level of athleticism are both very good for a goaltender his age, and he’s able to get across the crease very quickly when attempting to stop a cross-ice pass or track quick puck movement in general.
Montembeault allows a goal on the above sequence (mostly due to the fact that his team was on the penalty kill and the opponent was allowed to freely roam the front of the net) but he’s clearly able to react and get over to the other side of the net quickly to cover the cross-ice pass and the initial shot that followed.
This clip above combines pretty much everything. Montembeault tracks the puck from the corner to the point, quickly gets set for the point shot, fights through the traffic, and darts his left leg out to make the save. Right after the clip ends, the puck landed right in the skates of the defender in front (white jersey) and he was able to clear it away.
“I’m quick for my height, I move very fast….I have good rebound control,” said Montembeault after being drafted by the Panthers last June.
Of course, as a young goaltender, Montembeault has some things to work on. The weakest part of his game would be his puck-handling skills, and that’s not something many goalies are fortunate enough to be able to say at his age. For where he’s at in his development, he has a really good skill set compared to other goaltenders. Since he’s in his third season in the QMJHL, he still has one more season to go before he’s eligible to play in the AHL. Montembeault was recently named the QMJHL’s first star for the month of January after posting an impressive goals-against average of 1.89 and a save percentage of .926 to go with a 5-2-1 record and one shutout.
“Five years…that’s my objective to get into the NHL,” said Montembeault in June. Five years is definitely achievable for Montembeault who is already one of the top goaltenders in the QMJHL. One more season will be perfect for him, and then he’ll be able to compete for a job with the Portland Pirates. Currently, Montembeault is the top player on his team. After winning the West Division last year, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada lost two of the league’s top 5 scorers from last season (both had just under 50 goals and over 100 points), so Montembeault is getting very little offensive support this year.
“Florida is a very good place…it’s warm, the weather’s perfect, it’s a good place,” he said.
Montembeault is definitely one to keep an eye on as he looks to climb the Panthers’ ranks.