(Photo Courtesy of Colorado Mammoth)
One question that many had and continue to have when it pertains to expansion in the NLL is just how deep is the player pool at the elite level, and more specifically how deep is that pool at the goalie position? Last season, San Diego had a lot of success with Frank Scigliano while Philadelphia struggled with somewhat of a two goalie system with Doug Buchan and Davide DiRuscio.
Granted, Scigliano has the most experience as a starter between the three of them, but still, one team had much more success at the goalie position than the other in year one of their respective franchises. So, with two more new teams coming into the league this season, which team looks like they could potentially have more success at the goalie position?
New York Riptide
In terms of experience, the Riptide have plenty with Alex Buque and Angus Goodleaf. While neither has been full-time starters in the NLL as of yet, both have started and played quite well, but both have certainly had their fair share of ups and downs throughout a season.
Angus Goodleaf should be New York’s number one, but there is some speculation as to how healthy he will be for the start of the season after suffering a very scary heatstroke during a game at the Presidents Cup over the summer.
If Goodleaf is healthy and able to go for a full season, he will likely be their number one right out of the gate. A ten-year veteran, Goodleaf was Matt Vinc’s backup in Rochester for six of those seasons before sharing time with Warren Hill last season in Rochester, starting 12 games, recording a 2-10 win/loss record, and making 463 saves with a 0.750 save percentage.
When Goodleaf gets hot he can stay hot and play like one of the best in the world. However, coupled with those flashes of success has been some concern about just how high his ceiling is and is he can become a bona fide starter. But with the way this team was built on the back end, Goodleaf should be able to take the reigns and lead this team as a full-time starter in net, granted he is healthy and able to play a full season.
Buque- who has played for New England and Buffalo over the past two seasons- is the younger of the two and has been more inconsistent over the course of his career, as well. Buque’s best season was in 2018 with Buffalo when he started 12 games, recording a 6-6 win/loss record and playing a total of 709:41 minutes. He made 515 saves with a 0.771 save percentage that season. However, despite having some very good games, he was inconsistent and Buffalo started to use Zach Higgins more as the season went on.
But even with his struggles in the past, Buque has shown that he is a good goalie and certainly can prove that he can be a consistent starter in the NLL. While he may not be New York’s number one, they may have to rely on Buque more than originally thought depending on how healthy Angus Goodleaf is to start the season.
While New York got experience in goal, the Rochester Knighthawks got two goalies with maybe the highest ceilings in the game. Steve Fryer will be their number one as an older guy and a proven talent while the young gun Rylan Hartley will get to learn and grow behind Fryer before eventually getting his shot to be a starter in this league.
Hartley was picked up in the expansion draft from San Diego, and as mentioned will need time to grow and develop behind Fryer. However, don’t let Hartley’s youth fool you at all. He is a very bright talent that Rochester should be able to trust in between the pipes if he has to come in for a few minutes or even half or a full quarter of play. He may not be ready to take the reigns fully as a starter yet, but the 21-year old Orangeville, Ontario native can play.
Fryer was picked by Rochester in the expansion draft from Colorado where he was a backup behind Dillon Ward for two seasons. While having only seen action in just a few games, Fryer has shown that he is ready to take the next step and can take on the task of being a starting goalie for an expansion franchise.
Last year, Fryer had his best season yet, starting in two games and seeing a total of 119:52 minutes overall. Making 78 saves with a 0.875 save percentage and having 6.51 goals-against average, Fryer showed what he is made of and how good he can be at this level. And even if there is only a small sample size to go off of, being in a room and learning behind one of the best in Dillon Ward carries similar weight as his play.
In the eyes of many, Rochester getting Fryer was like striking gold. While there is still much to be proven, Fryer already has a lot of hype and fanfare. Whether he will live up to it or not is yet to be seen, but we will find out real soon once this season gets underway.