Are European Goaltenders Taking Over?

Matt Ouellette 

5/31/2016

 

A hot topic in hockey circles these days is the impact of European goaltenders playing in North America. Canadian and American goalies used to dominate net time in the majority of leagues across the United States but other nations around the world have stepped up their development models and are now claiming substantial minutes of game time. The Foundation for Goaltending Research and Education took a look into where goalies are coming from in pro hockey as well as some of the top college and junior leagues in the United States.

National Hockey League1

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In total, 91 Goalies played at least one game in NHL this season. The majority of Goaltenders in the NHL are still coming from North America. The USA and Canada combine for 57.14% of goalies in the league. 37% are from Canada and 19.78% are from the United States. European goaltenders account for 42.86% of goalies in the league.

American Hockey League

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AHL goaltenders are more predominantly from North America. There were 113 goalies who played in the AHL this season. 76.99% of AHL goalies are from North America. 48.67% are from Canada and 28.32% are from the United States.  Europeans make up 23.01% of goaltenders in the American Hockey League.

East Coast Hockey League

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ECHL Goaltenders are almost exclusively North American with only 6.96% coming from Europe. 115 goalies played in the ECHL this season. 93.04% come from North America, with Canada at 48.7% and the United States with 44.35%. Immigration and travel expenses for teams outweigh the benefits of having a European goalie in many cases.

NCAA Division I

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There were 185 rostered goalies this season in NCAA division I. They are almost exclusively from North America with the majority of them from the United States. In the past, Canadian goalies were more prevalent in college hockey but we are now seeing an increase in roster spots going to U.S. born and developed goalies.

NCAA Division III

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There were 272 NCAA division III goalies listed this year and were exclusively North American with most of them coming from the U.S. NCAA DIII schools do not award athletic scholarships. Only certain division III schools give out financial aid to European students.

United States Hockey League

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The CHL (canadian major junior) announced in 2013 that there would be no more european goalies selected in the import draft. Although the USHL has a maximum of four import players per roster, we may see more import goaltenders in the league in the future as a result of the CHL Euro goalie ban. Of the 53 goalies listed on USHL rosters this season, 86.67% were from North America  and 13.33% from Europe.

North American Hockey League

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The NAHL is made up mostly of United States goaltenders. The league is a free to play league but players still must pay for their housing and travel costs. Housing and travel costs can add up and may deter European goalies from coming over to play at the tier II level and scouting European goalies can get expensive for NAHL teams.

United States Tier III Juniorsphl pie1

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Tier III junior hockey in the U.S. are pay to play leagues. Players must cover the cost of ice, equipment, housing if necessary, and all other related costs. The league’s place goalies in NCAA DI and NCAA DIII colleges and universities and limits imports per team.

Summary

After examining each league and each goalies nationality, Euro goalies are having a substantial impact on professional hockey in North America and this influence decreases as you go from the NHL to the ECHL. Euro goalies do not make much of a dent in the NCAA college game but are pushing to 15% in the primary junior hockey leagues in the USA. The key European countries have had formal goaltending development models for years and the USA and Canada are at the infancy of instituting a national goaltending plan. It will be interesting to see how these numbers fluctuate over the next 10 years.

 

Statistical Sources-

www.QuantHockey.com, www.HockeyDB.com, www.EliteProspects.com, www.USHL.com, www.NAHL.com, www.USPHL.com, www.EasternHockeyLeague.org, and team websites.
Matt Ouellette is a business management graduate of Endicott College, a former goaltender and a director at The Foundation for Goaltending Research and Education.