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2018 Los Angeles Kings Top 25 Under 25: #7 Cal Petersen

Asking the eternal question of every (goaltending) prospect: Could he be the future in LA or will be a different team?

NCAA Hockey: Frozen Four-Denver vs Notre Dame Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Our annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown has begun! 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 3, 2018, when the 2018-19 NHL season begins.

We’re taking a look at the best and the brightest in the Los Angeles Kings organization in our sixth annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown. Appearing on the list at #7 is Cal Petersen.

Position: Goaltender
Age: 23 (October 19, 1994)
2017-18 Team: Ontario Reign (AHL)
2017-18 Statistics: 41 GP, 2.58 GAA, .910 Sv% (Playoffs: 4 GP, 2.38 GAA, .915 Sv%)
Jewels Reader Ranking: 5
Jewels Staff Ranking: 9
Last Year’s Ranking: 8

The former Notre Dame backstop made his professional debut with the Ontario Reign last season and split time in net with Jack Campbell, eventually earning the starter’s position following Campbell’s permanent promotion to the NHL. Originally drafted by the Buffalo Sabres, Cal Petersen finished out his college career and decided to test free agency instead of sign in upstate New York. Ultimately, he chose Los Angeles, who have one of the premier goaltending development systems in the NHL. (Peter Budaj, Darcy Kuemper and Campbell, among others, have seen career [re]surgences under the watchful eyes of Dusty Imoo and Bill Ranford).

Petersen was born in Waterloo, Iowa and came up through the USHL system, playing with the Waterloo Black Hawks before attending college in Indiana. And now we pause for earworm!

Petersen showed improvement in all three years at Notre Dame, posting .919, .927, and .926 save percentages, for a tidy .924 average. The Irish, by all accounts, were a very good team all three years, consistently a top-5 team in Hockey East (which, at the time, boasted powerhouse schools such as Boston University, Boston College,and Northeastern—ND recently switched conferences, but that’s neither here nor there), though were not a team that had a legitimate shot at titling. As a freshman, Petersen showed some rookie nerves but greatly improved over his sophomore and junior years before leaving school to pursue a professional career.

Petersen joins Matt Villalta and Jacob Ingham as a “Hope of the Future” as the Kings have finally started to re-stock their pipeline, after letting it go for a few years considering that Jonathan Quick is signed until the end of eternity the 2022-23 season. Quick is 32 years old, soon to be 33 this coming January. Despite the lengthy contract, is it possible that Petersen could unseat the Kings’ entrenched starter?

His .910 save percentage in his first professional year looks unimpressive on the surface, but he had a stellar first half, earning an invitation to the 2018 AHL All Star Game. He made history at the event by becoming the fifth goaltender ever to stop all 10 shots against him in the AHL Live Rapid Fire competition.

Reign Insider Zach Dooley says of Petersen,

Following Campbell’s promotion to the NHL, Petersen took control of the net, playing in 18 games from February 17 through the end of the regular season compared to six games for new goaltending partner Scott Wedgewood. Petersen posted a similar stat line with the added workload, with a .909 save percentage and a 2.51 goals against average, however if you remove a troublesome final three games of the season, the rookie goaltender posted a .928 save percentage and a 1.84 goals against average. In that 15-game span, Petersen went 11-2-2 with two shutouts as the Reign solidified a playoff spot down the stretch.

Dooley also notes that

... Petersen’s season was amongst the best in the AHL by first-year netminders. Petersen’s 23 victories were the most the league by a rookie goalie and his save percentage and goals against average both ranked in the top five. The Waterloo, IA native was also one of just four rookie goaltenders to appear in at least 40 games during the 2017-18 regular season.

With Villalta and Ingham still in juniors, “Hope of the Future” doesn’t necessarily fall squarely on Petersen’s shoulders as he still has to beat out the newly improved Campbell, the 26-year-old who earned his call up to the NHL and allowed the Kings to trade Kuemper to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Scott Wedgewood and Tobias Rieder. Petersen will likely be the starter in Ontario again and Campbell will almost certainly back Quick up again this season. (Where Budaj fits into all of this is still unclear) Petersen will have to continue to show improvement and consistency to get a glimpse at the NHL. However, with the likelihood of Campbell blossoming into a full-time starter being rather low (anything can happen), time and opportunity are on his side.

And in the advent of Quick getting injured, having Petersen as the third call-up seems very positive.