Thursday, July 8, 2010

Focus on Prospects: Philipp Grubauer

I was in Las Vegas working during the NHL Draft, and missed about 99% of it, so all my draft news came in tidbits of the 4 seconds a day I was able to check Twitter.  So the second I saw that with our fourth-round selection, we traded up two draft picks in order to get Philipp Grubauer, I squealed in the middle of a crowded restaurant (yes, people stared).  So without further ado, I present... Philipp Grubauer, my very favorite Capitals draft pick of the 2010 Entry Draft.

photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Name: Philipp Grubauer
Position: G
Catches: Left
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 180 lbs
Birthdate: 1991-11-25
Hometown: Rosenheim, Germany

I've become a Windsor Spitfires fan over the past two seasons, and while I was sad to see Andrew Engelage (now with the ECHL's Reading Royals) go after the 2009 Memorial Cup Championship, I grew to know Grubauer after he was traded from the Belleville Bulls to the Windsor Spitfires in January 2010.  Grubauer took over the top goalie position for Windsor, and quickly made an impression with the 2009 Champions, being named as the Spitfires Player of the Week (as voted by Windsor coaching staff) in March.  At that point, he was tied for first in GAA among all OHL goalies and second in save percentage.  Grubauer entered the Spitfires roster as they were gearing up for their 2010 playoff run, and he helped them toward that lofty back-to-back CHL Champions goal.  

As we know, the Spitfires did indeed repeat, and Grubauer was an integral part of the victory - in the Memorial Cup tournament alone, his stats were outstanding: besides being undefeated, he had a 2.14 GAA and an exceptional .930 SV%.  Keep in mind that though these stats were only over 4 games, they were against the best teams in the Canadian Hockey League.  During the games he played with the Spitfires in the regular season (19 games) he was 13-1-2 with a .906 SV% and 2.37 GAA.  Still impressive numbers for the well-traveled German.  

He becomes more well-traveled next season - he and a 2010 draft pick were traded to the Kingston Frontenacs just last week in order for Windsor to gain higher draft picks in the OHL Entry Draft.  Windsor has also signed WJC US goalie Jack Campbell, and thus didn't seem to have much use for Grubauer with Campbell's pedigree and experience putting him as the obvious starter in Windsor.  However, it should be a good move for Grubauer, since with Campbell in charge in Windsor, Grubauer would play limited minutes, whereas he is slated as the Kingston starter next season.

There has been talk amongst Capitals analysts that has labeled Grubauer as "inconsistent."  He was yanked from net after allowing 12 goals in the first 2 games during the tough playoff series with the Kitchener Rangers (the Rangers went 3-0 the first 3 games).  However, as the starter in Game 5, he shut out the Rangers, stopping 28 shots.  In the Spits' later series with the Barrie Colts (Stefan Della Rovere's club) for the OHL Championship, Grubauer was seeing (and stopping) over 30 shots in the majority of those games.

In terms of the consistency issue, I'd just say keep in mind that he is only 18, and has played just two full seasons in juniors.  He has had a great amount of experience in just these past few months: winning the 2010 Memorial Cup, and also competing as the starting goalie for Germany in the 2010 WJC-20 Division I Championships: where he racked up unbelievable numbers - a 0.64 GAA and .974 SV% in 5 games (he also participated in the 2008 U17 Challenge and the 2009 WJC-20 Championships).  At the end of those 2010 WJC-20 D1 Championships, Germany finished with the gold medal, and Grubauer with the "Top Player on a Team" honor.  Germany's win means that they will be competing in the 2011 WJC.  So we know he at least is good under pressure.

And of course, he has many years to continue to develop as a goalie.  Being just 18, he has at least two more seasons in Canadian juniors before he ages out, plus he will be gaining experience in this year's Capitals development camp.  His glove hand definitely needs to be improved, but his kick saves in general are excellent due to his agility and quickness in the crease.  With next year's expected Caps goalies being Varlamov and Neuvirth, Grubauer could end up in Hershey after juniors.  But I wouldn't worry about any inconsistency just yet - he's got a lot of time before he sees solid ice time with any team in the Caps organization.  Right now his job is to take all he can from development camp and get as much experience as possible as the starter in Kingston next season.  Overall, he may condition enough to be a great goalie, and it is a good goalie draft pick for the Caps.

To see more of his grace under fire, check out the below video (which I watched live and was outraged over of course) during Windsor's OHL Finals series against the Barrie Colts.  In the final minute of Game 3 of their series (which Windsor swept), the Colts were already losing 5-2 when Colt Darren Archibald ran over Grubauer as he stepped behind the net to clear a puck to his defensemen.  The collision was troubling, but Grubauer got up, smirking a bit as if to say, "Is that all you got, punk?"  I think Grubauer has the sense of humor necessary to deal with the pests in hockey, and also has the smarts to brush off the insults.  Archibald, by the way, was suspended for this incident.

(Note: I wish I could have used a picture of Grubauer in a Caps draft jersey, but alas, there isn't one, as Grubauer was in Germany during the draft and thus was obviously not present.  Grubauer's first appearance in a Caps jersey will be during next week's development camp - all five 2010 draft picks are slated to attend.)

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