After a couple of days away, here’s the next in the Boston Bruins prospect series. We’re not doing these in any particular pecking order, but trying to do some players who aren’t as well known. If there is anyone you want to see on here sooner rather than later, let us know in the comments section.
Dan Vladar, G
Boston’s 7th choice, 75th overall in 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Current team: Providence Bruins (AHL)
Previous team: Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL)
Strengths: Physical attributes are as good as it gets: He’s tall, lean and athletic. Moves fluidly with good footwork. His at-post skill set (play near and behind the net, below the circles and cross-crease movements) are very good. Length of legs and upper torso mean that he excels with the butterfly, 1-leg down vertical-horizontal and 2-skate at post techniques to deny scoring chances in close and from behind the net. Uses his hands to cover the top portion of the net well. Good worker who wants to improve and puts in the time to work on the details. Highly respected person and teammate- sunny disposition and well-liked in the room. Between the natural talent and the attitude, there’s still much to like about the 22-year-old who does a lot of things you can’t teach.
Weaknesses: Puck tracking and off-post skills (lane tracking, transition and off-crease challenges) have been slower to develop. Looks like he guesses on where the shot is coming from at times and doesn’t always read the play, creating issues with the right save tactics for grade A scoring chances. Rebound control mechanics are a work in progress- stabs at pucks with the blocker and doesn’t always look pucks into his glove for clean catches/elimination of secondary shots.
Overall analysis: Vladar is a good example of the kind of player that scouts will say “looks the part.” Going into the 2015 NHL draft, he was one of the more highly-regarded goalie prospects. As a top-three round selection, he was the seventh choice/pick of the Bruins in 2015 (they had three selections in each of the first two rounds), and for context, the team had just five selections overall in the entire 2019 draft- so we’re talking about a prospect who has the tools to deliver on NHL success. He’s big, athletic and gives shooters very little net to hit when he is prepared and in his stance with his feet set. However, like any goaltender who might not have the natural instincts that other high-end players do, when he’s moving and not able to get to his spot square and on time, pucks find a way through the holes movement creates and into the back of the net.
Another factor that has added to Vladar’s longer process in pro hockey to date is the fact that he played just one junior season in North America before signing with Boston in 2016. Interestingly enough, he posted solid numbers in a small AHL stint with Providence as a rookie, but had a tougher time in the ECHL, playing on a non-playoff team with the Atlanta Gladiators, which had a revolving door of six goalies on the roster that season. In hindsight, another year in the USHL would have benefited him. Off the top of the head, we don’t recall if his eight games played with the Rytiri Kladno professional team in his native Czech Republic’s second pro league made him inelgible for the NCAA, but we surmise that to be the case (if he was under pro contract at that time, a college hockey path would be barred to him). Had Vladar been able to play one more USHL season in 16-17 for the eventual league champion Steel and then gone on to play in the NCAA, he would probably just be turning pro now and would have brought more experience and refined skills with him.
With elite goaltending being a balance of athletic/physical talent and the ability of the best goalies to effectively manage the controlled chaos and myriad challenges that constantly happen over the course of a single game, it’s understandable that the development process has been a longer one here.
Projection: Time and patience is finally paying off for Vladar and the Bruins, as he is coming off of a terrific season in Providence, going 14-7-1 with a 1.79 GAA and .936 save percentage (good for tops in the AHL) while taking more of the net share from veteran pro Max Lagace. He finished ahead of NY Rangers rookie sensation Igor Shesterkin in the same number of appearances (25). It would have been interesting to see whether Vladar could have been given the reins for the team’s playoff run, but we’ll never know.
With Jaroslav Halak’s contract expiring, Vladar might be in line to earn the backup spot in Boston for 20-21. With no NHL experience, watch for the B’s to bring in a more seasoned pro assuming Halak is not re-signed, but the time is probably here for the 2015 third-rounder to prove that he can stop pucks at the NHL level. Given Vladar’s years of pro service, he is not expansion draft exempt, and with Tuukka Rask the presumptive goalie the B’s will protect next June, success as an NHL backup could make him an option for Seattle to consider. He’s an RFA entering the new season, so the B’s will have to extend him first.
In time, we’ll have a better idea, but for now, the B’s and fans have an intriguing option in net to consider going forward after becoming a bit of a forgotten man from 2017-19.
Here are some highlights from a preseason game vs the Capitals prior to the 18-19 season
Here’s an old Chicago Steel interview with him from Feb 2016, but you get a sense of his positive personality from the body language and responses.