TORONTO, Ont. -- It's a position that gives OHL scouts fits as it doesn't take long to look through the history of the OHL Priority Selection to find a number of high picks who never quite amounted to what a team hoped they were getting.
As we've often remarked as being a draft within a draft, looking at goaltenders in the bantam or 14U age group is all about one critical word: projection.
LINK ($): 2002 Bantam Final Goaltender Rankings
In contrast to an '01 goaltending crop from Ontario that lacked the type of size that OHL teams typically covet, it's a different story in the '02 crop as many of the top goaltenders have already eclipsed the 6-foot mark; with several handily exceeding it.
What does that mean for the OHL Draft? Well for starters, you could make a fair prognostication that we might see an earlier run on goaltenders than we're typically used to seeing over the past three years.
The 32 goaltenders selected in the 2017 Draft represented a three-year high, so even with the introduction of the U18 Priority Selection, early indications would appear to show that we'll continue to see somewhere between 28-32 goaltenders selected in next year's edition of the draft. But where we might see a shift, is how many go in the first five rounds.
After 10 goalies went in the top-100 picks back in 2015; just five went in that same range in 2016, while six fell in those top-five rounds this year. Based on where the '02 goaltending crop is at thus far, it's very plausible that we might see that trend push back towards double digits and eclipse the total of the previous two drafts.
Another interesting trend to monitor this year is that - for the first time in a while - the Ontario crop seems to be quite a bit further ahead than their USA counterparts who reside within OHL Draft eligible states. Goaltending has always been a hot-button issue for Hockey Canada in recent years, and with the OHL now well into their ban of European imports at the position, the '02 crop might be a breath of fresh air for some teams that are looking at a positional need in net over the next two or three seasons.
Oh, and let's not forget that we'll continue to see no shortage of fluctuation with the goaltending position next year. While there is obviously no shortage of bigger-framed goaltenders at this point, there's certainly an opportunity for others to quickly make a name for themselves if growth spurts are forthcoming. But before you discount the importance of size, remember that as of the 16/17 OHL season, just four goaltenders in the league are listed at under 6-foot-1.
Stay tuned for our 2002 Bantam Final Ranking - Skaters which will be replaced next Monday: May 1st.