Goalies are often an enigma when it comes to their development. It’s rarely linear or easy to guess what happens next on their path. Some try and look at their positioning and poise as an indicator of their potential. Others will look at size and movement to find the right fit. At the 2023 NHL Draft, there are a few very different options for teams looking for a netminder. The biggest of the bunch is Michael Hrabal.
The 6-foot-6 Czech goalie has spent the season with a struggling Omaha Lancers squad. The team ended up in third to last place and despite this Hrabal posted a .908 save percentage in 31 games. It was a valiant effort from the netminder in his first season in North America. Internationally the stats are far better, and he has drawn a lot of positive attention to himself throughout the season. This comes from both his size but also the abilities he showcased, which makes for a rare and interesting mix.
One of the greatest strengths of Michael Hrabal’s game is his athleticism. For a 6-foot-6 goaltender, the speed and quickness of Hrabal shouldn’t be possible. He is super quick on his feet and uses his edges well to get across with both lateral and forward movement when standing up. On top of his speed, he is also an extremely flexible goalie. This is something that has allowed Hrabal to make some highlight reel saves throughout the season. These saves also show the great mindset of Hrabal to never give up on a play. You can never truly count the Czech goaltender out of a play because of his size and speed.
Another positive to his game is his movement in the crease. He uses his upper body to track the puck through traffic. It does help that he towers over most forwards, but even when crouched down to prepare for the shot he is using his edges and upper body to keep his eyes on the puck. He can also shift quickly into the butterfly making where he can cover most of the bottom half of the net.
Hrabal’s overall positioning needs some work, but he does a great job securing the short side and post. Using his size to his advantage to cover the top of the net, while making himself as wide as with his pad, he can take up most of the net. Hrabal also does quite well at ensuring that any rebound from this position is sent to the corner or covered.
While there is a ton to like about Michael Hrabal, there is also a couple of areas that need to see major improvements. One of the main ones is the glove of Hrabal which has been very inconsistent throughout the season. It’s been a minor trend that he will give a lot of unnecessary rebounds when making a save with the glove. Rather than a non-dramatic catch and save, the puck will bounce out and end up in a high-danger area. This habit must change if he is going to become a reliable netminder in the league.
Another part of his game that needs improvement is his positioning. Hrabal tends to be quite deep in his net which means he relies a lot on his size to make a save. Getting into a better and more aggressive position would help Hrabal a lot especially as he is quick enough when it comes to his standup lateral movement.
The improvements that would help Hrabal’s overall game, come in his quickness while in the butterfly. As mentioned above, he is lightning-quick and has great movements when standing up, but in the butterfly, it’s slightly different. His movement tends to get back into a stand-up position and then move, rather than a smooth movement in the butterfly. This extra motion can cost him pressures time to get across and get repositioned for the next chance.
Comparable and Prediction:
Overall, it’s hard to look past the positives of Michael Hrabal’s game. Being 6-foot-6 and as quick and athletic is something that’s rare to find. If Hrabal can fix his butterfly movement and glove side, he could turn into a very steady and reliable goaltender in the NHL. His upside does give a lot of confidence for a future starter in the NHL. Overall, his style and huge size and upside are reminiscent of Ottawa Senators goalie Mads Søgaard. Just like Hrabal, Søgaard is a massive goalie who is extremely quick and agile. Where I would argue Hrabal is better, would be in the coverage on the post, but Søgaard has the edge when it comes to his rebound control.
Søgaard just broke into the NHL and is potentially going to have his first full season in the league next year. At just 22, the Great Dane has a lot of time to grow, so if Michael Hrabal can emulate the path of Søgaard, he will be on the right track to the NHL.
Main photo by: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports