I don’t want to sound like a hipster, but I was a fan of Frederik Andersen’s play before he was drafted to the NHL the first time.
And before George Sørensen stole some hearts at the World Juniors, I was singing his praises at the Under-18’s and World Junior A Challenge.
Oh, and I think that Sebastian Dahm is quite underrated.
So, naturally, it made sense that I quickly started to follow the career of Mads Søgaard after I watched him play for the first time back in 2017 before becoming Denmark’s third goalie as a 17-year-old at the 2018 World Juniors.
I was singing his praises before he got the nod as the team’s top goalie at the World Juniors this year — he is one of the top goalie prospects, after all. So, yes, I
Denmark never recovered, scoring just three goals in the entire tournament (all three coming in a single game against Kazakhstan). In the end, Denmark was relegated. I won’t go deep into that because I already have, but the player I continued to watch, and become quite disappointed in, was Søgaard.
Fast forward to this past week, where Søgaard played quite well for Team Cherry at the CHL Top Prospects Game. When he left the net at the halfway point, Søgaard allowed just one goal in a game that saw his team lose 5-4.
He obviously wasn’t the reason his team failed in the second half of the showcase, and, like I said, he played quite well. But one play in particular scared me just a little bit.
Late in the opening period, Søgaard over-committed on a scoring opportunity by Brett Leason when the rising NHL prospect missed the net off of what became an empty-net opportunity. He didn’t score, but I was still disappointed with Søgaard.
Why would I be disappointed in such a minor play in a game that truly doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things?
Because it’s something I’ve noticed quite a few times when watching him play.
Case in point: the goal that resulted in Denmark getting relegated to Division IA of the World Juniors just over 30 seconds into the second relegation game.
1-0 Kazakhstan on the first scoring chance. Sayan Daniyar with the sneaky little move after Sogaard was out of position. #WJC2019 pic.twitter.com/sEXBMGU93z— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL) January 4, 2019
And of course, it happened a few times against Canada, too.
After he scored the first goal, Morgan Frost’s assist to Owen Tippett gave #Canada an early 2-0 lead at the #WorldJuniors.
🇨🇦 Follow our #WJC2019 live blog ➡️ https://t.co/va8aUbDHqD
(Via @StevenEllisNHL)pic.twitter.com/8aiqBbXMZL— Sporting News Canada (@sportingnewsca) December 27, 2018
🇨🇦 Oh, captain! 🇨🇦
Maxime Comtois scores to start the 2nd period and #Canada expands the lead over #Denmark to 4-0 in the #WorldJuniors.
(Via @StevenEllisNHL)pic.twitter.com/NzACWp0U48— Sporting News Canada (@sportingnewsca) December 27, 2018
The third clip there is slightly different because Søgaard wasn’t caught out of his crease, but him putting his right pad down when he did made it tougher for him to slide over for the pass anyone could have seen coming.
But otherwise, all the clips have a similar theme: Søgaard is caught out of position far too often against strong competition. Nobody will doubt how good of a season he’s having with Medicine Hat in the WHL, and he is still a no-brainer to become one of the first goalies drafted in June.
But if he’s going to thrive at the next level, he needs to utilize his size to his advantage. He’s 6-7, damnit. He moves around the ice like he’s trying to make up for a lack of size, which clearly isn’t an issue.
A goalie the size of Søgaard, as rare as they are — if he makes the NHL, he would tie with Ben Bishop and Mikko Koskinen as the tallest goalie ever to play in the league — shouldn’t be fighting himself to position himself right for a shot. It can simply be attributed, on many plays, to his big legs
One goalie I have become a big fan of the past few years is Jett Alexander. While he does play in the OJHL — a Jr. A hockey league below the WHL, where Søgaard practices his craft — his physical growth is something that very few goalies have to go through during their hockey career. On the day he was drafted to the Mississauga Steelheads back in 2015, Alexander was listed as 5-8. Now? He’s 6-5. For any hockey player, that size increase is something really tough to overcome, especially if you’re in the key development portion of your career.
Yet, Alexander has no issue when it comes to his positioning. You rarely find himself chasing after loose pucks or rebounds and his big frame allows him to make smaller movements and save energy when needed, something that has become very evident given how quick his arms move to make some pretty spectacular saves.
When you look at a big goalie, Alexander does so many things right. Søgaard obviously does, too, or else he wouldn’t be such a popular prospect. But this one thing… this thing that really bothers me more than it should, has hurt him more times than it should at this point.
But it really can burn him. Even in the past month, he’s been caught out of his crease, seemingly giving up on the play before the opposition can finish making a move. I really want him to just sit back, relax and read the play better before going all out in a desperate attempt to keep the puck out. He’s got the size to stiffle shooters, but he can’t keep giving them opportunities to make moves without him attacking back — he’s got a long reach that he never seems to use enough, after all.
I’m not kidding when I say I like this kid. If Denmark is going to thrive in the international hockey scene, especially with Andersen starting to creep up in the age bracket, they’ll need
Søgaard to be their saving grace. Heck, he could be the top goalie to ever come from the nation when his career comes to an end.
But when you see his positioning at times taking him out of plays, you have to wonder how good he would be if he was seven inches shorter. Could he improve on his speed from post to post? Absolutely. Should he refine how he attacks cross-ice
Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill or whatever the saying is, but I truly think Søgaard needs to work a little harder on maintaining his position in the crease. If he can control his size, I don’t think he’ll have a problem in the NHL.
He is still young, after all.