2017 Draft: How do OHL Goalies Stack up Against NHL-Caliber Competition?

By: Mike Z

This article is being co-posted on NHLNumbers as well as on my own site, OriginalSixAnalytics.com. Find me @michael_zsolt on twitter. All Junior stats used here were provided by @3Hayden2, the creator of www.prospect-stats.com. Please give him a follow and check out his great work. (Last, for those who do not know, I formerly wrote under the pen name of “Andrew Kerison”)

While both the NHL and Major Junior (WHL, OHL, QMJHL) can benefit from hockey analytics, the findings in each league are often quite different. The NHL is a league of parity, where the gap between a top player and an average one can be relatively thin. Junior, on the other hand, is the opposite. Top players like Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk, and Brayden Point can often make an immediate impact at the NHL level, while many of their teenage competitors will never play an NHL game at all. The massive range of Junior talent is probably best illustrated by the fact that Connor McDavid was able to win the 2016-2017 NHL scoring race while still being young enough to play for his former Erie Otters team in last week’s Mastercard Memorial Cup!

This wide range of CHL talent has an outsized impact on player evaluation in one area in particular: goaltenders. The NHL draft already has a significant amount of randomness, and goalies are already likely the single hardest position to project NHL performance. Given the wide range of Junior shooting talent, quality of competition can have a disproportionate impact on certain goalies depending on their team’s particular schedule. If one goalie plays a substantial number of games against teams like the Erie Otters and London Knights, we shouldn’t expect him to have the same result as a peer with an easier schedule.

As such, in this article I will try to analyze these factors in an attempt to better evaluate this year’s goaltending prospects. Specifically, I will try to isolate how OHL goalies perform against the higher end of shooters at the Junior level.

NHL vs OHL: Shooting Talent Distribution

In the two tables below I have looked at the top 15 NHL and OHL shooters when ranked by their shooting %. All data is from 2016-17, forwards only, and I have restricted the samples to 5v5 to adjust for the impact of power play time. Both samples were drawn from players with >100 shots (NHL) and >70 shots (OHL) in order to remove outliers.

1. Top NHL

2. Top OHL

NHL data courtesy of puckalytics.com; OHL data from prospect-stats.com

As you can see, there is a substantial gap between the top 15 NHLers and OHLers. Rickard Rakell shot the lights out this year with a 19% NHL Sh%, and a full seven OHL shooters were at that level or higher. This disparity is highlighted even more from some general distribution statistics:

3. OHL v NHL Distrib Stats

NHL data courtesy of puckalytics.com; OHL data from prospect-stats.com

As you can see, this gap isn’t limited to just the top end of the spectrum. While the bottom quarter of shooters (25th percentile) aren’t too far apart between leagues, the gap grows at the median and then diverges significantly at the 75th percentile, where respective OHL and NHL shooters are almost 4.0% apart.

 OHL Shooting Talent – Team Level Gaps

The OHL is a league that has ‘juggernaut’ type teams, who will often dominate games except for when they are playing other top-ranked competition. Just look at the results from last week’s Memorial Cup, with two (Western Conference) OHL teams winning all of their games against the other league champions, sometimes by a wide margin, and eventually facing off in the final.

In order to determine performance against NHL-like shooters, in a perfect world we could isolate the shots coming from each individual skater against each goalie. Unfortunately, for this article (and based on what was most readily available), I have instead tried to isolate these dominant OHL teams, and considered that as a proxy for which players represent future “NHL-Caliber” shooting talent. Although this is a bit of an oversimplification, I think it will be an interesting analysis nonetheless. Even just looking at the NHL prospects on the Memorial Cup Finalist Erie Otters (Strome, Raddysh, DeBrincat, Cirelli, Foegle, Lodnia, etc.) – many of these ‘juggernaut’ teams are simply stacked.

The table below shows all OHL teams from the 2016-2017 season alongside their All Situation shooting % (all metrics in this article exclude empty net goals):

4. NHL Caliber Teams

OHL data from prospect-stats.com

As you can see above – I drew a (somewhat arbitrary) line at the 65th percentile to denote the ‘NHL Caliber’ shooting teams. An argument can be made to increase this cut off to maybe 11.0%, or 11.5%, but the tradeoff later on will be having enough teams included so there is still a useful sample for each goalie. Personally, I was surprised that this omitted some high-end, skilled teams like the Mississauga Steelheads, but they may have been held back due to a slow start to the 2016-2017 season.

As a whole, these teams shot at an average all situation Sh% of 11.7%, versus a league-wide average of 10.2%. For reference, the teams that were below the ~65th percentile shot on average at 9.3%, so a gap of ~2.4% between the included and excluded teams. From here on I will refer to these top teams as having ‘NHL-Caliber’ shooting talent.

Now – how do OHL goalies stack up when looking at shots faced from just these 8, very high-end shooting teams?

Unadjusted OHL Goaltender Performance (All Opponents)

The table below shows the top 20 OHL goalies when simply ranked by ‘raw’ All Situation Save% (list shortened for space). The table includes both all situation Sv% as well as 5v5, and it only includes goalies with over 500 total shots against. This chart also includes each goalies age, though I will caveat that the additional decimal place in some ages seem slightly off.

