A pressing question relative to the Soo Greyhounds ahead of the 2020-2021 Ontario Hockey League season correlates with the most paramount position of all.
Who will be the goalies for a Greyhound team that sees itself as a contender to the extent that it is bidding to play host to the 2021 Memorial Cup tournament and be a participant?
At the top of the list are two potential holdovers — Ethan Taylor and Nick Malik — who saw varying degrees of action for the Greyhounds during the 2019-2020 OHL season.
Neither, though, had what could be termed a good season in 2019-2020.
Taylor ended the 2019-2020 campaign as the Greyhounds little used, third string goalie while Malik put up sub-par numbers after basically being gifted the starting job by head coach John Dean after the rookie net-minder arrived in Sault Ste. Marie from the Czech Republic in January.
Taylor, who has a 2001 birth date, had a 3-5-0 record with a 3.67 goals against average and .861 save percentage for the Greyhounds in 2019-2020 and was never really put into position to be the starting goalie.
Malik, who was born in 2002, arrived in the Sault in mid season to a hero’s welcome and unabashed media publicity. But he faltered with a 5-11-0 record, 3.77 goals against average and .886 save percentage.
Still, despite his below average numbers, Malik earned lavish praise from aforementioned head coach John Dean and is — unofficially at least — being touted as the Hounds main man between the pipes ahead of next season.
It is also worth noting that Malik is a listed prospect for this year’s National Hockey League draft.
One goalie who won’t be in the mix in 2020-2021 is Bailey Brkin, who has exhausted his OHL eligibility. Brkin was a saviour for the Hounds in 2019-2020, posting a 17-8-3 record with a 3.37 goals against average and .885 save percentage after being acquired off Western Hockey League waivers last November.
Meanwhile, there are others in the Greyhounds system who could challenge Taylor and Malik for a roster spot in 2020-2021, including Noah Zeppa, Samuel Ivanov and Charlie Schenkel.
Zeppa, who has a 2002 birth date, was the Greyhounds second round pick at the 2019 OHL supplemental draft from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Midget Hockey League. He was the most valuable player in the Great North in 2018-2019.
A local product who is still young (he doesn’t turn 18 until December of this year), Zeppa saw just nine games of action in 2019-2020 after suffering a concussion. He split the 2019-2020 season between the Chatham Maroons of the Greater Ontario Jr. Hockey League and Hearst Lumberjacks of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
As for Ivanov, who has a 2003 birth date, he was picked by the Greyhounds in the first round of this year’s OHL supplemental draft from the Vaughan Kings major midgets.
And Schenkel, who has a 2004 birth date, was the first of three goalies taken by the Hounds at this year’s OHL priority selections draft. Schenkel was a fifth round pick by the Hounds from the minor midget Rockland Nationals.