The Ottawa Senators goaltending situation is going to be interesting to observe. They have so many goaltenders in the NHL and in the system that soon enough, they will have to make tough choices regarding their future with the club. Even though having depth in a position is never a bad thing, sometimes there aren’t spots for everyone. However, with the Seattle Kraken selecting Joey Daccord in the Expansion Draft, things eased up slightly. This article will be going over all of the Ottawa Senators goaltending in the system and predict their role this season.
Ottawa Senators Goaltending
Matt Murray has had ups and downs throughout his career. After winning two Stanley Cups as a rookie, he has been struggling to stay consistent ever since. He was traded to the Ottawa Senators during the 2020 NHL Draft and soon signed a four-year contract. After the 2016-17 season, Murray has averaged a 2.83 GAA and a .908 SV%. His Goals Saved Above Expected (xGSA) for those three seasons have been near or just under 0. If the number is under 0, based on the quality of the shots he faced, he allowed more goals than he should have. So, for the three seasons, Murray did what was expected of him. However, during the 2019-20 season, his xGSA was at -20.5, meaning he let in 20.5 goals more than he should have.
There were questions raised about how he would perform on a rebuilding team like the Senators, and the concerns turned into reality. This season, Murray had a 10-13-1 record, a 3.38 GAA, .893 SV% and a -15.9 xGSA. Statistically and analytically, Murray was one of the worst goalies in the league this season. However, there is hope for Murray because he went on a tear after returning from his injury in April, having a .953 SV% and a 1.20 GAA in four games. These numbers were likely going to drop had he played more games, but expectations are that Murray can return to his old self. He should be the starter for the Senators for the foreseeable future.
Anton Forsberg is the perfect player to go in and be a serviceable goaltender in case of injuries. Throughout his career, Forsberg has played for a number of teams, helping as a backup. This season, Forsberg had a 3-4-1 record with a 3.21 GAA and a .909 SV%. Considering many of his games were played while Ottawa was during their slump, these stats aren’t horrible. He also has an xGSA of 0.1, exactly where you want a fringe starting goalie to be. Forsberg recently signed a one-year contract with Ottawa, so he will most likely not be with the team long-term. He should back up Matt Murray in Ottawa the upcoming season.
Filip Gustavsson has been the biggest surprise among Ottawa goaltenders this season. In 9 games, he had a 5-1-2 record with a 2.16 GAA, a .933 SV% and a 1.1 xGSA. These numbers are amazing for the 22-year-old, a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Just watching the games he played indicated that he was at ease at the NHL level. He made great saves, he had great poise, communicated well with the defence and seemed very calm in the crease.
However, the concern with Gustavsson is his AHL play. Even though his time in the NHL so far is amazing, the same can’t be said about his time in the AHL this season. With the Belleville Senators, he had a 5-7-1 record, a 2.86 GAA and a .910 SV%. In 2019-20, even though he had a 15-6-3 record, he had a 3.23 GAA and a .889 SV%. Hopefully, he can continue to play wherever he plays like he did this season for Gustavsson’s sake. He should be either a third-string goalie for Ottawa (if taxi squads are returning) or be the starter in Belleville for the 2021-22 season.
Mads Sogaard was the 37th overall pick of the 2019 NHL Draft. The 6’8″ goaltender played with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL for a few seasons before starting the 2020-21 NHL season in Denmark with a .922 SV%. After signing his entry-level contract last season, Sogaard came over to North America and suited up for the Belleville Senators.
He exceeded expectations and won all of the seven games he played, with a 2.40 GAA and a .917 SV%. Ottawa should hope that he will carry the momentum into this season and be a serviceable goaltender for years to come. However, he does need some more time to adjust to hockey at the professional level. Sogaard should be the backup to Filip Gustavsson this season.
Kevin Mandolese is a goalie that few have been talking about. He served as the emergency backup for the Ottawa Senators for a few games but never got a chance to make his NHL debut. A former sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Mandolese has been excellent playing in the QMJHL. He was the league’s Goalie of the Year for the 2019-20 season, with a 26-8-1 record, a 2.33 GAA and a .925 SV%. Unfortunately, he did not have the same success in the AHL this season, with a 3-6-0 record, a 4.03 GAA and a .888 SV%.
To cut him some slack, he is a 20-year-old and has lots of time to fine-tune his game. Mandolese needs time in Belleville or even with the newly affiliated Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL before he can become a serviceable NHL goaltender. He will likely be the third-string goaltender in the AHL, or the starter in the ECHL. The latter seems like the best option.
The selection of Leevi Merilainen in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft shocked a lot of Senators fans, because the team already had so many goaltenders in the system. To add onto that, heading into the draft, he was unranked by the majority of scouts. He played the majority of the season with Karpat U20 in Finland, where he had a .934 SV% as an 18-year-old. This is a very promising statistic, but it will be interesting to see whether he can average similar numbers in a better league.
Merilainen recently signed an entry-level contract with the Senators this offseason, but don’t expect him to suit up for Belleville just yet. On July 26th, an announcement came out that Merilainen has committed to playing with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. This would be best for him so he has an easier time transitioning to professional North American hockey. He recently played amazingly at the 2021 World Junior Summer Showcase for Team Finland, with a .932 SV%. Merilainen has changed the minds of many and now will most likely be the starting goalie for Team Finland at the 2022 World Juniors. He will be the starting goaltender for the Frontenacs this season.
It is safe to say that the Ottawa Senators goaltending has a plethora talent. Not everyone on this list will have the chance to make it to the NHL level, and it is even more likely that a few will be gone soon, through trade or let go to free agency. Nonetheless, it is truly amazing to see the young goaltending prospects the Senators have accumulated. Senators fans should keep a close eye on their performances to dictate their future with the team.