The Florida Panthers have brought in plenty of young goalies behind Sergei Bobrovsky in the past year or so. Before he arrived, the team had legendary goalie Roberto Luongo in net, and a prospect named Samuel Montembeault that seemed like he could be the goalie of the future for them. After Luongo retired, Bobrovsky was signed and it seemed like Montembeault was beginning to get lost in the team’s system. Then, the Panthers drafted goaltender Spencer Knight 13th overall in the 2019 NHL draft.
Montembeault can still be a great goalie – it just seems like it won’t be with the Panthers. General manager Bill Zito drafted Devon Levi in the seventh round of the 2020 NHL draft, this pick seems like it could be a “diamond in the rough” situation. Levi is representing Canada at the World Junior Championship (WJC) this year and it is looking like he may be the team’s starting goalie.
Montembeault Deserves a Shot In the NHL
Montembeault, a 24-year-old, re-signed with the Panthers earlier this week on a one-year deal. After being selected in the third round of the 2015 NHL draft, Montembeault was said to be the Panthers’ next option in net once Luongo retired. Obviously, a lot has changed since then – the team now has five goalies under contract in 2020. Those include Bobrovsky, Chris Driedger, Ryan Bednard, Phillippe Desrosiers, and Montembeault, not to mention the goalies still in the system, Levi and Knight, who are some of the top goalie prospects participating in the 2020 WJC.
Montembeault is entering the prime years of his career – I believe the team could end up dealing him in an effort to get defensive help at the trade deadline. The Panthers have too many goalies to keep around and I doubt they want to let one with his potential go for free.
The once highly touted prospect had a .907 save percentage (SV%) in 41 games with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) Blainville-Boisbriand Armada before being selected by the Panthers in 2015. His most recent campaign with the Panthers’ former AHL affiliate Springfield Thunderbirds has been his most successful season as a pro.
The AHL All-Star produced a .918 SV% and a 3.00 goals-against average – it doesn’t seem like much, but I believe the team brought him back to hope for another good AHL season and possibly use him as a future backup. If not, it is likely he either gets dealt or let go after the 2020-21 season.
Where Are the Goalies Playing This Year?
Bobrovsky and Driedger will man the crease for the Panthers this season. The team’s new AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, have plenty of options for who they choose in net. It is likely that Montembeault and Desrosiers will fight for the top spot with the team. Bednard is currently playing with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in the ECHL – he’s off to a rough start with a .865 SV% in only two games.
Knight (USA) and Levi (Canada) will both begin this week in the WJC – after the tournament, they will return to the NCAA to play the rest of the college season. This tandem is looking like the future for the Panthers, and it’s important for Knight to have some competition to push him to eventually be the best goalie in the NHL.
Success or Failure
Montembeault and his future in the NHL is in his hands. After signing a one-year deal, he needs to perform well wherever he plays or he may have to travel overseas to continue playing professional hockey. This year will present a big decision for the organizationm as Zito and company will have to decide to count on Montembeault improving, or move him for better assets.
Obviously, we would hope for success for Montembeault – if he manages a great season, I would like to see him getting a shot at the NHL elsewhere. With Bobrovsky around for another six seasons and Knight coming behind him, it’s unlikely Montembeault gets a starting role with the Panthers.