Olivier Roy: glass half empty, or three-quarters full? (Hey, this is about a goalie, don't expect advanced math!)
Roy recently rose to national prominence when he claimed the starting goaltender's job for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. To the best of my knowledge he thus became the first Oiler draft to play a meaningful game between the pipes in that tourney - Devan Dubnyk made the team a few years back but never got off the bench. (The only other possibility is this mysterious guy the Oilers chose in the immortal 1990 draft named Invalid Pick who has something of an ambiguous history, but I don't think he made Team Canada in a starting role, let's put it that way. Besides, with a name like that I half-suspect he was Mexican.)
Anyway, the half-empty part of the equation is that Roy became a rare example of a goalie playing himself out of the starting role in the Tournament of Small Sample Sizes, and wound up being a bench-sitter himself when the games got serious. To assume such sorry status, the stopper's small sample suffered some serious shortcomings. Confidence was an issue: Roy appeared to be struggling with it on a personal level, he didn't seem to inspire it in his teammates, and for certain he didn't under the microscopes of a whole network of analysts and an anxious hockey-watching nation. Which
begs leads to the key question, what the heck does Pierre McGuire know about goalies, anyway?
Roy is an accomplished junior goaltender who has over 200 games played including playoffs, the depth of experience that accrues to a four-year starter (see also: Devan Dubnyk). He has compiled outstanding W-L records wherever he's gone, testament to the quality of team he's played on if not to the quality of goaltending he's provided. Let's have a look at his regular season numbers in the Q, courtesy of HockeyDB:
|RS Goalie Stats|
|2007-08||Cape Breton Screaming Eagles||QMJHL||47||2428||116||4||2.87||27||11||3||1003||0.896|
|2008-09||Cape Breton Screaming Eagles||QMJHL||54||2935||139||3||2.84||35||12||3||1326||0.905|
|2009-10||Cape Breton Screaming Eagles||QMJHL||54||3155||138||5||2.62||32||21||0||1367||0.908|
The big concern here is the seeming lack of progress in the save percentage category, which has stagnated around the .905 level for the past three years running. While far from perfect, Sv% is the best single metric we have of a goalie's individual contribution, and Roy's remains somewhere below elite levels.
After Cape Breton fired and fell back, Roy was targeted and acquired by Acadie-Bathurst Titan in a major off-season deal that cost the club no fewer than five draft picks including two first-rounders. However, results through mid-January suggest that Roy has not entirely established himself as the #1 netminder with his own club, as Robert Steeves, a QMJHL rookie 18 months Roy's junior, has been making a strong claim. Check out their relative stats, again courtesy HockeyDB:
Hmmm. Nothing there suggesting that it's our man Olivier who is in fact the elite tender.
Still, Roy had what it took to earn an invite to Team Canada camp, and not only make the team but earn the first, long(-ish) look as the starter. Whether that speaks to some quality that the stats don't quite touch on, or simply to the current state of U-20 goaltending in this country, is a question that can't be answered today.
Roy allowed 10 goals in his three round-robin games against Russia, Czech Republic, and Sweden, with probably half of them qualifying as "One He'd Like To Have Back" (f.k.a. "bad goals"). To my eye Roy was fighting the puck right from the start of each game, allowed an early goal each time, and had to battle back with greater or lesser degrees of success. His competitiveness is reputedly his claim to fame, and he certainly showed it in the game against the Russians (you know, the one we actually won). The kid never quits on a puck, I'll give him that. Against the Swedes, however, he never really did get it together, allowing five goals in regulation before being beaten on two of three shootout attempts, supposedly a specialty of his. Two of the goals were on rebounds, one of those a very ugly one, and a few other near misses resulted from poor rebound control and crease management. Roy was also beaten high on the short side on two occasions when he dropped into the butterfly a shade early. At 6'0 he simply doesn't have the size to fill the net from his knees so his timing needs to be impeccable. In the ToSSS, it wasn't.
It was disappointing but not that surprising that after the Sweden game he was shuffled aside in favour of nominal back-up Mark Visentin. The Phoenix first-rounder had his own issues, especially when it came to stopping the puck, but it seemed that there was less chaos around the crease and better puck movement on Visentin's watch. Which is suggestive that these are areas of Roy's game that will continue to need work.
Olivier Roy came on his #19 ranking honestly, as three of the five of us slotted him in exactly that position. Truth be told, though, he's both a teenager and a goalie, so it's mighty difficult to project where he's apt to be in three, five, or seven years. As we've seen with the likes of Jeff Deslauriers, Devan Dubnyk, and Bryan Pitton, keepers tend to develop at their own speed, most commonly glacial. Olivier Roy will be more of the same, vitually certain to receive a professional contract in the Oilers' organization but beyond that he'll have to make his own way. Clearly, there remain many rough edges to his game which will need to be filed off. At this moment my conclusion is there may be more optimism for Roy than is warranted based on his development curve.