Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you our Carson Bjarnason Scouting Report.
Carson Bjarnason Scouting Report
A saying goes that one shouldn’t pick a goalie in the first round, because of their unpredictable development. However, over the last few years, the NHL has seen Yaroslav Askarov, Spencer Knight and Jesper Wallstedt picked in the first round. It’s clear that teams have let go of the fear of picking up the top goaltending prospects in the first round. The star-studded 2023 draft is known for its many talented skaters like Connor Bedard. However, teams can also look towards Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender, Carson Bjarnason.
On a struggling Wheat Kings’ team, Bjarnason often was the lone bright light for the WHL team. Despite posting a measly .900 save percentage and 3.08 GAA over the 47 games played, the poor stats are hard to blame the Canadian netminder for. The Wheat Kings were a significantly better team with him in the net. Without Bjarnason, they only managed to win five games during the season. Their seasonal record was 26-33-9, yet Bjarnason managed to have a 0.500% when he was in the net. In many ways, Bjarnason is the perfect example of not judging a goalie on save percentage or GAA. It’s often team-based stats and doesn’t always reflect the ability of the netminder.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) April 27, 2023
Carson Bjarnason Deep Dive
Goalie — shoots Left — Catches Left
Born Jun 30 2005 — Carberry, Manitoba
Height 6’3″ — Weight 186 lbs [191 cm/84 kg]
So, what is it that makes Carson Bjarnason such a good goaltender? One of the main reasons is his great movement and calmness in the net. There isn’t a ton of drama around Bjarnason, and his swift and smooth movement makes him seem robotic at times. This is helped by his great rebound control, where he will send the puck to the corner or simply cover it. He plays a very calm style, even in high-pressure situations, where his good movement again allows him to reset after the initial chance and regain control of the situation.
This type of composure and movement also shows his great understanding of the game, which allows him to position himself correctly. Often, he won’t be making a highlight reel save, but just use his position to make the easy save. Although not all his save is as easy as they seem since he often makes save look easier than they typically are. Bjarnason is also able to track the puck through traffic at an elite level. Using fantastic upper body movement to allow his positioning to stay correct while he is fighting traffic.
He is also in possession of a brilliant glove, which he can use to make a ton of saves from high-scoring areas. His positioning of it in the overhand often makes him able to make saves where the puck comes to him rather than him having to fight to get to the puck. Something that is the sign of a smart goaltender with great technique.
One of Carson Bjarnason’s very few weaknesses is his near post coverage. He has had a minor tendency to overplay his hand, leaving space for a patient and smart player to expose. Both on the near post or with a pass to the far side, where the overlapping of the post can leave Bjarnason’s movement going side to side vulnerable. Another weakness of Bjarnason’s game is his coverage of the top shelf when he is crouched or in the butterfly. He sometimes will lean backward, which allows for the top of the net to be open. It’s not a ton of net that’s exposed, but it’s enough for an NHL-caliber shot to take advantage of.
Comparable and Prediction
When looking at a comparable to Carson Bjarnason, it’s hard to look past Jesper Wallstedt. Both are 6’3 feet and have a style that looks automatic sometimes. Their movements and position are brilliant and have the ability to make saves look easier than they actually are. The difference is in the butterfly and near post coverage. Where Wallstedt is more refined and better at taking away the top of the net, Bjarnason can be sluggish when preparing for a shot and in the butterfly. If this is corrected, there is absolutely no reason that Carson Bjarnason won’t become an NHL starter.
There’s a reason why the NHL’s Central Scouting Service has Carson Bjarnason listed as the #1 ranked goaltender in North America.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) February 19, 2023
Main Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports