Eavesdrop on any bar stool/water cooler chat about Ondrej Pavelec, the Winnipeg Jets No. 1 puckstopper, and you might hear a varied and occasionally heated discussion.
The big Czech goalie has his fans, and with good reason. He is a workhorse who appeared in a league-leading 44 games last season and, on many nights, was the Jets' top player.
But there are always critics, and they point to a two-year decline in his save percentage, his average puck-handling and rebound control as trouble spots.
And so as we jump into the fifth and final instalment of our Jets At The Draft series, we thought we'd bring in an outside observer for his take on Pavelec.
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Jamie McLennan, a former NHL goaltender who is now a TSN/NHL Network analyst, for his thoughts on Pavelec...
"He competes hard in the net, he's durable. He's a big, strong guy who can handle minutes. I really respect that he doesn't care much about style points. His biggest thing is to simply stop the puck, and with his mentor being Dominik Hasek, you can see where he throws everything he has into making the save. He brings it every night, and from a player's perspective, guys love that.
"I know people look at stats a lot, but I don't put a lot into that unless it's something that comes out consistently. Save percentage and goals against... I look more at quality scoring chances, and the Jets give up a lot. A goalie on a good team faces maybe 10, 12 -- 15 tops -- scoring chances. Ondrej Pavelec faces more than that. There's no stat for that.
What must improve
"His rebound control could be better, and one thing that will come with maturity is giving up the ill-timed bad goal. He's still prone to the odd softy that can be deflating. That comes with knowing his game. He's very confident in the net, but there's times where he allows a goal and you're scratching your head thinking, 'How did that even go in?' A goal through the five-hole from the far boards, a through-the-body goal out of nowhere. Some guys get it out of their game, and I see him doing that."
"He's on the cusp. He's proven he can handle the workload as a bona fide No. 1. Now it's about pushing his stock into that top 10 status where he's a difference-maker. I think he's the MVP of the Jets, but I'm a little bit biased because I tend to lean to the goaltenders. I really like his body of work. I'm a fan of his."
Most importantly, Pavelec's biggest fans remain in the Jets clubhouse and in upper management. He signed a long-term contract last summer and head coach Claude Noel -- asked in the 2013 season post-mortem if he thought the Jets could win a championship with him in net -- was succinct. "Yes," said the usually loquacious coach, "I think we can."
GOALTENDER -- WHAT'S IN THE SYSTEM?
- Pavelec FYI: Age: 25. 2013 numbers: 44GP, 21-20-3 (W-L-T), 2.80 GAA; .905 save percentage.
- Contract: Four years remaining on current deal that pays him $3.5 million in 2013 (cap hit of $3.9 million).
He played so little in 2013 it was hard to really get a read on his contributions. He did post the only shutout the Jets had last year -- a 1-0 blanking of the Senators in Ottawa -- and does have an understanding of how to play the backup role. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has spoken to his agent about a return.
- Montoya FYI: Age: 28. 2013 numbers: 7GP, 3-1-1 (W-L-T), 2.91 GAA; .899 save percentage.
- Contract: Unrestricted free agent (earned $601,000 in 2013).
TOP GOALTENDER PROSPECT
CONNOR HELLEBUYCK, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS-LOWELL: Fifth-round pick from 2012 is coming off a fabulous first season of college hockey... Hockey East goaltender of the year, led his team to the Frozen Four... With the River Hawks Hellebuyck, a freshman, finished with a 20-3 record and led the NCAA with a 1.37 goals-against average with a .952 save percentage and six shutouts... Named the MVP of the Hockey East playoff tournament... NCAA Tournament Northeast Regional most valuable player... Unanimous selection to the Hockey East all-rookie team ... Named Hockey East defensive player of the week three times, rookie of the week five times, Hockey East player of the week twice and Hockey East goaltender of the month twice.
(goalies under NHL contracts)
- EDDIE PASQUALE (above): Periods where he was dominant and stretches where he was OK. Big season for him to prove he can be a star No. 1 AHL netminder. Consistency will be key for a player still only 22.
- MARK DEKANICH: Signed to play with the Croatian team Medvescak Zagreb in the KHL last May after one year in St. John's. The Jets will retain his rights.
- JUHO OLKINUORA: Finnish netminder who left the University of Denver after two years to turn pro. Played one game with the IceCaps. A second-team WCHA all-star in Denver.
IN THE SYSTEM
(draft picks or players under NHL deals)
- JASON KASDORF: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Another freshman who had a great year in college, the Winnipeg native posted a 14-5-2 record with 1.62 GAA. Was ECAC Rookie of the Year, named to the All-ECAC Hockey second team, set the school's single-season record for goals against. A former Portage Terrier who was a sixth-round choice in 2011.
- JAMIE PHILLIPS: Seventh-round pick in 2012 who just finished his first season at Michigan Tech. Was 2-2 with a 2.40 GAA and .907 save percentage.
- CHRIS CARROZZI: Has bounced between the AHL and ECHL the past three seasons. Drafted by Atlanta in 2008.
THE NHL'S BEST
By comparison, a look at some the NHL's top goaltenders (ranked by 2013 wins):
1. HENRIK LUNDQVIST, NYR; 43 GP, 24-16-3 (W-L-T); 2.05 GAA; .926 save percentage.
2. ANTTI NIEMI, SJ: 43 GP, 24-12-6 (W-L-T); 2.16 GAA; .924 save percentage.
3. NIKLAS BACKSTROM, MINN.: 42 GP, 24-15-3 (W-L-T); 2.48 GAA; .909 save percentage.
4. MARC-ANDRE FLEURY, PITT.: 33 GP, 23-8-0 (W-L-T); 2.39 GAA; .916 save percentage.
5. EVGENI NABOKOV, NYI: 41GP, 23-11-7 (W-L-T); 2.50 GAA, .910 save percentage.
Other notable goaltenders: Sergei Bobrovsky, CBJ (Vezina Trophy winenr); Jonathan Quick, LA; Tuukka Rask, Bos.; Corey Crawford, Chi.; Carey Price, Mtl.; Jimmy Howard, Det.; Braden Holtby, Wash.
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