The 2017 National Hockey League Draft had some impressive pickings in the goaltending department. The 2018 Draft, not as high end nor as deep. Two goaltenders on my list in 2017 did not get selected. They are Kaden Fulcher of the Hamilton Bulldogs and Kyle Keyser of the Oshawa Generals. In total there were 21 netminders selected in 2017.
Normally, the pair would re-enter the draft and with certainty, would have been selected in 2018.
However, the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins had plans of their own.
Fulcher attended the Red Wings camp while Keyser attended the Bruins camp (both development camp and rookie camp) on professional tryout agreements (PTO). By extending a PTO to the undrafted pair, the two squads had until 5:00 pm on October 5, 2017 (the start to their NHL season) to sign them to Entry Level Contracts (ELC). And the two teams did just that.
Fulcher signed a three-year deal with the Wings with an annual average value (AAV) of $716,666 on October 3, 2017. Keyser signed the same three-year deal with the Bruins a few hours later and shortly after the Bruins had lost Malcolm Subban to waivers to the Vegas Golden Knights. Ironically, Subban played his junior hockey for the Belleville Bulls who have since moved to Hamilton and are now Fulcher’s Bulldogs.
In the end, the moves are like getting a free draft pick.
Neither Fulcher nor Keyser are eligible for the American Hockey League since they will both be under 20 years of age as of September 15, 2018 – with Fulcher missing the cut-off date by seven days. Fulcher, a native of Brigden, Ontario would not be eligible for the World Junior Championships Under-20. However, Keyser, a native of Coral Springs, Florida would be.
Fulcher has been nothing short of spectacular on most nights. He’s led his squad to a regular season division championship and the Bulldogs are just 3 points shy of clinching the Eastern Conference. He sits third in the OHL in minutes played (3063), fourth in wins (31), seventh in goals against (2.84) and eighth in save percentage (.908).
Since recovering from a concussion and the calendar flipping to 2018, Keyser is among the best statistically. On the season he sits thirteenth in minutes played (2423), ninth in wins (26), twelfth in goals against (3.05) and seventeenth in save percentage (.900). He’s been the key cog to the Generals climbing the standings and currently sitting fourth in the conference. An argument can be made for him as the Generals most valuable player.
A season ago, these were my thoughts on Fulcher. So, what has changed?
Obviously, the size is still there. He moves extremely well in his crease. His post-to-post movement is at an elite level. He has gained control of his rebounds – kicking the puck back into danger areas has virtually disappeared. The soft goals he may have been prone to a season ago are a thing of the past. At times, he seemed to get rattled, but it to has been extinguished.
A season ago there were some consistency issues with Fulcher, but this season he has been in total control. He is extremely athletic. He gets into position quickly and gets set and square in the blink of an eye. He tracks pucks and plays extremely well and is positionally sound for shots he can’t see. He possesses one of the best glove hands in the OHL.
As for Keyser, here are my thoughts from a year ago. And today….
After a somewhat slow start and a couple of injuries, the last one being a concussion, Keyser’s been near the top of statistical categories since the start of 2018.
Keyser too has decent size for a goalkeeper. While Fulcher is the more athletic goaltender, Keyser is the more technical puck-stopper. His movement in the crease is above average. He plays an excellent butterfly style and is always making himself big in the net. He tracks pucks very well. His anticipation is great, and he sets himself quickly.
One-on-one, Keyser is one of the toughest goaltenders to beat in the OHL as shown by his .857 save percentage in shootouts. When it comes to handling the puck, he’s among the top handful as the best. He plays an even calmer game then a year ago – seeming never to get rattled when there’s a scrum for the puck in front of him.
You’ve heard it many times, as have I: goaltenders are the toughest players to project. But with both Fulcher and Keyser, there is plenty of time. Both will be back in the OHL for another season and then likely spend their entire entry level contract in the AHL under the tutelage on NHL goaltending coaches to hone their craft.
But for now, they’ve both been nothing short of impressive.