Our seventh 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 and the staff rankings to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 2, 2019, when the 2019-20 NHL season begins.
What a difference a few days can make. Cal Petersen, an up-and-coming 24-year-old goaltender, had a clear path to the Kings’ roster prior to Jack Campbell’s surprise extension. Following a contract extension of his own in July, Petersen appeared to be primed for a full-time move from the AHL to the NHL following the 2019-20 season. That timeline also coincided with Campbell’s pre-extension path to the open market.
Future path aside, Petersen has routinely shown glimpses of his NHL-level talent between the posts. His high-profile success with Notre Dame and the Reign paved the way for a surprisingly efficient 11-game run with the Kings last season. Known for his poise, Petersen notched five wins with a save percentage of 92.4 during his time away from the Reign.
In Ontario, Petersen endured a noticeable regression in several key statistical areas. While it isn’t entirely fair to place the lion’s share of the blame on the Iowa native, his goals-against average ballooned to 4.02. That is a noticeable move in the wrong direction from his 2.58 GAA from the 2017-18 campaign.
Looking past those struggles, Petersen’s brief stint in the NHL could pay dividends in the near future. During his time with the Kings, he made it clear that he was paying close attention to how Jonathan Quick carried himself on and off the ice. In a conversation with the Los Angeles Times’ Curtis Zupke, Petersen explained the lessons he gleaned from Quick.
“It’s hard not to be a sponge and just see the way that he prepares for games, the way that he battles every day is pretty cool,” Petersen said. “I think [it’s] his leadership, too. I didn’t know what to expect, but he’s got an extremely large presence in the locker room.”
Along with the examples set forth by Quick, it sounded like Petersen’s time with the Kings boosted his overall confidence in his craft. Petersen also spoke to Zupke about his mentality prior to returning to the Reign.
“I felt like I did my job, and I think the biggest thing is just realizing I can play at this level and be successful,” Petersen said. “I think that confidence is something that I’ll carry with me. Probably the biggest thing for me, going down, is continuing to get better. Whenever the next opportunity is, just be as ready as possible and try and be even better than I was during this [time].”
Petersen’s murky path to the Kings is a key storyline to watch as the trade deadline approaches. With Campbell joining Petersen to form a tandem of prime-age goaltenders under contract, Quick’s accolade-filled tenure in Los Angeles could be careening towards a close. Without a shakeup at the top of the depth chart, Petersen’s flexibility to move freely between the AHL and NHL expires after the 2019-20 season.
Petersen’s hope-inspiring stint with the Kings last season appeared to make a positive impact on both the staff and readers. Regardless of Campbell’s extension, Petersen’s reputation makes him a fan favorite to become the goaltender of the future.