When the Leafs picked Joseph Woll a year and change ago, it marked the beginning of a new generation of potential blue and white goaltenders. Yes, they’d quickly supplement him with Ian Scott, and yes, they were also adding Kasimir Kaskisuo to the fold, but the former hadn’t happened yet and Woll was five years younger than the latter.
Five years. That was the gap between being the youngest and second youngest in the organization, which is a crazy thought when you consider the lifespan of a goaltender’s prime these days. Toronto had to make their first dip into younger territory count as a result, and while it’s still very early, Woll seems to be a good bet moving forward.
|Age||19 (July 12, 1998)||Birthplace||Dardenne Prairie, Missouri|
|Pos||Goaltender (LH)||Drafted||2016 (Rd 3, Pick 62)|
|Vitals||6’4, 203lbs||Acquired||Via Draft|
One of the things that makes Woll so interesting to the casual observer is that his come-up is almost groomed towards being a US national team fixture; something that’s very encouraging if the progression continues into the adult ranks. Joining the National Development program at the age of 16, Woll spent two years developed in parallel with the slightly younger Jake Oettinger, who’s late birthday meant that he had an extra year to audition before getting to the draft podium.
|Joseph Woll||Jake Oettinger|
Oettinger was selected in the first round this summer by Dallas. While he’s looking like the safer bet of the two, the closing of the gap between them makes you wonder if the Leafs benefitted from Woll squeezing into the 2016 draft by a couple of months.
|15||2013-14||St. Louis AAA Blues U16||T1EHL U16||18||1.71||0.933|
|16||U.S. National U17 Team||USDP||29||3.48||0.886|
|U.S. National U18 Team||USDP||33||2.14||0.918|
Woll finished third in save percentage and games played of all U19 goaltenders in college hockey last year, trailing Oettinger and New York Rangers 2016 sixth-round pick Tyler Wall. It’s worth pointing out that this was an extraordinarily good year for freshman starting goaltenders, though; all three of these netminders finished in the top eight seasons for a U19 starter in history.
In Woll’s case, his numbers align pretty closely with Rick DiPietro (0.913 in 29GP), Jimmy Howard (0.916 in 21 GP), and Thatcher Demko (0.919 in 24 GP). I’m always a little skeptical of college numbers, even with skaters but especially with goaltenders, but “historical for your age group” is always encouraging.
Also encouraging was Woll’s emergence during the World Juniors this year. While you should never look too much into a two-week tournament, Woll managed to take Oettinger’s backup spot from him and put up two stellar performances, keeping starter Tyler Parsons’ workload honest so he could help the Americans win Gold.
I’m not going to even begin to pretend that I know how to qualitatively evaluate a goaltender. Most don’t. As such, there will be no “eye test” opinions from me on any of the four goaltenders in this series. In lieu my own information, here’s what Maple Leafs Hot Stove had to say about Woll on his draft day:
Woll is a big goalie that plays to his strengths, filling out the crease with his large size and has a will to compete. He moves well in the crease and looks quite controlled and fluid in his movements despite the heavy frame. Woll positions well on the initial shots and squares up to the shooter. With his size, it’s hard to get pucks past him once he gets into position. He does a good job battling in the crease and will maintain his position on jam-plays, shows some good reaction time and agility when finding pucks laying around the crease and snatching them up before the opposition gets the stick on it.
He could track the puck a bit better through traffic, his size helps him as pucks will hit him regardless, but sometimes he could do a better job finding a clear sight-line on point shots with bodies in front of him. In those situations his rebound control can be better as well, as pucks can bounce right back into the slot.
Overall, Woll offers solid potential for a team that is looking at a pro-sized goalie prospect with reasonably good movement and compete in his crease and that uses size to his advantage.
The Upcoming Year
Woll is well on his way as a netminder already, having already taken over the starters job at Boston College as a freshman. The next step for him, really, is to stop even more pucks and make sure he gets another invite to the World Juniors; assuming his plan is to see his education through, he doesn’t exactly have much more of a place to go or opportunity to gain; he just needs to make the most out of the one he’s solidified and not lose that momentum.
I’ve got Woll as Toronto’s second-highest ranked goaltending prospect, but there’s a reasonable argument for him to be at the top. As far as raw upside goes, he seems to be the one easiest to envision becoming a bonafide NHL starter, though the fact that he’s still 19 and goalies take all sorts of dips and dives has me still erring on the side of caution for now.
With Frederik Andersen still having four years remaining on his contract and the Leafs having two backup options signed for at least the next two years, it would probably take a generational season for them to use up a contract to pull Woll out of college early. It’ll probably be 2-3 years before we see him wear a professional jersey, and he’ll likely have at least one season with the Marlies along the way. Patience will have to be shown here, and the odds of cashing in on the potential reward are completely unknown, but that reward could be extremely high.
To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.---
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