It’s time for our annual countdown of the best 25 Nashville Predators players under 25 years old!
This is not only a tradition here at OTF, but is also something that you might see at many other SBNation NHL blogs. The premise is simple: rank the 25 best players who have not yet reached their 25th birthday (as of August 1st, 2018).
A newcomer at #18.
Over the past several months, the Predators’ organization made a concerted effort to re-stock the cupboard when it comes to goalies. Svoboda could end up being the steal of the class as the former NHL draft pick (Edmonton - 2015) comes to North America with an impressive international resume.
By The Numbers
Svoboda leaves the Czech Extraliga with Goalie of the Year honors after a stellar 47-game season plus a 10-game playoff run for HC Plzen. It was his first full season in the top Czech league, and he mastered it.
To provide better context for Svoboda’s performance, I have measured his goals-saved-above average (GSAA). To achieve this, I found the average save percentage of the 17 goalies who started 20 or more games in the Czech Extraliga last season - 0.9139%. Then, I compared that to the number of shots Svoboda faced - 1,306 shots - to figure how many of those a league average goaltender would stop - 1,194 saves. This is a difference of 112 goals which is 15 more than Svoboda gave up last season. So his GSAA is 15.0 goals.
This measure is pretty astonishing. Svoboda was likely a beneficiary of playing more games than most goalies in the league (this could be accounted for by measuring the statistic per sixty minutes). The measure also ignores shot quality and number of shots face per game above a normal watermark (i.e. 30+).
To compare this to the AHL (these are two different leagues with very different scoring rates, so this is not exact whatsoever), Svoboda would have ranked 7th in the AHL among goalies who faced 1,000 shots or more last season. The top four - Sparks, Demko, Ullmark, and Husso, are considered the top tier of AHL tenders.
There is little recent statistical precedent for goalies coming over from the Czech Republic besides David Rittich. Both Ville Husso & Kevin Boyle (ranked 4th and 5th in GSAA last year, respectively) were rookies in the AHL last season. It will be interesting to watch Svoboda’s game in Milwaukee this season.
In the footage above, Svoboda stays true to his stance during the penalty shot, doesn’t commit to the butterfly too early but is square enough and aggressive enough that he doesn’t show too many holes, and ultimately comes up with the save.
Above, Svoboda tracks the puck well, and I like the angle he carries his glove at. But, he falls out of the butterfly too fast (something I’ve noticed in his game) only to come up with a lucky save.
Here, Svoboda has to cover for a bad turnover. He hugs the post well but loses some balance in his stance and his glove hand falters opening up a lot of net on the glove-side for a one-timer.
Svoboda signed a two-year, entry-level contract that will come at a $767.5K cap hit with a $70K salary in the minors. He will be a restricted free agent upon expiry.
At 23, Svoboda is just slightly older than Juuse Saros who is well ahead of the curve. Some AHL seasoning could be a good launching point to a solid career as a fringe starter or backup or it could be his ceiling. Nevertheless, I expect a good season from Svoboda this year.