Arizona Coyotes Roster: Looking Ahead to Mark Visentin


Apr 12, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mark Visentin (40) makes a save on San Jose Sharks center Tommy Wingels (57) during the third period at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Smith is an enigma in Arizona.

As someone who grew up with an Eastern Conference team, Smith reminds me of Marc-Andre Fleury, but without the Cup. He’s got a great locker room presence, has made some elite saves… and can be counted on to have a handful of games every season where he looks like a really terrible AHL backup. Just looking at last season, he had a goal (no, I’m not talking about the butt goal) and two assists. But, you know, he also had the butt goal.

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  • Of course, the butt goal was nothing if not bad luck on his part. It was caused by him doing… well, exactly what a goaltender is meant to do in the scenario that he doesn’t know where the puck is. He backed up to protect his crease- it just, uh, caused him to score on himself. It really could have happened to anybody.

    According to Hockey’s Future, though, Smith is what’s known as a seven-point goaltender. He’s a few steps below elite, and while he’s capable of playing a competent role on the team for consistent stretches at a time, he’s not the kind of netminder who a team should build around late into his thirties. Which is where Arizona finds themselves now.

    The future in the team’s net might be more stable, though.

    The team drafted Mark Visentin in 2010, 27th overall- one of the rare first-rounder goaltenders. He’s spent the majority of the past two seasons in Portland, Maine, playing for the extremely hot-and-cold Portland Pirates. His first season with the team, which saw him splitting net time with Chad Johnson, looked strong but inconsistent- but his second season started to shape up, and he’s been looking more like the OHL Goaltender of the Year that he proved himself to be with the Niagara Ice Dogs.

    Visentin only played in one NHL game with the Coyotes last season, letting three of the thirty-two shots taken at his net slip by. He’s no John Gibson, but for a first NHL game? Could have been much shabbier. He kept his cool during the shot onslaught by the San Jose Sharks, and the team lost by a single goal in a 3-2 loss at the tail end of their season.

    Visentin’s prospect reports cited him as a strong, althletic player and even stronger locker-room leader. This is the kind of goaltending prospect that reminds Arizona fans that the best might still be yet to come- with the team’s defensive roster still dominated by young players and a couple offensive dynamites floating around the prospect pool, having a prospective goaltender with strong potential could do a lot for the team.

    Sep 16, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mark Visentin (40) defends the goal against Anaheim Ducks right wing Emerson Etem (65) in the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Of course, Mark Visentin hasn’t received nearly the amount of attention that other prospects have. Why is this?

    For starters, fans never really show goalies the kind of love that they do other players. Unless you’re inhumanly good (we’re all looking at you, Henrik Lundqvist), inhumanly good looking (still looking at you, Lundqvist), or unbearably quirky, you might slip under the radar of every team’s fans but your own. The lack of flashy goals, fights, or terrible Corsi stats make goalies less important to the casual fan- and sometimes even to the less-than-casual fan.

    It goes beyond this, though. Goaltenders take longer to develop than players do, and their development is often unpredictable. A 90-plus point season for a forward in the OHL leads to a much higher probability of future success in the majors than recording ten shootouts in the same league. Some world-class goalies drop to the fifth round, while others are drafted in the top thirty prospects- and never really make it out of the gate.

    While fans are hoping this won’t be the case with Visentin, it’s still too early to tell whether the 22-year-old Ontario native will be able to step in and be the player that Arizona needs him to be. It’s a good bet, looking at the .902 save percentage he recorded in his first game with the club last season, that- at the very least- he’ll be able to play a supplemental role in the NHL in a few years. This is definitely a player to keep your eye on this season, though- because if he continues on an upward trend, and persists in being a locker-room leader in Portland, this could be the next big thing in the crease.