Mooseheads’ Fucale may be the next big thing in net
Zach Fucale (QMI Agency file photo)
It’s a question no one has ever heard asked before of Canadian hockey.
What has happened to its goaltending?
If there’s one thing that’s always distinguished Canadian hockey from the rest of the world, it’s the sport’s last line of defence.
But is that still the case?
The finalists for the NHL’s top goaltending award are Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks, nary a Canadian among them.
The discussion about potential Olympic goalies for Canada is focused on Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mike Smith and James Reimer among others.
Can the future of the position be a 17-year-old playing for Halifax Mooseheads in the Memorial Cup in Saskatoon?
That’s the kind of hope many have for Zach Fucale, the No. 1-rated goaltender in the upcoming NHL draft.
Projecting so far down the road is ludicrous but Fucale’s development offers hope for a position that hasn’t produced puckstoppers as it once did.
Fucale isn’t about to wander into the discussion about Canada’s goaltending future.
He is focused on only one thing and that’s the Memorial Cup and his Mooseheads’ opening game against the Western Hockey League champion Portland Winterhawks.
“For now, I can’t do much about what’s going to happen in five years, we have a great opportunity right here at this tournament,” Fucale said. “We’ll see what happens but just for now I’m concentrated on Saturday’s game, going out and playing a good, hard 60 minutes.”
Fucale’s demeanour is goalie-perfect for someone carrying such high expectations and part of a team with top-rated forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin and who Saturday will be facing the Winterhawks along with their No. 1-rated player Seth Jones.
Mooseheads’ coach Dominique Ducharme is succinct about the importance of Fucale to his team.
“We would not have been here without him,” he said.
Fucale’s poise and the intensity with which he studies the game, sets him apart from so many other goaltending prospects.
“He’s paying attention to details,” said Ducharme. “He’s really smart, on the ice he has the ability to read the play, he learns quickly and he can apply the things he learns on the ice, those little details to polish his game.
“No one would know that he is 17.”