Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Is Zachary Fucale about to turn around his season with a strong run to the Memorial Cup?

I'd like to ask any goalie experts out there to comment on the season Zachary Fucale has had.  Is there another goalie out there who had a great two seasons, got drafted, then tailed off for the next two in Junior, yet who’s gone on to have a productive career in the NHL?

Is the issue with Zach mental, something that can be fixed? Can Stéphane Waite and Vincent Riendeau work with him to get back on track, since he has the tools? Or are his skills not as good as we thought?

Can Zach get back on track with a strong end to these playoffs and Memorial Cup tourney?
I wasn’t overly optimistic or pleased when Zach was drafted high in the second round of the 2013 draft, was hoping we’d draft another forward and load up on size and talent for 2-3 years down the road...
Pick #36: The Canadiens draft Zachary Fucale. Not necessarily happy with this pick, but I have to trust their judgment on this one. I would have preferred another sizeable forward or defenceman. Taking the best goalie in this class this low is a steal I guess.
…but came around after getting to know him from the reports we got on him:
With these comments I tipped my hand and showed how much I wanted a bigger, talented forward picked here, again to inject some size in the prospect mix, and right the current imbalance. I was hoping that Trevor Timmins would snag a scoring winger like Valentin Zykov or William Carrier. With time, I’ve grown to like this pick very much, the reports on Mr. Fucale are very encouraging, in terms of the talent he has, his attitude and character, and the fact that he has been the starting goaltender on a championship team for two seasons now. This is quite a lot of experience and work for a seventeen-year-old.
I can’t remember who it was who said this, maybe RDS' Stéphane Leroux, but the good thing about Zach was that he’d been his team’s starter as a 16 and 17-year-old, and won a Memorial Cup at 17, which is uncommon, usually there’s a veteran goalie picking up most of the load on a championship team, and the youngster gets groomed and sheltered a bit.
Instead, Zach was the man, and he was a leader on the Mooseheads, along with Nathan McKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, young super talented kids not yet drafted in the NHL.

I allow that Zach had a decent season last year, but he didn’t really take that big step forward I was hoping for, and he had some meltdowns in the playoffs, at the worst time possible, if I recall correctly.
I hoped that the trade to the Remparts might be the change of scenery, the shock to the system to get him re-focused, with another trip to the Memorial Cup guaranteed, but he’s had a disappointing end to the season, and I wasn't overly hopeful that Zach, and Québec in general, would get it together this spring.

So far he seems to have righted the ship after a rough first couple of games.  He started the first round on the bench, watching his backup Callum Booth play, but took over when he struggled in the first two games.  Zach got the job done, won the series, but finished with a pedestrian .881 save percentage.

That's when he seems to have kicked it into gear, helping the Remparts to sweep the next two rounds, and putting up a .922 against the Islanders and an epic .963 against the Wildcats.

His goalie coach on the Remparts, Maxime Ouellet, thinks that he's finally settled down after a big shock to the system, due to getting traded from the Mooseheads.  He also believes that Zach may have hit a trough in terms of his energy, after a big emotional World Junior Tournament played on home ice, but now he's back in the groove and the adrenaline of the playoffs is helping.  They've worked a lot on video analysis, and Mr. Ouellet has tried to help him focus on the 'here and now'.

Finally, he's encouraged him to try to be himself, be vocal and enthusiastic on the ice, something he may have been hesitant to do at first as a newcomer on the team.

So we can hope that Zach has turned the corner and will finish off his junior career on a high, and be better prepared, mentally at least, for life as a pro in the AHL next season.

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