15- Hunter Miska- Goaltender
Where Did He Come From? Signed as a NCAA Free Agent out of Minnesota-Duluth on April 15th, 2017
Rank in last year’s 21 under 21? No, he was an undrafted Free Agent signee
Has He Played in the NHL?: No, this upcoming season will be his first pro season. We do not expect him to crack the NHL roster for at least 2 seasons.
Hunter Miska, like many goalies, took his time growing. Many goalies are hard to predict, and many have crazy highs mixed with crushing lows. Miska’s downs came much earlier on, particularly during his first draft eligible years. He struggled while backstopping the National Development Team, playing to the score of a sub-.900 save percentage.
But a rough go on the junior team doesn’t determine a career. In fact, those games are a goalie’s nightmare, as the top scoring prospects in hockey go out for a turkey shoot. None the less, Miska, moved on to the BCHL in western Canada and lit it up. He produced .915+ save percentages over two seasons, including a sub-2.00 GAA in his second campaign.
By this point, he had the hallmarks of a late blooming goalie with an immense load of talent. Miska got beat up on the National Junior team but was a world beater in low-junior hockey. Following the BCHL, he lit it up for a season in the USHL which earned him a go with a top-flight NCAA program in UM-Duluth.
And Miska did even better.
Miska led the Bulldogs to a masterful 46 game campaign, culminating in a NCAA championship game berth. He posted a 2.20 GAA and .920 save percentage despite being one of the smallest goaltenders in the NCAA (he’s 6ft 1in, but by NHL and NCAA standards, that’s not big at all).
Miska’s style is far scrappier than most goalies, and that comes from both his mindset and stature. He is a little smaller and he has to play with a bigger mentality. He steps up into a shooter at the top of the circle and crease cuts down angles. He’s incredibly aggressive and often forces forwards to move in on him, then shuts them down with his agility and fire-poker of a goalie paddle.
Most impressively, Miska has a masterful presence to step up in critical situations, whether that’s stacking the pads or rolling over to dive in the way of a shot. That intangible ‘clutch’ skill can fuel a very successful career in goaltenders.
Want an example? This one is less than 24 hours old and will give you chills when you think about it happening in a Coyotes jersey...
What does the future hold for Hunter Miska?:
Hunter Miska is in the perfect position for a young goaltender. There is depth above him to insulate him from any pressure of having to promote too quickly, yet talented and experienced enough to know how to adjust to the professional game.
In terms of the Coyotes’ depth in net, the line goes Antti Raanta and Louis Domingue, both of which who are in the last years of their contracts. Whoever steps up into a starting role will likely be re-signed, while the other may not be a Coyote past 2018, leaving room to move up. Marek Langhamer was re-signed, but likely to help season Adin Hill in Tucson. Langhamer likely moves on after this coming season, while Hill either promotes to backup in Glendale or starter in Tucson. That leaves both time and room for Miska to grow.
Miska will likely start out in the ECHL with the Ft. Wayne Komets, but he will certainly be making the flight back to Tucson a couple times this season. If all goes according to plan and he develops nicely, we could see Miska crack the Arizona roster by the beginning of the 2019 season.
It’s hard to predict goalies. They are notoriously hot and cold, talented but finicky. Yet watching Miska at this summer’s development camp, he reminded me of another agile and clutch American goaltender who’s smaller by most standards, yet so talented that you want him on your team. He seems, by physical and skill evaluation, like Jonathon Quick, and that’s quite the comparison to make.
Maybe it isn’t fair to make that comparison for Miska and only time will tell if Hunter Miska is the future of goaltending in Arizona. Yet if the growth continues for Miska like it has on its current trajectory, he will own the crease for a long time in the desert.