The NHL goaltender is entering the same grouping as the NFL running Back and the MLB relief pitcher. Each position’s production is vital to overall team success, but with the randomness and irregularity of a sustained success, teams have become extremely reluctant to pay for players at the positions. As a result, proper drafting and development has become paramount to fill out the depth chart at the goaltending position.
The Edmonton Oilers currently have Calder finalist Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell at the NHL level. Skinner starts the first year of a three-year extension with a $2.6M AAV this fall, while Campbell begins the second year of his five-year, $25M contract. Last year, Bakersfield’s presumptive starter was veteran pro Calvin Pickard, who will enter the final year of his two-year contract. Next on depth chart is Olivier Rodrigue, who we profiled last week. The other goalie under contract in the pro ranks is prospect Ryan Fanti.
On March 28, 2022, the Oilers signed Ryan Fanti to a two-year contract beginning in the 2022–23 season. The contract was a two-way deal with a $925K AAV and $883.75K cap hit at the NHL level and a $80K salary in the minors. Along with the contract, Fansti signed an amateur tryout contract with the Bakersfield Condors to finish the 2021–22 season while he completed his college classes.
Fanti was coming off three successful seasons at Minnesota-Duluth, where he was the Bulldogs’ starter for his sophomore and junior seasons. This was after Fanti had played three years in Thunder Bay’s U18 program and two years with the NAHL’s Minnesota Wilderness.
Fanti did not make any appearances during his freshman season at Duluth, but then made 20 appearances in his second year, posting an 11–7–2 record with a .907 SV%. He improved on that mark in his junior year, posting a 20–12–4 record with a .929 SV%. The Thunder Bay, Ontario product built on that regular reason with back-to-back shutouts over Denver and Western Michigan to lead the Bulldogs to the NCHC playoff title.
He was also very good in the NCAA tournament, shutting out Michigan Tech in the first round before losing a heartbreaker to the eventual champion in Denver University 2–1. Fanti followed up his collegiate career with one start in the AHL where they won the game, giving up five goals with a .878 SV%.
This led into Fanti’s rookie pro season last year, where he spent the majority of his time with the Oilers’ new ECHL affiliate, the Fort Wayne Komets. He also played games for the Condors while Pickard was hurt or recalled to the NHL squad and had a 30-minute sample in the Oilers’ preseason schedule. He gave up two goals on 18 shots in 30 minutes against the Seattle Kraken. He posted a 15–16 record and .894 SV% in the ECHL while he was 0–5–1 in eight appearances with an .884 SV% in the AHL. Come playoff time, he was not the Game 1 starter for the Komets, but ended playing the final six games of the series, going 3–3 in his starts in a losing cause despite posting a .959 SV%.
What to expect
Fanti was one of the more coveted undrafted free agent goalies coming out of the NCAA last spring, getting rave reviews from scouts with optimism that he could become a legitimate prospect despite his draft pedigree. However, in my viewings during last year’s training camp, preseason, and on minor league streams, Fanti had a tough time adjusting to the increased level of play that pro hockey brings. He’s generally an agile goalie, able to make dynamic movements while he finds himself out of position, but he started to become over-reliant on this skill. Fanti would get overactive, become inefficient with his movement, leading to him falling behind the play. With the importance of the position, Fanti would get beat in positions where he simply was unable to make the save.
Fanti will likely need to make big strides during the second year of his contract if he wants to get another contract with the Oilers. Quite simply, being below .900 in the ECHL isn’t good enough to advance to higher levels. Fanti will be in a tough spot to advance to Bakersfield with last year’s tandem both posting top 10 results in the AHL, but the 23 year old’s best hope will be to build on his postseason excellence in the upcoming season.