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Nashville Predators Top 25 Under 25: No. 3 Juuse Saros

The young Finnish phenom continues to prove doubters wrong as he makes it as the top Predators prospect (non-regular NHLer at the moment) in our countdown.

Buffalo Sabres v Nashville Predators Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

No. 3 Juuse Saros

Birthday: April 19, 1995 (Age 21)

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 179 lbs.

NHL Draft: 2013 4th Round, 99th Overall

Milwaukee Admirals (AHL): 38 GP, 2.24 GAA, 0.920 SV%

Nashville Predators (NHL): 1GP, 3.10 GAA, 0.870 SV%

No matter where Juuse Saros has played questions about his 5-foot-10 stature have followed and he has always answered the bell. In his draft year he was named the Jr. SM Liiga’s Best Goalie and Best Player and he was named the U18 WJC’s Best Goaltender. Despite all of this, the young Finn was still passed over in the early part of the draft because of his size. It was not until a no doubt giddy Nashville Predators staff walked up to the stage in the fourth-round that Saros was finally picked up.

The season (2013-2014) after Saros was drafted he was named the SM Liiga Rookie of the Year, he won the U20 WJC Gold Medal Game, and he was named to the U20 WJC All-Star Team. In 2014-15 he played 47 games for his below-average Liiga team, HPK, and put up a 2.14 GAA and a 0.929 SV%, and was widely considered the best goalie in the league. Through all of this, however, Saros still could not shake questions about his size.

Last season was possibly the biggest test for Saros as he made the shift to North America to play for the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL. Would Saros be able to cope with the smaller rink where lateral movement is amplified? Would he be able to see through traffic and make those quick reads? Would his size finally get the best of him?

Of course, Saros answered all of these questions the same way he has answered all other questions in the past. He split time with established AHL goalie Marek Mazanec in net and was eventually named the full-time starting goalie at the end of the season, he won AHL Goaltender of the Month in March, and he made the AHL All-Rookie team.

He even made an appearance in net for the Predators. It was just another season in the books for the young phenom.

As David Poile said, if there is ever a goalie who can be a successful goaltender in the NHL despite being below six-feet tall it’s Juuse Saros. Corey Pronman called Saros’ skill set “one of the more dynamic you’ll see in a goaltender.” I don’t think I’ve ever watched a goalie who is as laterally quick and proactive in net as Saros. Not only is he quick, but he’s so controlled in his movement and always in position with that control and the great reads he makes. He is one of the better shootout goalies you will see.

It goes without saying but Saros is a hard worker and a competitor. He is definitely naturally skilled but he is able to continue to do well despite his size because of a lot of hard work and a desire to be the best.

Questions about his size will always persist and he could also improve on his play with the puck but Saros has set himself up very well in his first year in North America. In a few weeks he will be battling for a backup role with the Predators, though the best thing for him would be to spend a year down in Milwaukee to get more playing time as their true No. 1 goalie.

Regardless of where he ends up, if Saros can continue to prove people wrong about his size going into the future he could very well find himself as the Predators starting goalie for years to come. It seems like Saros has been on the radar forever but his career has only just begun.

Projected NHL Arrival: 2017-2018

2015-2016 Grade: A-

NHL Projection: No. 1 Goalie

Goalie Coach Ben Vanderklok talks about Juuse Saros’ skill set and progression.

Saros makes a nice save on the breakaway.

Juuse Saros shuts out Slovakia in the World Championships. He and Pekka Rinne combined for four straight shutouts; a World Championship record.

All stats via eliteprospects.