For most of their short history the Atlanta Thrashers have had problems with goaltending. But recent developments in the minors and junior hockey indicate that the goal position could be an area of depth heading into the 2010-2011 season.
At the NHL level the Thrashers have 2nd round pick Ondrej Pavelec who had both highs and lows as a 22 year old rookie in the NHL. With his large frame and quickness he has the potential to become better with time. In the AHL Drew MacIntyre and Peter Mannino had good seasons and Mannino was outstanding going 26-5 with a great save percentage (.921) AT their age, Mannino and MacIntrye are no longer prospects, but Mannino appears like a potential NHL backup netminder. But it was in the OHL that where two goalie prospects showed some significant progress. Both players stepped up their play last season in the most competitive of the three major junior leagues.
Chris Carrozzi was drafted in the 6th round (145th overall) in 2008 at age 20 he posted career bests in GAA and SV% this last season, and he finished just a hair shy of winning the GAA title for the season. His year impressed many in that league and he was voted OHL Goaltender of the Year and was picked for the 1st Team OHL Goal spot. Carrozzi's regular season SV% ranked 5th in the OHL and he posted an outstanding .928 SV% in the playoffs.
Ed Pasquale was drafted 4th (117th overall) in 2009. Ed Pasquale didn't really get a chance to show what he could do until a trade to the Saginaw Spirit. The Spirit leaned heavily on Pasquale and he faced a barrage of pucks--nearly 4,000 shots against over the last two seasons. Given the number of pucks fired his way, Pasquale's GAA isn't likely to be very good, but he did manage to post the 4th best SV% in the OHL last season while also facing the 4th most shots against.
Ed showed improvement in both his GAA (from 3.17 to 3.02) and his SV% (from .911 to .916) as he worked hard to keep his team in games. He took his performance to another level this spring as with an outstanding .943 SV% while facing an average of 40 shots against per game played. His terrific play allowed the Spirit to extend their series to six games against a favored opponent. Pasquale has signed an entry level contract with the Thrashers organization.
Goal tending is one of the least predictable positions in hockey. Most great NHL forwards or defensemen are drafted in the 1st or 2nd round, but roughly half of all NHL starting goalies were not drafted high. Goalies develop at their own pace and the position is very difficult to forecast. With Pasquale and Carrozzi playing well in the OHL and Mannino the AHL and young Pavelec in the NHL, the talent pipeline has more promise than at any time in the past. The biggest goalie question heading into next season is who will share the NHL starts with Pavelec?