The Montreal Canadiens will have to make a decision in the near future regarding two goaltending prospects.
Frederik Dichow and Joe Vrbetic must be signed by June 1, 2023, or the Canadiens will relinquish their draft rights without compensation.
The Canadiens were in desperate need of goaltending prospects following the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, though it was clear what type of goaltender they wanted to add to their organization.
Dichow, 6’4″, was drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 Draft. The Canadiens went on to add 6’5″ Jakub Dobes to the prospect pool in the fifth round the following year, as well as 6’6″ Joe Vrbetic in 2021.
The team was following a clear trend in the NHL, one that banked on size for goaltenders rather than exclusively judging their potential via the results they produced in Junior hockey.
Dobes was signed following a successful two-year stint in the NCAA with the Ohio Buckeyes, but now, the team must decide whether Vrbetic and Dichow are worthy of a contract.
And while neither goalie stands out as a prospect with NHL-starter potential, it’s worth noting one of the Canadiens’ biggest organizational weaknesses is their lack of depth at the goaltending position.
Carey Price is still part of the team, though in name only. We can safely assume his days of saving the Canadiens’ bacon are over.
That leaves Samuel Montembeault, Jake Allen, Cayden Primeau, and Dobes as the only healthy goaltenders in the organization that are currently signed to NHL contracts.
Simply put, it’s an alarmingly shallow talent pool, which is probably why the team fast-tracked the Dobes dossier and signed him after just two years of NCAA experience.
Though the Canadiens are desperate to bolster their goaltending options, there is nothing in Vrebtic’s results that would suggest he’s a good candidate for an entry-level contract.
Now, before we delve into those numbers, it’s important to remember the ECHL, where Vrebtic has played this season, is the hockey equivalent of the Wild West. Defence is optional and rosters are endlessly changing, making consistent goaltending a rather difficult proposition.
With that in mind, Vrebtic finished the season with a .896 save percentage, the 29th-best save percentage among goaltenders in the ECHL. He did outplay his goaltending counterpart, Philippe Desrosiers (0.889), but it’s never a good sign when your goaltender finishes 29th in a league that only has 28 teams.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Vrebtic is unworthy of a contract.
But it does mean the Canadiens cannot afford to use a contract slot on a goaltender that has little to no NHL potential. A contract with the Laval Rocket, which would allow Vrebetic to move back and forth from the ECHL to the AHL may be in order.
Unfortunately, it’s been rather difficult to get a good read on his overall form this season. Dichow has served as Frolunda’s backup goaltender, leaving him with limited opportunities to prove his worth.
He finished the season with a .899 save percentage in 16 games, well below the .910 save percentage produced in 41 games by starter Lars Johansson.
However, we all know playing as a backup is one of the most difficult situations for a young goaltender to thrive. Consistency is key, and there was no consistency to be found in Dichow’s usage.
It’s also worth noting Dichow outplayed Johansson during the Champions Hockey League, sporting an excellent .917 save percentage for Frolunda, who were eliminated in the semifinals. Johansson, on the other hand, had a .911 save percentage.
When the goaltender gets credit for the goal 🤯 @frolunda_hc's Frederik Dichow deflects the puck all the way down and into the empty net. More top goals from @championshockey action ➡️ https://t.co/58i8QESWbn pic.twitter.com/10F00RyeMB
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) November 24, 2022
We should also keep in mind Dichow has looked great every time he’s taken to the net for Denmark in international competitions, as evidenced by his .911 save percentage at the 2023 World Championship, a tournament in which Denmark was considered one of the major underdogs.
In normal circumstances, I’d suggest Dichow has not yet shown enough flashes of brilliance to warrant a contract.
But having just four active goaltenders signed to contracts means these are not normal circumstances.
Unless the Canadiens have plans to find a goaltender via another avenue, they have to seriously consider tendering Dichow a contract.
The clock is ticking.