When it comes to young and relatively unknown talent in the NHL, it's easy for a goalie scout to decipher their upside compared to others because it's visible with the naked eye. Without even trying, I clearly see Pekka Rinne's quick hands, Jonas Hiller's awesome lateral movement and even Jaroslav Halak's great composure. Although their future is still up in the air, recognizing their unique puck-stopping traits proves they have some tremendous potential.
If you were to look back at every prediction I've provided for Dobber Nation over the last eight months regarding prospects, it would be tough to find any that would now be considered completely off base. Well, I did go back over the last week while working on the Mid-Season Guide and found one glaring right back at me. Yes, I was wrong about Jimmy Howard's ability to win at this level, so allow me to be the first in line for 50 lashings with a rusty nail-studded leather strap – I feel like I deserve it.
But can you really blame me? I mean, when watching Howard play, I still notice many aspects of his game that need a lot of work. Even with my own reasons for not overly-loving him as a long-term keeper, I am extremely unbiased in my scouting. I always give credit when it's deserved, and maybe no goalie is more deserving right now than Howard.
I won't waste time trying to explain how he moves or what he does that is different from other goalies, because it's not pertinent halfway through the season. The point is that he's winning games, coming up with the timely save and stopping a ton of pucks, all at the same time, all when least expected, against the odds and to my utmost surprise.
To be honest, sometimes it's good to leave these men with mystery alone – they could very well be the first of a new breed. Whether we are talking about Rinne, Antti Niemi or Jonas Hiller, they all deserve the chance to make a name for themselves. And even though I've already taken the time to dissect their styles, there's no point doing it here, because underneath the surface, all goalies are the same kind of creature. If you have followed my rants at all this year, then you know equal opportunity is something every prospect needs, whether they completely deserve it or not.
So it looks more and more like Howard could be the next successful goalie that doesn't look the prettiest, but still gets the job done. If you look past Niemi, Tim Thomas, Craig Anderson and a few others, not many NHL goalies display a clearly discernable "alternative" butterfly style. The pure butterfly or the Flybrid currently dominates today's game.
But does that mean these quasi-butterfly goalies are any less capable o