The San Jose Sharks have signed goaltender Zachary Émond to a standard, three-year entry-level contract. Émond, who turns 19 in June, has served as the backup goaltender for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL the past two seasons. Last June, the Sharks made him a sixth-round pick (176 overall) in the NHL Entry Draft. According to CapFriendly and Curtis Pashelka, Émond’s contract’s average annual value (AAV) will be $810,000, and his cap hit will come in at $796,667. It appears the netminder will return to his Huskies to assume the number-one goaltender duties next season, but is expected to join the team’s development camp this summer.
During his draft year, Émond played 24 games and concluded the season with an .897 save percentage. This season, he played 27 games and finished with a .932 save percentage. It is what lies beyond those percentages — which are more of a team than an individual statistic — that can tell us more about his true talent level.
After the Sharks selected the goalie last summer, we wrote the following about his performance:
“According the prospect-stats.com, Émond’s save percentage didn’t quite match up to his expected save percentage (all situations), finishing the year 0.004 points below what the average goalie would have produced. That number ranks seventh amongst nine 17 to 18-year-old goalies in the QMJHL who started at least 20 games during the 2017-18 season. Émond also saved 0.056 goals below what the average goalie would have saved per 30 shots against when adjusted for the amount of low-, medium-, and high-danger shots he faced.
The goaltender’s 5v5 numbers were a bit of an improvement. His save percentage exceeded his expected save percentage by 0.002, third among 17 to 18-year-old goalies in the Q this season. He also saved 0.37 goals above average per 30 shots when adjusted for the shot difficulty he faced, the best mark among goalies his age.
Émond’s high- and medium-danger save percentages at 5v5 were fairly middling, and he made his money with his low-danger saves. That might be nothing or it might be a sign of some regression to come if he doesn’t improve his play against tougher shots.”
This season, Émond’s underlying numbers were similar, if slightly worse. Of the 34 QMJHL goaltenders to start at least 15 games, Émond’s save percentage above expected (-0.011) ranked second. His adjusted (for the proportion of low-, medium- and high-danger shots faced) goals saved above average per 30 shots (0.744) also ranked second. Finally, his goals saved above expected (-0.32) was also good for second-best in the Q.
If there is cause for alarm, it’s that this year, like last season, Émond’s high-danger save percentage wasn’t overly exciting. His .754 performance there ranked just 15 out of all 34 goaltenders. While the best predictor of future save percentage is goals saved above average in its entirety, high-danger save percentage is the most important individual component of that full number.
As Emmanuel Perry writes: “It appears the skill-driven component of Sv% is almost entirely contained in a goalie’s ability to stop shots of the High-Danger variety.”
The surest sign a team is at least somewhat excited by a prospect is the news he’s been signed to an entry-level contract. Especially because goaltenders take forever to get their shots in the big leagues, the fact an 18-year-old signed one year after being drafted should be cause for celebration. However, Émond’s high-danger save percentage in major junior is a red flag. If he doesn’t shore up his save percentage on tough shots, it might be a long road to nowhere for the young goalie.