The Canucks always knew goaltender Arturs Silovs was going to be a project goaltender with the potential to blossom into a true diamond in the rough.
The Latvian goaltender caught the Canucks’ attention with a string of stellar performances at the World Juniors where he posted a .918 save percentage while backstopping a less-than-spectacular Latvian team.
That was enough to catch the eyes of the Canucks’ scouts, and most importantly, Ian Clark. The Canucks’ former Director of Amateur Scouting Judd Brackett described the 6’4 netminder as having “great length, power, elasticity, things that Dan Cloutier and Ian Clark both like and feel like are very, very good qualities to develop with.”
The Canucks signed Silovs to an entry-level contract on August 23rd of 2019, a little over a month after they drafted him.
Silovs is an athletic freak who’s long legs allow him to make the bottom of the net virtually inaccessible for opposing shooters.
An area for improvement in Silovs’ game is his low and wide stance, which leaves plenty of room up high and makes him look smaller in the net than his 6’4 203-pound frame would suggest.
A big change Ian Clark made in Jacob Markstrom’s game in recent years was narrowing his stance, which has become a trend we’ve seen from multiple NHL goaltenders recently as they try to adapt to an ever-changing league.
Kevin Woodley wrote about this phenomenon for NHL.com not too long ago.
“In the simplest terms, narrowing the stance improves a goalie’s mobility by keeping his feet underneath him and giving him more leg extension with which to push. Conversely, if a goalie is already spread out too wide with his legs, there isn’t much extension left to make a powerful, controlled push, whether it’s left to right or up and down the crease,” Woodley wrote.
When you take into account that Silovs has such a wide stance, it’s almost even more impressive just how quick he is at moving side to side and how explosive his lateral movements can be.
Silovs has already begun the process of narrowing his stance, recognizing that he needs to make this adjustment in order to succeed at higher levels.
He spent this past season with the Barrie Colts, where he appeared in 36 games while posting an .891 save percentage. Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects gave an update back in March on Silovs’ season in the OHL:
The Latvian netminder had an up-and-down first season in the OHL. He was surrounded by a mediocre team and produced mediocre numbers – landing around the 20th overall mark for most metrics. With his height and athleticism, along with further adjustments to the North American game and way of the life, the recently turned 19-year-old should be primed to push those numbers up in 2020-21.
It’s unclear whether or not Silovs plans to return to the OHL — if they even have a season — or stay home in Latvia. The latter would appear to the best option given the current state of the world, but continuing to acquaint himself with the North American game is something that’s going to be important for his development.
Silovs looked good at training camp in Victoria last September, and although he might not be coming to this year’s camp due to COVID-19 concerns (he’s currently being loaned to his hometown team HS Riga in Latvia) the Canucks and Clark will be eager to see where he’s at in his development and continue to make tweaks in his game to prepare him for the difficult jump to the professional level that awaits him.
The jump from junior to the AHL is likely the biggest one a goaltender will face in his career. The jump from the AHL to the NHL is still significant, no doubt, but there are plenty of goaltenders who will tell you that leaving junior and entering the pro game was the bigger shock. The players skate faster, the play develops quicker, and most importantly, the grown men in the AHL can absolutely rip the puck when compared to the players in junior.
The Canucks loaned Silovs to the Colts last season after signing him to an ELC, just as they’ve now loaned him to HS Riga. That means they have the option to recall him for camp, should they choose to do so.
The biggest deficiency you notice with Silovs aside from his wide stance is that his puck tracking ability could be better. His reaction to shots in traffic isn’t great, but it’s important to note this is another big thing that Clark worked hard to fix in Markstrom’s game.
He’s got a long way to go before he’s NHL ready, but the two biggest things Silovs needs to improve on are both things that the Canucks’ goalie coach was able to clean up in Markstrom’s game, which can only be viewed as a good thing.