FanHouse's Adam Gretz takes a look at his top 50 players in the NHL. No. 31 is San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
If you're searching for a goaltender in the NHL Draft, best of luck to you. It's considered the toughest position to scout, mainly because the prospects take longer to develop than any other position. One of the team's that's managed to have some success developing goalies is the San Jose Sharks, having produced Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Vesa Toskala. Even better, according to Hockey's Future, four of their top-10 prospects are goaltenders. How have they done it? Shopping in bulk, of course.
Going all the way back to the 1994 draft, the Sharks have selected 17 goaltenders, the third most in the NHL over that time period (only Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh have selected more). Of the 17 goalies, seven of them have played at least one game in the NHL, while three (Nabokov, Toskala and Kiprusoff) have played more than 200 games. How does that success rate stack up against the rest of the NHL?
Not only do the Sharks seem to favor quantity when it comes to selecting goalies, they also rarely pick them early in the draft, instead opting to stockpile them in the later rounds. Since '94, they haven't taken a goaltender higher than the third-round. Nabokov was a ninth-round pick, Toskala a fourth-round pick and Kiprusoff a fifth-round pick. Since Nabokov has established himself as the No. 1 goalie in San Jose, the Sharks were able to use Kiprusoff and Toskala in trades to acquire draft picks that were later used to select defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and prospects Logan Couture and Nick Petrecki.
Draft Year: 1994
A pretty good example of how you can find NHL goaltenders late in the draft, as the ninth-round in 1994 produced Nabokov, Tim Thomas, Johan Hedberg, Tomas Vokoun and John Grahame. Thomas, Hedberg and Nabokov were selected back-to-back-to-back, and the Sharks eventually acquired Hedberg from Philadelphia in a 1998 trade for a seventh-round pick.
Why He's On My List
I still consider him to be an elite goalie (he's No. 5 on my list). He's posted a save percentage north of .910 in four of the past five seasons, including three in a row, and can be as dominant as any goalie in the league, finishing in the top-5 in shutouts five times in his career. His 47 career shutouts are fourth among active players (trailing on Martin Brodeur, Curtis Joseph and Chris Osgood).
Obligatory YouTube Video
It takes some stones (and skill) to make a save like this in overtime of a playoff game.