Jake Paterson’s NHL draft year was a tale of two halves. And it’s the second half the Detroit Red Wings hope sets the trend for the Saginaw Spirit goaltender’s future.
Paterson, who the Red Wings selected in the third round, 80th overall, in the 2012 NHL draft in Pittsburgh, was markedly better from the start of December on in his first full season in the Ontario Hockey League.
He cut his goals-against average from 4.31 to 2.67, his save percentage zoomed from .886 to .921 and his win-loss record went from 6-11-1 to 12-7-2.
“In the first half, I had very limited interest in him,” admitted Red Wings director of scouting Joe McDonnell. “In the second half, he just exploded. He did everything well. He handled the puck well, he obviously stopped it, and his confidence was sky-high.”
McDonnell said the Red Wings considered this a deep draft for goaltenders and that they had three ranked in the first round. Although Paterson wasn’t one of them, he was next on their list, just on the outside of their top 30.
Paterson, ranked third among North American goalies by Central Scouting, was the ninth goaltender selected.
“We were fired right up to get him where we got him,” McDonnell said.
The 6-foot-2 183-pounder finished last season with an 18-18-3 record and a 3.42 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage, then followed it up with an outstanding 12-game playoff run that featured wins of 36, 42 and 46 saves.
“He led his team,” McDonnell said.
Paterson also scored well in fitness testing at the NHL draft combine. Among 100 prospects, he scored in the top three of two vertical jump tests, second in two push-up tests, first in push strength, seventh in pull strength and seventh in leg power testing.
Retired former Red Wings starter Chris Osgood scouted Paterson numerous times in Saginaw and gave him a glowing review.
“He’s one of those goalies who looks bigger in the net,” McDonnell said. “He covers the net well, he covers the bottom of the net real well and he’s very athletic.”
The biggest thing the Red Wings liked was Paterson’s competitiveness, a trait they also coveted in 2010 fourth-rounder Petr Mrazek.
“The compete level is obviously huge for a goaltender,” McDonnell said. “If you make the first save, you have to be able to make the next one, and he was outstanding in that regard in the second half.”
Mrazek was the only goaltender picked by the Red Wings in three previous drafts, so grabbing Paterson this year was important to ensure the well doesn’t run dry.
“We just hope he keeps on with his development,” McDonnell said.