The Canadiens’ lack of depth at the goaltending position has been well advertised, and rather than attempting to fill the void by signing free agents or goalies that fell through the cracks in other organizations, general manager Kent Hughes decided he’d address the issue by picking three goaltenders with his eight remaining picks.
The most interesting of which was Youngstown Phantoms netminder Jacob Fowler, who was chosen 69th overall by the Canadien.
Fowler, 18, was the sixth goaltender chosen on Day Two, following a run of goaltenders that kicked off when the Arizona Coyotes picked goaltender Michael Hrabal with the 38th overall pick.
Due to the aforementioned Newhook trade, the third-round pick the team used on Fowler was just their second pick of the Draft, putting a little added pressure on the scouting team to secure a player that has a legitimate chance to one day make an impact in the NHL.
Now that the Canadiens have revamped their goaltending prospect depth, it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at what Fowler brings to the table. To get a better idea, we spoke to one of our favourite prospects expects, Chris Peters, the leading authority on all things related to the NCAA, as well as a fantastic source of information regarding USHL players.
Jacob Fowler Scouting Profile
Fowler had a very good season in the USHL, posting solid numbers, including a 2.28 goals against average and a .921 save percentage, but he shone brightest in the playoffs, where he posted an 8-1-0 record on his way to securing a Clark Cup win for the Phantoms.
Thanks to his 1.36 goals against average and his fantastic .952 save percentage, the USHL Goaltender Of The Year was also named the Clark Cup MVP.
“His biggest strength is his hockey sense and ability to read plays,” said Peters. “He’s got great anticipation and his pre-shot reads allow him to always be in a good position. He doesn’t lose his net a lot. He can play a pretty contained, predictable game which I think coaches really like. He made it look easy in the playoffs.”
Like most young players, Fowler has some work to do when it comes to readying his body for the rigours of professional hockey.
“As far as weaknesses, I think the general concern comes down to fitness level and conditioning,” explains Peters. “His style doesn’t require him to be acrobatic or explosive, which is good, but I think you want a goalie that you’re going to be able to rely on for long stretches. Maintaining the quickness that he has could work, but I think teams would like to see him a little quicker in certain aspects.”
It’s a fair criticism, but thankfully, cardio is something you can improve, whereas an innate hockey sense cannot be taught. When discussing a prospect like Fowler, who champs at the bit to prove his worth, a little nutritional coaching is likely to go a long way, and that’s something the Montreal Canadiens can easily provide in spades.
“His mentality, his competitiveness and his technique all serve him well to play as he needs to,” said Peters.
We also asked Peters to give us insight into Fowler’s potential, a particularly interesting topic given that the Canadiens’ goaltending future is up in the air. Samuel Montembeault has emerged as a solid goaltender, and Jakub Dobes projects to have some NHL potential, but as it stands, it’s certainly a fluid situation.
“Right now I see Fowler projecting more comfortably as a tandem goalie at the NHL level,” he said. “Each level he goes to is going to ramp things up, so I think we’ll have a better idea of where he slots in long-term after a few years of college hockey. I do think he has starter potential due to his hockey sense, but goalies are near impossible to project at this early stage. The package of skills he has is going to give him a chance.”
Given most NHL teams are moving toward using multiple goaltenders throughout the season and playoffs rather than one bonafide starter, Fowler’s early projections are quite encouraging.
For decades, the Montreal Canadiens have relied on having one of the best goaltenders in the league, which, in turn, has papered over other organizational weaknesses. But there’s a clear drawback to having an overreliance on a single player, especially a goaltender.
That’s not to say the days of relying on a player like Carey Price are over, but prospects such as Fowler, who committed to playing for Boston College next season, may offer the Canadiens more sustainable options once they’re ready to leave the low-pressure environment that comes with any rebuild.
If you would like to support Chris Peters’ fantastic work or keep up with the most recent Montreal Canadiens NCAA information, follow him on Twitter by clicking here. He’s also the Senior Content Creator For FloHockey. His work can be found here. You can also view more of his scouting reports on Youtube.