5. Top 20

OHL data from prospect-stats.com, goalies who are 18 years old and younger (e.g. never before eligible for the NHL draft) are highlighted in green

Looking at this table, you can see a wide range of OHL-level goaltending stats and ages. Highly touted prospects who are already signed to NHL contracts are older, coming out near the top – guys like Tyler Parsons (LDN – CGY) of USA 2017 World Junior fame, Dylan Wells (PBO – EDM), and OHL/CHL Goaltender of the Year Michael McNiven (OS – MTL)

The goalies that are eligible for the 2017 NHL draft are those born in 1999 and those after mid-September in 1998 (mostly 17 year olds). On this list that is only four individuals: Michael DiPietro (WSR), Matt Villalta (SSM), Stephen Dhillon (NIAG) and Luke Richardson (KIT). All four have reasonably strong results, especially at 5v5, where they have Sv% of 91.9%, 92.6%, 92.4% and 91.2%, respectively. It is worth noting that OHL rookie (16-year old) Jacob Ingham (MISS) has quite strong ‘raw’ results as well – but due to his age, he won’t be draft eligible until 2018.

Adjusted OHL Goaltender Performance (NHL Caliber Shooters)

As discussed earlier, not all OHL opponents are created equal – and depending on conference/division, goalies can face these opponents at quite different rates. In the table below, I have isolated the shots faced by these goalies strictly to those taken by the 8 teams identified earlier as shooting at an ‘NHL Caliber’ level. Further, due to sample size issues, goalies are included only if they have at least 200 shots against from these opponents in all situations. In general, some of these figures should be taken with a grain of salt, due to the smaller sample sizes resulting from this approach.

6.All Sit NHL v All

OHL data from prospect-stats.com. Note, if multiple goalies have the same rank, their Sv% is the same. ‘Appearances’ includes all games played (including going in a replacement), and is not equivalent to ‘starts’.

In the table above has two sections: how goalies’ All Situation Sv% ranks when isolating shots faced from NHL Caliber opponents, and also how they fared and ranked in Sv% against all OHL opponents. The table is sorted based on NHL Caliber opponents Sv%, and I have highlighted the 2017 draft-eligble goalies in green.

Starting at the top – Tyler Parsons (LDN) is clearly elite, and maintains his strong stats and #1 rank regardless of the opponent – I would expect him to be one of the most likely future NHL goaltenders in the OHL today. Michael DiPietro (WSR) is quite similar – but even more impressive is that he has performed at this level at the age of only 17 years old. Given his excellent results against opponents of all levels, and his starting role on the Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires – DiPietro definitely stands alone atop the ranks of this year’s draft eligible OHL goalies.

What is interesting in this analysis really comes down to ‘movers’ – Goalies who are ranked higher when looking at just NHL Caliber opponents than when using all opponents. Troy Timpano (ER) and Matthew Mancina (MISS) both show well in this data – both moving up 6 ranks when looking at just their strongest opponents. Luke Opilka (KIT) and Joseph Raaymakers (SSM) are two of the biggest movers, jumping 12 and 15 spots respectively in the NHL-Caliber ranking. In a perfect world, you’d like to see consistently strong results against both categories, like star goalies McNiven and Parsons – but strong results against top opponents are good to see nonetheless.

Due to the low samples we need to be cautious with reading too much into this in general, but especially for certain goalies – e.g. Scott Smith (PBO), Matt Villalta (SSM), Aidan Hughes (SAR), and Luke Richardson (KIT). If anything, the small sample suggests these goalies were in the back-up role, potentially being sheltered for part of the season, or facing weaker opponents in general. However, that doesn’t mean strong results should be discounted altogether. As an example, Villata still ranks #11 against NHL Caliber shooters, and Hughes jumps up 13 spots on the NHL-Caliber ranking; so directionally, it is still a positive indicator to see in general.

7. 5v5 NHL v All

OHL data from prospect-stats.com

Last – the table above is the same approach but instead showing 5v5 Sv% rather than all situations. I wont go into too much detail on the findings, but generally you see similar names near the top or having made big moves. In general, many people in the hockey analytics community prefer 5v5 Sv% as it takes out discrepancies from playing down a player. However, with 5v5 we have to be even more mindful of the sample size. In this chart I have kept the same list of goalies from the All Situations chart (where the cut off was 200 Shots Against vs NHL Caliber shooters), but at 5v5 some drop below 200, ultimately representing only a handful of games.


In the end, this analysis is really more of a starting point, rather than a comprehensive look at this year’s first-time draft eligible OHL goalies. In the future, better ways to look at this analysis would be to possibly create an OHL-level QoC-Adjusted Sv% metric, which incorporates both strong and weak shooting opponent data but adjusts the result depending on which team/player took each shot, or alternatively to create a xGSAA metric that factors in both opponent quality and shot location. Hayden’s website already features shot location and Sv% data that is definitely worth a read. It is also worth mentioning that this analysis was entirely focused on one league, the OHL, and it is not at all a comprehensive look at 2017 draft eligible goalies.

While it is rare that teams will use a 1st round pick on a goaltender due to the overall risks involved, I would argue that this analysis definitely helps to substantiate that Michael DiPietro is the real deal. While it may take years for him to develop and become NHL-ready, I expect that whoever ends up taking him will find themselves glad they did – with an extremely exciting goaltending prospect to monitor for the years to come.