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Finding elite goalies in draft is rare feat

Updated: September 9, 2011, 1:43 PM ET
By Alvin Chang

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is slated to be a free agent next summer, which means NHL clubs may have a rare chance to land an elite goalie via the open market or a trade.

The other way to land a top goalie is, of course, by drafting one -- and that certainly might be cheaper for the salary cap. But is it a better method?

Looking at the Predators' success, it certainly seems like it. They did their homework on Rinne and selected him in 2004. But it wasn't just about good scouting. It was also a game of probability.

Five years before Rinne's selection, the Predators drafted goalie Brian Finley with the No. 6 overall pick in 1999. The following round, they drafted goalie Jan Lasak. And for good measure, they drafted goalie Kyle Kettles at No. 205. But when all was said and done, those three guys played 10 NHL games -- combined.

In the following five years, the Predators continued their search for a goalie; they drafted seven more stoppers until they found Rinne with the 258th pick in 2004.

Of course, they had no idea he would be the one to pan out. In fact, from 2006 to 2008, they drafted five more goaltenders and, since 2000, they've drafted a total of 13 -- second-most in the NHL. But goaltenders are incredibly hard to project, so the Preds sifted for elite goalies the only way they knew how: by drafting a lot of goalie prospects.

Now, when it comes to elite forwards, scouts do a pretty decent job of pegging them. When it comes to top defensemen, it gets a little harder, but there is still a reasonable success rate. When it comes to top goalies, though, scouts rarely have them pegged as top prospects:

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