I’m not dreaming of some fairy-tale ascension of the undrafted college free agent from the ranks of the ECHL to the NHL and then superstar status.
But I wanted to include a goaltender on this list, and based on his career experience I think Matt Dalton is currently the closest to at least earning a chance to be Boston’s backup.
Among Boston’s prospect goaltenders, I actually think Michael Hutchinson, based on his size and style, should be able to enjoy the longest NHL career. But in the here and now, Dalton is closer to playing at the game’s highest level than Hutchinson, who could conceivable be back in junior as an over-age player next season.
Dalton gained pro experience last season mostly with Reading of the East Coast league. In 46 games, he was just 22-20-4 with a 3.47 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. But in the playoffs, he proved his mettle with a 10-4-2 record, 3.02 GAA and .914 save percentage. Of course, he was part of something the Bruins know all too well — losing a 3-0 series lead (Cincinnati went on to win the American Conference title) — but he held his own during the collapse.
Not as big (6-foot-1, 189 pounds) as some of the better goaltending prospects around the size-addicted NHL, Dalton relies on his positioning and rebound control to succeed. Obviously, playing in the helter-skelter ECHL is a great way to hone those skills. This year, he should be able to push the veteran journeyman Nolan Schaefer, along with Hutchinson and Adam Courchaine, for the starting job in Providence (AHL). And he could position himself as the first goaltender summoned to Boston in an injury situation. Dalton spent a few days with the big club last season already.