When someone mentions Leafs prospects, Zachary Bouthillier probably isn’t the first player to come to mind. In fact, I don’t think it’s hard to say that he might be one of the least talked about Leafs prospects.
In the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, with 9 picks left in the draft, and with the Leafs possessing two of those picks, they took the definition of a Hail Mary pick. NHL Central Scouting had Bouthillier listed as the 6th best NA goalie in the draft. He was listed over 10(!) people who were picked after him, and that’s just NA goalies.
As an 18-year-old, Bouthillier didn’t really put up the best numbers. However, it should also be said that he didn’t play on the best team. Unfortunately, that’s something that would follow Bouthillier throughout his junior career.
In his first season, the Shawinigan Cataractes were good, but Bouthillier was just a rookie. In his next season with Chicoutimi, the Saguenéens went 28-35. The season the Saguenéens found success, Bouthillier was moved mid-season to Saint John. The Sea Dogs went 13-49 that season. This season, Saint John found some success, but a significant amount of that can be attributed to Bouthillier, who was named the team’s MVP.
So, that raises the question: Should the Leafs sign Zachary Bouthillier?
The Case For Signing Bouthillier
Bouthillier’s workload this season was absolutely insane. Recently, pick224.com implemented OHL and QMJHL goalie stats, so I’ll use that here.
Bouthillier finished 5th among OHL and QMJHL goalies in GSAA, or Goals Saved Above Average, with 32.019. GSAA is calculated by the league’s average save percentage with the number of shots a goalie has had. Bouthillier’s GSAA puts him at 3rd among QMJHL goaltenders, behind Emile Samson and Oliver Rodrigue. His GSAA/60 puts him at 4th league-wide, with 0.741.
Bouthillier finished the season with the highest PP GSAA, which is GSAA against the power play. He faced the 2nd most shots among all QMJHL and OHL goaltenders. Want more numbers?
He faced the most quality shots among both leagues, with his quality shots faced percentage finishing as the highest in the QMJHL, and 3rd among goaltenders from both leagues. He faced 951 quality shots… and still faced 794 more shots. The Saint John Sea Dogs found themselves shorthanded the most times in the QMJHL, going on the PK 277 times. As a result, Zachary Bouthillier faced the most shots against the powerplay among goalies from both leagues.
Bouthillier faced 629 non-quality even-strength shots, only letting in 6 of them. His .990 NQ EV SV% (that’s a lot of letters) was good for 9th among goaltenders from both leagues.
My point? Zachary Bouthillier carried an absurd workload as the starting goaltender for the Saint John Sea Dogs. He actually overperformed, excelled! For most goalies, going 19-25 with a .897 SV% would spell bad news. However, for Bouthillier, considering the position that he was in, those are actually stellar numbers.
There’s no question that Bouthillier deserves his title as Sea Dogs MVP.
So, what’s the problem?
The Case Against Signing Bouthillier
Like I said in my article about Riley Stotts, the Leafs organization is stacked. Currently, here’s how the Leafs goalies line up for next season:
*Players who need to be re-signed
See the problem? Even if Kaskisuo walks, none of Scott, Zhukov, or Gahagen have proven that they are AHL ready. Ian Scott is set to start in Newfoundland next season for his rookie season, and lower-body surgery delayed his pro debut. It’s very likely that the Leafs want to explore retaining Maksim Zhukov. Even though his numbers look abysmal with a .871 SV%, the 20-year-old showed promise in net for the Growlers, playing the most games out of any Growlers goaltender with 26.
It’s very likely that Angus Redmond moves on to the Edmonton Oilers organization. Redmond was loaned to the Growlers by the Anaheim Ducks, likely in exchange for the AHL rights to Ryan Johnston. The Ducks traded him to the Oilers mid-season, and it’s likely that after his 16-2 run with the Growlers, he moves on to the Oilers organization.
Parker Gahagen had a stellar season. His 10-4 record and .939 SV% came seemingly out of nowhere, after taking a year off to fulfil military requirements, he joined the Evansville Thunderbolts before the Growlers turned to him to fill a void in net. He not only filled it, but he also excelled in it. The Growlers will likely try to retain him too.
Zachary Bouthillier hasn’t proven himself at the professional level. In a surprise move, he signed with the Newfoundland Growlers at the end of last season. Unfortunately, due to injury, he wasn’t able to appear on the ice.
It’s very likely he would’ve gotten some games in with the Growlers but… right.
The Leafs should at least look at signing Bouthillier. He’s done well at the Rookie Tournaments he’s participated in, and he’s done spectacularly given his circumstances.
I think the Leafs should give him an invite to training camp at the very least. Let his rights expire, and if he impresses at camp, bring him on. The Leafs/Marlies will likely wait to see whether they can sign Zhukov and Gahagen first, but I really like the idea of letting Bouthillier roll as the backup behind Ian Scott.
Goalies are voodoo, and Bouthillier just feels like the player to absolutely bite the Leafs in the rear end for not signing him.
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