August 19, 2012

67's 2012-13 Season Preview Part 1: Goaltending

Next month, the Ottawa 67’s begin a new era with the 2012-13 campaign. Head coach and General Manager Chris Byrne has been given a new staff of coaching assistants as he begins his first rebuild with the Barberpoles. Not only will fans see their team playing in new stomping grounds at Scotiabank Place, but they will also be seeing a new-look team.

The adage of a rebuild in hockey indicates that you start building from the net out. Unable to land a high-end goalie in the draft, Byrne acquired an overager to provide a stopgap as the team hopes to find a future starting goalie within their system. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the most important position on the ice, but we can establish a pretty good idea of the direction this team is trying to go.

For the first time since 2007-08, the 67’s head into a season with the expectation that two netminders will share the crease, as opposed to having one designated starter. The last two seasons in Ottawa’s crease was dominated by Petr Mrazek. In 2009-10, Mrazek finished the playoffs as the team’s go-to-guy, but Chris Perugini was the undisputed starter for that season and the season prior to it.

It hasn’t been since the 2008 campaign, when the then-rookie Perugini made 24 starts to split duties with Adam Courchaine, has there been such an unknown at the goaltending position. Now, it appears as though Michael Nishi and Keegan Wilson will follow suit of the 2008 squad and spend equal time in goal.

When the 67’s shipped Brampton native Nicholas Foglia to his hometown Battalion in exchange for Wilson, it was apparent that Ottawa was bringing in the overaged goaltender to help fill a void that will be left assuming Mrazek spends this season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. And after making 31 starts as a 19-year old rookie in 2011-12, including four wins in four starts against the 67’s, Wilson looks poised to make his fair share of starts this year.

Nishi provides Wilson with his biggest competition in net. Although he has spent parts of the past three seasons in the OHL, he only has 27 career starts under his belt. However, after being acquired last season from the Soo Greyhounds, Nishi was a reliable goaltender while Mrazek was at the World Juniors, and ended up taking over as the team’s backup when Shayne Campbell went down with injury.

What we already know:
-Petr Mrazek is still eligible to return, but the Detroit Red Wings have made it clear that they want him to play in Grand Rapids for the Wings’ AHL affiliate
-Shayne Campbell will not be back with the 67’s as he has joined the Maritime Junior A Hockey League’s Truro Bearcats
-Michael Nishi finished the 2011-12 season with a 10-8-1-1 record and a 3.67 goals against average
-Keegan Wilson finished the 2011-12 season with a 12-9-3-1 record and a 2.82 goals against average
-The 67’s are believed to still be high on Kanata native Jacob Blair, and he may get a couple of starts in his hometown this season

What’s left to be answered/past comparisons:
-Who will emerge as starter?
-How can the 67’s make do with two goaltenders who haven’t been full-time OHL starters before?
-Before the aforementioned 2007-08 season, neither Perugini nor Courchaine had a single OHL start under their belt.
-Ottawa allowed 237 goals in 2007-08, slightly higher than the 216 allowed this past season.
-That year’s 67’s finished sixth in the Eastern Conference, but were swept in the first round by the Oshawa Generals.
-Will a trade need to be made to acquire another under-utilized, veteran goaltender, similar to the deal last season for Nishi

For Part 2: Defence, Click Here
For Part 3: Forwards, Click Here

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