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Zach Fucale is a 22-year-old Montreal Canadiens prospect and his hockey journey is as interesting as they come. The young goaltender is all too aware of the tumultuous process in which players are sent up and down between National Hockey League teams and their respective American Hockey League (AHL) affiliates. The role of the Habs prospect has been to be patient and endure. Unfortunately, it is looking unlikely that Fucale will be re-signed when his contract is finished after only three seasons in the Canadiens organization.
Many goalie prospects for Montreal Canadiens
Zach Fucale was drafted at a time when the Canadiens system was weak in goal behind Carey Price. However, that has changed, it is now a prospect group which is heavily saturated with goalies. As far Canadiens goalie prospects go, Fucale is essentially behind Charlie Lindgren, and Michael McNiven in the team’s pecking order. Most analysts now see his potential as being lower than college prospects Hayden Hawkey and Cayden Primeau. Zach Fucale is a victim of being drafted by a franchise that seems to be rapidly improving its goalie depth. When he was drafted, it was hoped that he could develop behind a world-class goalie like Price. In the meantime multiple other prospects have been added and passed him on the depth chart. Many prospect analysts believe Fucale is currently the fifth-ranked goalie prospect in the Canadiens organization.
It is important to not look at Fucale’s draft status, he may be the highest draft pick of the goalies drafted by Montreal, but he’s struggled badly in both the ECHL and AHL. This season, Zach Fucale has a save percentage of .891 with the Laval Rocket, which is less than stellar.
Montreal Canadiens prospect: The long road
Zach Fucale had an excellent career with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior hockey league (QMJHL), before being named North America’s number one goalie by the NHL’s Central scouting ratings in November 2012. Fucale was drafted by the Canadiens organization in the 2013 NHL entry draft, going in the second round, 36th overall. Fucale went on to represent Canada in 2014 and 2015 as a participant in the World Juniors winning a gold medal in 2015.
After being the top goaltender taken in the 2013 NHL entry draft, Fucale has played hockey in many places. After training camp in 2014, he returned to the Halifax Mooseheads to play his final junior years there. In 2015, Fucale played a pre-season game for the Montreal Canadiens and although the game went to overtime the young goalie was unable to steal a win from the Toronto Maple Leafs on September 22nd.
Eventually, Fucale was reassigned to the St. John’s Ice Caps of the American Hockey League, which at this point was the affiliate for the Canadiens. Fucale spent time backing up Mike Condon while Carey Price was injured. The moving wasn’t done for young Zach Fucale as he was asked to report to the Brampton Beast of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) where he played registered some records for games played, games won (25) and goals against average. Fucale was also the youngest player on the Canadian roster that won the Spengler Cup in the 2016-17 season.
— CTV Montreal (@CTVMontreal) March 6, 2018
Montreal Canadiens not ready for Zach Fucale
In the 2017-2018 season, Zach Fucale has been playing for the Laval Rocket of the AHL. The Canadiens have struggled to keep goaltenders healthy this year as numerous injuries have occurred. First Carey Price had a concussion and then Antti Niemi was announced to have an upper-body injury prompting Fucale to be called up to the Montreal Canadiens on March 5th, 2018.
Charlie Lindgren is a 24-year-old undrafted goalie from Minnesota with a similar journey as Fucale. While Lindgren has not had the same success in the junior ranks, or internationally, his play in the Habs organization has seen him shoot past Fucale on the depth chart. Lindgren has been with the Canadiens organization since late in the 2015-2016 season, when he signed as a college free agent. He played one game and registered his first NHL win allowing only two goals. Lindgren has spent most of his time with the Ice Caps of the AHL, but has contributed to the Montreal Canadiens when needed. Lindgren made his 14th start for the Montreal Canadiens when they played the New Jersey Devils on March 6th. Zach Fucale was on the bench to back-up Charlie Lindgren, but still hasn’t started a regular season game for the Canadiens.
With Niemi out, Fucale was called up to be a warm body on the bench, but more importantly, it allowed McNiven to continue playing for Laval. Even after Charlie Lindgren was scored on four times in the first period against the New Jersey Devils, Fucale still was not put into the game. The Montreal Canadiens clearly don’t think Fucale is ready for the NHL.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) March 7, 2018
Zach Fucale: Future unknown
While playing with the Laval Rockets, Zach Fucale has registered a 8-3-0 record and 3.10 goals-against. Bouncing around the minors can be difficult, but Fucale is young and his career is far from over. If Zach Fucale can find his game and live up to the potential he showed in junior, that play may lead to an opportunity with another NHL franchise or maybe even another league. He wouldn’t be the first goaltender to struggle with the team that drafted him and come back years later. Perhaps he can look to Scott Darling, and Jeff Glass for inspiration.
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