The most important position in all of hockey is the goalie position. That is a fact that often is proven to be true time and time again, especially in the playoff. In the USHL yet another example was made this past season as Jacob Fowler emerged as the hero in Youngstown Phantoms’ first-ever championship.
The 6-foot-2 goaltender had a wonderful season, where he at times seemed unbeatable. In the regular season, he posted a .921 save percentage in 40 games played. A stat line he followed up with a .952 save percentage in nine playoff games.
Jacob Fowler Scouting Report
One of the main reasons for Jacob Fowler’s breakout season is his brilliant ability to read the game. His hockey sense is the best among goaltenders in the 2023 NHL draft. A skill that makes him tough to beat or catch unaware. It allows him to track the puck at a high level and get into the right position to make a save.
Fowler’s high hockey IQ makes him a positionally strong goaltender, who always seems to be where a shot ends up. Sometimes people talk about skaters with great hockey sense as players who know let the puck come to them and don’t need to get to where the puck is. This also applies to Fowler, as he always seems to know where the shot will end up. Both when facing traffic where he tracks the puck and shooter well, and when needing to move to get square to the puck.
Another area that Fowler does well, is his puck handling. He controls the puck well and isn’t scared to play it behind the net. Again, making use of his hockey sense to know when to play the puck and not to. His rebound control is another positive to his game as he is great at limiting secondary chances. He will often be square to the shooter so he can cover the puck, or he will send them to the corners. Especially on lower danger chances. Even when he allows a high danger to rebound, he is also athletic enough to recover and make a highlight reel save in tight.
With all the positive aspects of Jacob Fowler’s game, it can seem like a wonder why he is projected as low as he is. The simple answer to this is that he is still very raw when it comes to his skating. The movement can feel stiff and slow, which is a worrying sign for his translatability. In the USHL he has been able to counteract this with his great hockey sense, but the NHL is faster and far less forgiving.
Therefore, the movement needs to be smoother and his skating much faster. While he does possess a powerful lateral movement, he does lack the quickness, in order to make it truly effective without having anticipated the chance beforehand. He also needs to work a bit on his coverage of the top of the net, which can be left somewhat exposed to the shooter. Especially on his glove side which isn’t quite as quick as some of the other goalies in the draft.
Comparable and Prediction
Watching Jacob Fowler there is a ton to like about his game. The poise, the strong hockey sense, and the decent size and athleticism should be very tempting for most GMs. Especially for a goaltender predicted by many to go in the third round. His upside is great, but he does need to improve his skating and high glove. He will get a chance to do so at Boston College. If he can do that, he reminds me a bit of Roberto Luongo, both in size and style. The former Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers goalie also practiced a style of great anticipation and positioning to make his saves, while also having great athleticism for his size. Fowler’s movement does need improvement if he is to reach a ceiling that high, but less would also make him a very reliable goalie in the NHL.
Main photo by: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports