By Paul Osborne, Guelph Mercury
It was clear coming into training camp that the biggest question mark when it came to the Guelph Storm’s ability to make the playoffs this year was their depth in net. Eighteen-year-old sophomore Anthony Popovich and 16-year-old Nico Daws are the only two netminders left in camp so a fair and logical question to ask: Is that enough experience to lead to success?
At this point, no one knows.
Coach and GM George Burnett is stuck in a tough position. He wants to give the two netminders a chance to prove they can handle the workload, but with a much-improved line-up heading into the season, he needs to know inconsistent goaltending won’t undo all the improvements he’s made.
The challenge is that the exhibition season doesn’t always give a coach enough time to properly evaluate young players. Several veterans are away at NHL training camps and it’s safe to say that pre-season games don’t carry the same intensity that regular season games do. But with that said, Burnett has to figure things out in a relative hurry.
“They are both young and both inexperienced,” he said recently. “Poppy has the most experience obviously but both have worked hard and both have done nothing wrong (so far) that would indicate to me that they aren’t deserving of an opportunity.”
And the success of the two goalies is somewhat out of their control. Their teammates have as much to do with their success as they do and that further complicates Burnett’s decision-making process. As the returning player, Popovich is the key.
“What I am hoping is to have better play from the five guys in front of him which will give him a better opportunity to really determine how good he is,” said Burnett. “If he’s just left on his own all the time or in odd-man situations and power plays time after time after time, I don’t know if that is a fair time to assess your goalie.”
Popovich says knowing he comes in as the number one guy gives him self-assurance.