It’s that time of the year folks. Yes it’s holiday season, and no matter what holiday you choose to celebrate, the entire team and Not Your Average Hockey Blog would like to wish you happy holidays. However, it’s also World Junior time! Before you ask, yes I’m doing my patriotic duty and cheering for Canada.
This time of the year is also the only time of the year where the name Benjamin Conz gets floated around. As a Canada fan, it’s hard to forget the 48 save game versus the Canadians. Don’t remember? Here are some highlights:
However, his game versus the Russians was the one the stuck out to me. Prior to the game, the Swiss were rightfully considered heavy underdogs, but Benjamin Conz stood on his head, stopping 50 of 52 shots for the win. Highlights from that game:
Honestly, that is where I thought he earned his IIHF Best Player Award for the tournament. However, I’m sidetracking. This post is where I question why he hasn’t been signed, and not where I reminisce about his prior play.
Why hasn’t he signed an NHL contract? Heck for that matter why hasn’t he signed a KHL contract? There are plenty of theories and I’m going to go on a disclaimer right here and start off by saying maybe he has been offered a contract but chose not to sign it? I have no clue, nor am I going to pretend to know. I’ve heard a few arguments over the years, and I am here to debunk as many of them as possible.
“The IIHF Best Player Award for goaltenders is meaningless.”
Since 1990, there have been only two goalies who have won the award that didn’t end up being drafted by an NHL team. The two players? Benjamin Conz in 2010 and Yevgeni Tarasov in 1995. Players such as Tukka Rask (2006), Carey Price (2007), Petr Mrazek (2012) have all won the award and are now either top goalies in the league or developing very good goalies. The IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships have always been a showcase of the best players from all over the world and to be crowned the best of the best, has always meant something and always will mean something.
“The NHL doesn’t scout the Swiss Leagues.”
It would be irresponsible for NHL scouts to not scout a certain area. Just because many draft picks don’t come from that area, it doesn’t mean NHL teams don’t scout that area. Also, does the name Roman Josi ring a bell? Guess where he was drafted from? The NLA; the same league Benjamin Conz currently plays in. I’m sure a team or two sent scouts to do due diligence, maybe they saw something they didn’t like?
“He wasn’t a good enough player back then, and isn’t a good enough player now either.”
In the NHL Central Scouting Bureau Final Rankings of 2009, he was ranked 8th. Who was near him? Anders Nilsson (5th), Joni Ortio (7th), Igor Bobkov (10th), Antti Raanta (11th). All these players have played in the NHL, so clearly he was a good enough player back then. He’s currently going through a bad season, but his last two seasons have been outstanding; having a sv% of .929 and .916. Now you might say those numbers are pedestrian-like, but he also has a GAA of 2.24 and 2.61 during that time, which looks much better in my opinion. Clearly he’s been a good goalie before, and has continued to be a strong performer. So what’s the issue?
“He’s too small to be a goalie in the NHL”
That’s the most common argument. “You have to be huge to play goalie in the NHL.” It’s true. The average goalie in the NHL is 6’2, and Benjamin Conz is 5’11 (everywhere but the Fribourg-Gottéron website)/6’1 (the Fribourg-Gottéron website). There are four goalies in the NHL who aren’t 6 feet are taller. So yes size does matter. However, unorthodox playing style and his deep position in net help compensate for his height issues.
So what does it all mean? Is he never going to be in an NHL uniform? Not necessarily. He’s only 23 years old. Goaltender Jonas Hiller was signed out of the NLA at age 25. However, Hiller had an opportunity to showcase his abilities playing in the Spengler Cup with HC Davos, while Conz won’t have that chance playing for Fribourg-Gottéron. He will need seasoning at the AHL level before he can debut in the NHL, so his window is still open at age 23, but it’s closing fast. If he cannot get a contract by age 25 or 26, I do not believe he will ever be able to get a contract in the NHL.
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