COHEN: College star Woll ready for the next step in his career
Joseph Woll was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the 62nd overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He was a known commodity as a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program from 2014-16 and the thought at the time was that he would be the Maple Leafs goalie of the future. It doesn’t seem like that’s changed at all.
As a matter of fact, he’s getting closer.
Woll is well into his third year at Boston College and potential 2019 first round pick goalie and Spencer Knight is coming in, so this would be a great time for Woll to wind down his NCAA career and get ready to turn professional. He wants to graduate but he’s also stated he can go back and finish. He’s publicly left his options open so far. Most prospects are taught to say that. So, we will all have to wait until his season is over for him to make a formal announcement one way or the other.
Woll is only 20. He could play 2-3 years in the AHL before the Maple Leafs have to worry about his future. Most goalies don’t start to click by the age of 25 so time is on the Leafs side with Woll. Just ask the St. Louis Blues and their first-year goalie, Jordan Binnington. He’s 25 and has an 8-1-1 record with a .931 save percentage and two shutouts in his first 12 NHL games.
At 6-3, 200 pounds, he has the kind of frame that NHL general managers are looking for. Goalies of that size can cover a lot of net and when they’re aggressive and challenge shooters. Many times, there isn’t a lot to shoot at. Woll does watch his positioning on most plays but he is competitive and will show that by trying to derail the shooter before he gets a chance to gain an edge on him.
This BC goalie may give up too many rebounds but he’s good at corralling them back. He anticipates very well and has exceptional flexibility. He deals well with traffic and can stop that first and second attempt. He’s very fast up and down. His core is so much stronger than it was when he was drafted. College programs like BC have great training staffs and players get the benefit of 24/7 access to them, plus they can work out during the season because they play fewer games than Canadian Hockey League players. By the time he hits the American Hockey League, he’ll be ready.
Woll has had a fair amount of international seasoning leading up to the product you see today. At the 2016 U18s, he had the best save percentage (.947), best goals against average (1.34), and he took home a bronze medal. In 2016-17, he was the backup to Tyler Parsons when Team USA won the gold against Team Canada in the 2017 World Junior Championship. In those two games, he had a .935 save percentage and 1.50 goals against average. His play was still very good. In the 2018 World Junior Championship, his play slipped a bit. His save percentage was only .886. He was still a part of a bronze medal winning team.
BC nominated Woll for the Hobey Baker Award for the 2018-19 season. He got his team to the Beanpot Final, and possibly beyond, and in his first 26 games, he had a stellar .923 save percentage with 2.26 goals against average. Some of his NCAA highlights include a scoreless streak of 89:39, two games where he made 42 saves, that’s a lot in college hockey. During the 2018-19 season, he had two shutouts and six games of just one goal allowed, the latter was a 2-1 win over Harvard in the semifinal round of the Beanpot.
The Maple Leafs haven’t had a lot of solid home-grown goalies lately. James Reimer and Felix Potvin before him come to mind. Woll represents not only solid drafting and player development but an ability to restock a position that they’ve had to fill in other ways recently. Drafting and developing goaltenders is the hardest thing to do in hockey. Teams have to be very patient in most cases to see a player make his NHL debut. Sometimes players get traded and end up developing in their next organization. I don’t think that will happen with Woll.
I can’t say the Missouri native will be a #1 goalie in the NHL, but I do see him becoming at least an NHL backup at some point in the future. If he does, that’s a successful draft pick. That’s a good return on a third-round pick. Now, if down the road he becomes the Maple Leafs starting goalie, then you’ve hit a home run.
In the end, every player develops at their own pace.