The St. Louis Blues have struggled so far this season and some of the fault can fall on the shoulders of netminders Jake Allen and Carter Hutton. Allen has a goals against average of 2.74, while Hutton’s tallies a little better at 2.66. Both of these stats are among the bottom in the league, although not at the very bottom. When judging by save percentage, the two are even worse, ranking near the bottom in the league yet again; Allen has an even .900, and Hutton is at .902.
With how much the Blues have relied on their goalies this season, it’s very hard for them to see such poor numbers. The team allowed a total of 46 goals against in 14 games during the month of January. They allowed one more goal against in December.
The high numbers have shown in their record and overall spot in the standings. Throughout the two months they tallied a record of 11-14-2, which first forced them out of a spot among the top three in the Central Division, then out of a playoff spot entirely. Although the season does still have time left, the team will need a big momentum shift to help fix the lack of success they have had lately.
With such poor goaltending coming from such promising current players, some Blues fans are wondering how the team’s goaltending situation will look in the future. Although the team’s goaltending depth isn’t too deep, they do have a few goaltenders who look to be very impressive already.
The Future of the St. Louis Blues Goaltending
Ville Husso is currently rotating games with Pheonix Copley and Jordan Binnington with the Chicago Wolves, the Blues AHL affiliate. He’s had an off-and-on season so far, but in 13 appearances he has a winning record. He would have more games on the season, but started it off in the ECHL, with the Missouri Mavericks. There he proved to be very inconsistent, going 4-4-2 in 13 total games.
Since he was moved back up to the AHL he’s played a lot better, and would be among the top of the league with his .913 save percentage, if he had a few more games played.
Husso has been hard to judge, and is still very young at only 21. But he really turned heads during his time in the Liiga, going 60-33-21. All this came after being heavily criticized heading into the league.
He’s proved to be a lot more reliable than Copley or Binnington, but due to his stretch in the ECHL, he hasn’t received nearly as many starts as either of them. That is something that the team has started making up for, cutting Binnington short of a few starts in favor of Husso.
Although he has looked good in the AHL so far this season, most people predict that Husso will need another two or three years in the minors before he is ready to become an NHL starter. He may see some time as backup, assuming the Blues lose Hutton, but even that’s a long shot. Still, Husso is looked at as one of the most promising prospects in the Blues organization. They’re hoping he can develop into an elite starter, and be the predecessor to Allen.
A new player in the Blues depth pool, Evan Fitzpatrick was taken in the second round of the 2016 draft. He’s currently in his third season with the Sherbrooke Phoenix. All three seasons he’s been their starter, currently being backed up by rookie Brendan Cregan. Fitzpatrick is currently 12-18-2 in 35 games so far this season, and is 43-55-13 during his career in the QMJHL.
Fitzpatrick’s inconsistency shows through in his goals against average. In all three of his seasons with the Phoenix, including this one, he’s had an average that tallies over three goals. So far this year, it’s at 3.50, which is high for a goalie who is being relied on as heavily as Fitzpatrick is in Sherbrooke. However, his save percentage is .901, which ranks him in the top ten goalies in the league.
That is Fitzpatrick’s biggest problem right now. He’s shown a lot of inconsistency throughout his three years in the QMJHL. It’s why he wasn’t chosen until midway through the second round, despite appearing in five games for Canada in the World Juniors, and appearing on the QMJHL All-Rookie team two seasons ago. In fact, Fitzpatrick was chosen after Carter Hart and Tyler Parsons, despite topping them both on the scouting report of North American goalies.
The Blues are hoping that Fitzpatrick ends up being one of their biggest steals of recent drafts. He’s 6’3, just over 200 pounds, and covers a lot of net. He’s also very agile and athletic for his height, and never gives up on plays. Because of this, he’s constantly making highlight reel saves, and is able to adjust and get back in position even when he’s out of it.
The list of strengths Fitzpatrick has continues, but simply put, he is a very smart goaltender for his age. He has impressively good rebound control and is able to get the right angle on almost any shot. This is why he is so praised, and why he was so highly ranked going into last year’s draft.
His inconsistency is typical for a goalie in the QMJHL, and with the work ethic he totes, he should be able to become more consistent as he moves into the AHL, and eventually the NHL. The Blues recently hired Martin Brodeur and Ty Conklin as their goalie coaches, who will work very well with Fitzpatrick.
The Blues are hoping he matures enough to earn a shot at a starting role within a few years. At the very least they want him to be battling Husso for the spot. This is his last season in the QMJHL, and he will most likely back up Husso with the Wolves next season, when the Blues will be able to see what they have in their two young netminders.