Proud and excited to sign my first NHL contract with the @Avalanche. Thanks to my family, friends, teammates and coaches who have supported me along the way #goavsgo— Adam Werner (@awerner30) May 14, 2019
When Adam Werner was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in 2016, he joined one of the league’s most barren prospect cupboards at his position.
He was the team’s first goaltender to be selected at the draft since they took Slovakian native Maximilian Pajpach in the sixth round in 2014 two years earlier, having passed on every goaltending prospect available in the 2015 and nearly all of 2014’s offerings to boot. Before Werner and Pajpach, the team had selected just two goaltenders in four years, grabbing Calvin Pickard in 2010 and Spencer Martin in 2013.
The team wasn’t known for being a goaltending haven, though. He was picked up during the late years of the Patrick Roy era, joining a team coached (and, behind the scenes, largely controlled) by one of the league’s most brilliant — but controversial — goaltenders. He was the last goaltender selected during the Roy era, picked up in the fifth round mere months before Roy’s fiery exit from the franchise.
It was tough to tell, then, if the lack of an entry-level deal in the first two years following his draft selection had anything to do with a much-needed clean slate following Roy’s departure. Their goaltending pipeline had started to flatline, with Pickard struggling through a miserable situation in his first year as a starter and Spencer Martin continuing to stagnate, so Werner was left on the back burner — out of sight, out of mind for a fanbase — to develop in Sweden without an entry-level deal.
He inked an amateur try-out deal to finish out the 2018 spring campaign with the San Antonio Rampage, giving the Avalanche a chance to watch him for four games in North America before letting him go back to finish out the final year of his deal overseas. Now, he’s signed an entry-level deal with the team, finally making his way over to North America for the upcoming season on a more permanent basis — where he can hopefully provide a challenger for Spencer Martin and start to replenish the team’s pipeline a little bit.
THE SCOUTING REPORT
Clocking in at just 198 lbs despite standing at 6-feet 5, Werner is a lanky body with a tall frame — the perfect raw canvas for a successful goaltender, but often a raw talent that needs to have long limbs and loose movements reined in and controlled through coaching and strength training.
His numbers have shown that slow but steady progression that teams look for, with his numbers this season officially hinting at that preparedness to graduate from playing European pro to hitting the AHL. After being loaned to a tier-II team for the entirety of the 2017-18 season by Farjestad BK, Werner started this past year for his SHL club — and despite some mediocre numbers during his stint in Allsvenskan, he was able to put up an impressive .926 save percentage in all situations through 26 games this year before earning two playoff appearances to boot.
Those numbers are reassuring, but his technique proper still shows that there’s work to be done. Take a look at this save from a December game against HV71:
The promising aspect of the save is that Werner is able to maintain enough control over his body to effectively reach back and bat the puck away with his paddle, and his tracking seems effective even with the chaos in front of his net. But despite playing a good inside-out movement path, keeping him from getting caught hanging out too far from the blue paint, his positioning leaves a lot to be desired — and when the shot starts to head into the net, he’s both moving in the wrong direction and far off of both a position and an angle for even an original trajectory for a redirected shot. As he adjusts to North America, he’ll need to clean up that kind of extra movement to avoid getting burned by the tighter space around his crease on a smaller rink.
The good news is that Werner seems to play to his height strength, staying fairly conservative in his crease instead of playing aggressively to allow for extra movements — something a handful of lankier goaltenders have made a habit of over the years. And while he doesn’t seem to have overly agile movements, he does move quickly enough to suggest that his numbers this season aren’t just a fluke; he could be quite good, he’ll just need a little extra work to get there.
The very worst-case scenario is that Werner peaks as an AHL-caliber talent, panning out not unlike Spencer Martin has before him and ultimately leaving the team with a need to find another NHL-caliber talent from elsewhere.
With a little attention, though, there’s a chance that he’s got the tools to surpass Martin — whose bigger movements and struggles with positioning left him being passed up by his draft class colleagues and stuck in the AHL long-term. There’s plenty of room in Colorado’s depth chart for Werner to grab a higher spot if he wants it — he just needs to get there.