This week on The Journey get in an depth look at Jake Allen and Brock Nelson
Jake Allen – G
Entering the second year of a two year contract
Rights: St. Louis Blues
Drafted in the second round (34th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Level Draft
From the Pads Out
Jake Allen is the type of goaltender who is just plain good. Sure there are likely many stories of early mornings and extra gym work but really, when you look at the journey he has had and is on, he is just good.
You could see if from his first years breaking into the QMJHL with the former St. John Fog Devils. Sure he was sort of middle of the road on the stat sheet as he played second fiddle in his rookie year. Still, in 30 games he went 9-8-4 with a .905 save percentage and what is really impressive about his season that year is the stint he had with Canada's under-18 team where he went 6-1 with a 1.43 goals against and .948 SV%. Oh yeah, he had two shutouts, too. The ride continued from there and included a (junior) career that featured QMJHL Best Goaltender and CHL Goaltender of the Year accolades in 2009-10. He also won a silver medal with Canada at the World Junior Championships.
When Allen joined the Blues' AHL affiliate in Peoria for the 2010-11 season he shared time with Ben Bishop (now of the Tampa Bay Lightning). He managed a .917 SV and six shutouts in the regular season and started three of four playoff games for the Rivermen. The following season Bishop was traded and Allen took the lead in the Peoria crease. The team struggled however and missed the playoffs. Allen finished with a respectable .915 SV% and one shutout in 38 games. During the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs the Blues used Allen as a "timeout option" and replaced Brian Elliott with the rookie for a whopping 1:07 of play to avoid burning their actual timeout during game five against the Kings. The New Brunswick native never saw a shot.
In 2012-13 the world saw young Allen get his shot as Blues starter Jaroslav Halak went down to injury. Allen shone bright in his debut going 8-1-0 in his first nine games and finishing his 15 game stint with a 9-4 record and a .905 SV%, not bad for a 22-year-old kid. I'm sure everyone remembers his highlight-reel save shown below.
Last season Allen played the entire year in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves. In 52 games he has a 2.03 GAA and a .928 SV%. He finished as a First Team All-Star, was named the AHL's Top Goaltender and led the league in Wins, Shutouts, Minutes Played, GAA and SV%. It was also the first year of a new two year contract that carried the unique feature of the first year being two-way but going to one-way in the second year. When Ryan Miller was left to walk away the writing was on the wall, Jake will be with the big club come October.
With Elliott coming off a decent season and carrying the veteran luggage, he will assume the starters role for the upcoming campaign. There is three years remaining on his new deal and that should take him well into a battle with the youngster for minutes. I look for Allen to wrestle the starter's job away from Elliott before then however. Whether it is this year or next, he is the future of the Blues crease and with the team being poised for a Cup run at any moment, the future is bright if you own this kid in your fantasy league.
The chances are slim that you have a shot at finding him as a free agent in keeper leagues. At this point you will have to make a move for him. I wouldn't shy away from doing that, though, if your league allots you the flexibility. You will get him at his lowest right now. Once the ball starts rolling on his NHL career he will be one of the hardest goaltenders to obtain. With the strength of the team in front of him, Allen will have every opportunity to grow into a star sooner than later. There just may be enough people out there that think Elliott has a strangle hold on the crease for the foreseeable future, though. If you are fortunate enough to have such person in your league, strike while the iron is hot.