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Avalanche show scouting smarts with late selection of G Trent Miner

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2019 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

When all was said and done on day two of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, a collective 22 goaltenders were taken by the 31 clubs over all seven rounds.

It was a surprisingly top-heavy goaltending draft, as nine goaltenders went in the first three rounds alone — as many as went in the first four the year prior. But then no goaltenders went selected in round four this year at all, and only 13 ended up getting selected in rounds five through seven. Compared to the 20 late rounders last year, that’s a steep drop-off.

Teams who might have thrown caution to the wind and taken multiple goaltenders in a weaker class, hoping one would pan out, were able to make their selections with more confidence this year. It left more names on the table when all was said and done, sending a handful of hopeful prospects home empty-handed and aiming for a happier ending next year.

It would seem as if an increase in team confidence surrounding their goaltending draft boards might have meant that more of the consensus prospects were taken from the league’s most notoriously befuddling position, but instead it meant quite the opposite. While a handful of relatively unknown — but rather tall — goaltenders got scooped up by teams, a smattering of promising but smaller names were left out to dry.

That was nearly the case for Manitoba-born Trent Miner, who had even come out to the draft hoping to meet his future team. He was left on the board until the seventh round, when the Avalanche scooped him up with the 202nd overall pick.

It was a heartbreaking and nerve-wracking two days, watching as smaller goaltenders like Miner were left with the legitimate possibility that they’d go home without getting selected at all. But while it was undoubtedly a tough journey to that 202nd pick for Miner, it’s a diamond in the rough kind of situation for the Avalanche — who get one of the most promising technical talents at the position with their pick.

THE NUMBERS

Miner grew up in small town Manitoba, almost three hours to the west of Winnipeg. He played for the Southwest Cougars in Bantam AAA before playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings Bantam AAA program for one year, then moving up to AAA Midget before getting drafted 20th overall by the Vancouver Giants in 2016.

He made his first nine WHL appearances during the 2017-18 season, but really shone when he made the jump to the Giants full-time in his draft season. In 32 games as a 17-year-old goaltender, he posted a .924 save percentage in all situations, putting up an impressive .926 save percentage in what goaltending data cruncher Giants in the Crease calls “bounce-back games” — meaning that immediately following his rare poor outings, Miner was good for some pretty quick returns to form.

Where he slipped down team draft boards was almost certainly in size. Listed at 6’1 and 181lbs, Miner struggled to establish himself on the board for teams that still balk at the idea of a goaltender that doesn’t stand head and shoulders above the competition.

THE GAME

Miner’s size almost certainly caused his dip below fellow WHL-er Mads Søgaard, who picked up a 37th overall selection by the Ottawa Senators despite slightly worse numbers than Miner this past season. Søgaard’s 6-7 frame, held up against Miner’s much smaller one, looked more appealing to teams when solely considering their stats and visual characteristics.

While Søgaard was touted as a project who would need help down the line, though, Miner’s game has already fleshed itself out more completely. His lack of extra size to compensate for junior hockey development shortcomings seemed to have fast-tracked his technical development, and he brings both an exciting and a precise style to the Avalanche that fans will enjoy following as he enters his draft plus-one season.

In a departure from the era of smaller goaltenders living for the thrill of the challenge, Miner plays the more typical style taught to shorter-statured goaltenders in the present day — and he plays it well. His movement is focused on and outside-in depth pattern, starting near the top of his crease to inflate his size and fool approaching shooters before moving in to his goal line, but he stays comfortably within the blue paint. And despite a quick, nimble lower body, he does a good job already of staying within his posts to avoid exposing far side space behind his back leg.

Miner’s lateral mobility is already high-level, but he’ll need to work on maintaining that while improving his posture a bit to stand up straighter. And he could stand to add a bit of bulk to his frame, which means properly managing muscle growth while maintaining flexibility — a delicate balance he’ll want to maintain while playing next season.

Fans of Calvin Pickard who wished he’d played with a little more of Semyon Varlamov’s lower-body mobility (but without the injuries) will be enamored with what Miner brings to the table. And for Avalanche fans, that’s the benefit of a smart scouting staff; by overlooking the size concerns some teams let scare them off, they hopefully picked up a gem who could pan out well a few years down the road.