Our annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown has officially entered the top ten! The rankings were determined by a combination of reader voting and our staff’s own voting. We then combined the reader rankings (50%) and the staff rankings (50%) to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 5, 2017, when the 2017-18 NHL season begins.
We’re taking a look at the best and the brightest in the Los Angeles Kings organization in our fifth annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown. The highest-ranked goalie comes in at #8: Cal Petersen.
2016-17 Team: Notre Dame (NCAA, Hockey East)
2016-17 Statistics: 40 GP, 23-12-5, 2.22 GAA, .926 SV%
Jewels Reader Ranking: 7
Jewels Staff Ranking: 9
Goalie depth is a new, unfamiliar feeling for Kings fans, after several years of having Jonathan Quick and a series of rotating, anonymous backups, and no real actual prospects.
Fast forward to now, where aside from Quick, the Kings signed Darcy Kuemper and NCAA standout Cal Petersen, drafted Matt Villalta, have Jack Campbell coming off a stellar season in Ontario, and still have Jeff Zatkoff on the books. (Zatkoff, for what it’s worth, is determined to bounce back from last season and fight for his roster spot.)
That’s more goalies than anyone knows what to do with.
We already talked about Villalta, who came in at number 21 in our top prospects list, as a player still in juniors who’s a bit of an unknown commodity and certainly a long term project. Petersen has much more of a resume to back up his inclusion in our top ten prospects, starting with his stellar career at Notre Dame, where he served as captain during his junior year, a first for a goalie in the organization. His performance throughout the season was one of the main things that carried Notre Dame to the semifinals of this year’s Frozen Four, where they lost to eventual tournament winner Denver.
Fun Cal Petersen trivia: he made 87 saves, an NCAA record, in a 4-3 overtime loss to UMass Lowell in 2015, the longest game in NCAA history:
Petersen could have ended up on the Buffalo Sabres, who drafted him in 2013, but when he decided to turn pro at the end of his junior season, he chose the free agency route instead and quickly signed with the Kings. He’s spoken about how the goaltending development duo of Bill Ranford and Dusty Imoo helped tip the scales in the Kings’ favor when he was making his decision. Their work throughout the years on the Kings’ goalie prospects has been a blessing and a curse, as it’s largely why the team has had no goalie prospects to speak of -- they’ve all outgrown their backup roles and gone on to seek bigger and better things. Their work turned Peter Budaj into a miracle worker, and resurrected Jack Campbell’s career. Imoo has already indicated that Petersen’s technique is strong, and aside from the adjustment to the NHL/AHL style of play, he won’t need to change much to find success at this next level.
He’s already gotten some time in a Kings uniform, playing during the first rookie scrimmage against the Vegas Golden Knights squad, where he allowed two goals in a 6-2 win. The first shot Petersen faced went in, but he recovered nicely from it and settled down quickly in the crease. With Quick, Kuemper, and Zatkoff making the trip to China, it’s likely we see Petersen again in one of the state-side games coming up.
Cal Petersen: ready for both incoming shots AND insults from Buffalo Sabres fans. pic.twitter.com/kLtWcD8lvl— Jewels from the (@JFTC_Kings) September 9, 2017
Petersen will most likely spend the season backing up Jack Campbell in Ontario. The organization has already indicated that they have no intentions of sending Petersen to Manchester to play in the ECHL. And while every player would love to come in and immediately be a starter, Petersen is already saying all the right things and has a great attitude about the start of his professional career.
Last season really hammered home how important a strong goalie pipeline is for the organization. This year, with five goalies under contract, the organization is much more prepared to deal with any injuries, sudden changes in performance, or other bizarre happenings. It’s a little early to start looking for the Goalie of the Future, given that Jonathan Quick is still a high performer under contract until 2023, but it never hurts to start collecting prospects to see what you have.