Everybody familiar with my writing knows that I generally recommend against drafting goalies in the first few rounds. In fact, I mostly don’t bother evaluating or even get interested in goalie prospects until they have significant achievements under their belt.
That’s because goalies are really, really hard to predict. Most of them are many years from contributing in the NHL, if at all, making it difficult to determine just which of them is worth a damn. The Flames’ shoddy organizational record when it comes to drafting goalies might also be a cause of my apathy towards netminding hopefuls.
Tyler Parsons has me intrigued, however. The Flames’ recent second round pick put together an incredible season for the London Knights this past year, causing me to take a closer look at his numbers. Here’s what I found.
We’ll start with the basics. Parsons appeared in 49 games for the Knights during the regular season, boasting a .921 SV%, good for the first in the league amongst regular starters. Next, he played in 18 games for the Memorial Cup winners, managing a .925 save rate – again, the best in the OHL of anyone who played more than three games in the post-season.
So Parsons was effectively the best puck stopper in the best Canadian junior league. That’s a good start, particularly given his age; usually draft-eligible puck stoppers aren’t already dominating their peers.
Good news so far. I wanted to go deeper to see if there were other good arrows though.
Parsons vs 18-year-olds
To add some layers to the analysis, I took a comparative approach – I wanted to look at Parsons vs. his age cohort, as well as his team and a comparable player.
Let’s start with the age cohort comparison. Luckily this is easy thanks to the great tools provided by Ian Fleming. Here’s how Parsons compares to the average 18-year-old goalie:
That’s unambiguously above average across the board. So we can be fairly sure Parsons is tracking ahead of the typical development curve.
Let’s add another angle though, just to be sure. Maybe Parsons plays on a really, really dominant team that is somehow skewing his numbers.
Parsons vs London Knights
For this side of the analysis, I looked at Parsons’ results in context of his team (i.e.; the other goalies to appear for the Knights) over the last two years and then compared those results to fellow Flames prospect Mason MacDonald at the same age for added context.
Here’s what I found for Parsons:
Parsons was the best goalie on his team in his rookie season by a non-trivial amount. Combined, the other two Knights puck stoppers managed a 89.4% save rate. Parsons was over 10 points higher.
For the second year in a row, Parsons was clearly the best netminder on his team. Combined, all the other Knights goalies stopped just 88.8% of the shots they faced. Parsons was way, way out in front at .921.
Parsons: 2,414 shots against, 2,207 saves, 207 goals against, .914 SV%
Other Goalies: 2,026, 1,808 saves, 218 goals against, .892 SV%
Over two seasons and several thousand shots, Parsons completely outperformed the Knights’ other options. This at least suggests he wasn’t merely benefitting from team effects.
Parsons vs McDonald
As is common, McDonald wasn’t great during his rookie season. He lagged behind his teammates by almost 10 points.
McDonald improved in his draft season, but still finished behind his teammates’ average save rate.
Don’t worry Flames fans, McDonald has since established himself as a clear starter in the QMJHL (his SV% has been better than the team’s other options in his draft+1 and draft+2 seasons), but unlike Parsons he wasn’t clearly the best option available as a 17 or 18-year-old.
In fact, Parsons’ 17 and 18-year-old relative team results are still better than McDonald’s 19 and 20-year-old relative results. McDonald is at .904 SV% vs .888 SV% for his club’s other options. Recall that Parsons comes in at .914 vs .892.
I don’t want to get too excited about Parsons quite yet given he’s just 18 and hasn’t even played 100 games in junior.
That said, his stats to date are absolutely sparkling no matter what angle you look from. He is way out in front of goalies of the same age, completely outclassed the London Knights’ collection of other netminders so far, and has better results at 17 and 18 than a similar prospect does at 18 and 19.
Parsons has a long way to go yet. But the early returns are very good.