The Rangers took two goalie prospects, Chad Johnson and Scott Stajcer, to Traverse City last week. Both of them have been members of the organization for less than three months, so I wanted to inform our readers of a little bit of info about each.
Johnson, who was traded to the Blueshirts on June 27, 2009 from Pittsburgh in exchange for a fifth round 2009 pick, spent the last four years at the University of Alaska–Fairbanks. He had been the Penguin’s fifth round selection in 2006 and there were huge differences in opinion as to his upside, so the Penguins organization decided to make the trade. Last year’s CCHA Player of the Year, as well as Goaltender of the Year, Johnson was a top-ten finalist for the Hobey Baker Award (which was eventually won by the now Rangers’ defenseman Matt Gilroy) last Spring. The Rangers were happy to get him for such a low round selection, and agreed to terms with him on July 13th of this year.
Scott Stajcer was drafted by the Rangers in the fifth round of this year’s draft after a year in the OHL’s Owen Sound and two years of Junior B hockey in Ontario.
Both were drafted in the fifth round and both are here competing at the same position, but they are very different–from their background to their style of play.
The 18-year old Stajcer is bigger and more solid than the 23-year old Johnson, who is tall and thin. Although they are basically listed as the same height and weight by the Rangers, Johnson is far more narrow and probably weighs quite a bit less than Stajcer.
Stajcer has taken the CHL route, which provides a different training background than that of the NCAA. As is commonly known, NCAA players have more practice to game time than their counterparts in the CHL. And Johnson says that he got a lot of guidance outside of the game time. That said, both Stajcer and Johnson played in exactly the same number of regular games last year, i.e., 35, and Stajcer too said he has been trained well.
The biggest difference that I see between them is in their thinking of how to play the position. Johnson is a thinking man’s goalie. He is always thinking about who is on the ice and adjusting to their speed and skill. His style is to let the puck hit him and then cover up. Although this leads to rebounds out front, he challenges and stays very square to the shooter, which has led to his success in college.
Stajcer is a reactive goalie, with much more movement laterally. Less worried about the shooters coming toward him and more concerned with his positioning and how he is going to stop the puck, Stajcer relies more on instincts than does Johnson.
Both netminders have admitted to having a mental card file as to those that faced them before, especially for those who scored against them, but their approach and what has worked for them gives them diffierent strengths and weaknesses.
At this point, Johnson is older and has more experience; he is ready for pro play and Stajcer, at 18 is not. But Stajcer is an excellent prospect and is expected to grow into a professional role over the next two to three years.
Neither appear to have the quirks that often attend goaltenders. Eager and determined to move forward in the organization, each netminder took significant steps toward that goal last week in Traverse City, where both of them played very well.
Realistically, Stajcer should find himself returned to Owen Sound of the OHL later this week, and Johnson should start the season in Charlotte or Hartford. But Rangers fans should remember their names, as one or both may someday be between the pipes in a Blueshirts uniform.