By JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Today’s the day Brandon Halverson crosses off another bucket list item.
The Traverse City native is expected to be drafted in the second day of the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft.
He was interviewed by 10 teams at the combine — including the Detroit Red Wings — as well as four others previously.
“That was pretty surreal, walking in and being interviewed by a team you’ve watched your whole life and grown up with,” Halverson said.
The 18-year-old goaltender said he has no idea which teams have the most interest in him, as most clubs play it close to the vest.
“One of my buddies who got drafted last year, one of the teams that didn’t even talk to him was the team that ended up drafting him,” Halverson said.
Halverson took the long road to the NHL, one that hockey players frequently travel.
He left Traverse City as a freshman to play AAA Midget hockey in Detroit, passing on the opportunity to play high school hockey in his hometown.
“That was a big decision when I was 14 years old,” Halverson said. “My freshman year, I had to decide right there if I wanted to go play in a better league in AAA in Detroit and ended up moving away from (Traverse City) and played AAA for three years.”
During his second year in Detroit, he was drafted by the Greyhounds, then closed out with the Oakland Grizzlies, where he split time in net with fellow Traverse City native Michael Tilford.
“I never got talked to by any USHL or college teams,” Halverson said. “The OHL is probably the best development league in the world, so it was a good place for me to go.”
Halverson’s size is what most obviously intrigues NHL scouts. At 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, he covers a lot of net.
But another trait that could help Halverson is the ability to take criticism. In January, the Sault (Ont.) Star published a story in which its Greyhounds writer said the team’s top need next year was a veteran goalie, because Halverson wasn’t ready to take over as the No. 1 netminder once Matt Muray — a Pittsburgh Penguins 2012 third-round pick and OHL all-star — departs.
“I read that and I was like, ‘Wow,’” Halverson said. “It didn’t really get under my skin. It motivated me more than anything.”
As it turns out, not long after those comments, Halverson took off, earning CHL Goaltender of the Week honors in March.
He allowed just one goal in two victories that week against the Sarnia Sting and Windsor Spitfires for a goals-against-average of 0.50 and save percentage of .986.
The Greyhounds also appear to be OK with Halverson being the No. 1 goalie next year, selecting two much younger backstops in April’s OHL draft.
Halverson ended the season with a 12-6-1 record, 2.96 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. In March, Halverson was named the best puck-handling goaltender in the OHL Coaches Poll.
He’s rated as the 92nd overall prospect for the 2014 draft by the Red Line Report, and the sixth North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting.
“I talked to my agent and my GM (with the Greyhounds) and they said I’ll be going at the highest in the third round,” Halverson said. “Most people I’ve heard have said between third and five. Anything could happen. I could go (in the) seventh. Either way, I’m going to be happy with it.”
He also expects to stay in Sault Ste. Marie next season.
He was also recently invited to tryouts for the United States’ World Junior team in August. Only four goalies were invited, and the team keeps three for the World Junior Championships in Toronto and Montreal.
“Brandon came to us a very raw goaltender with terrific athleticism and potential,” Greyhounds general manager Kyle Dubas said when Halverson was invited earlier this month. “Through the season we worked very diligently under the guidance of Jon Elkin and began to see the rewards of his hard work with exceptional play down the stretch which he has carried through the spring.”
Brad MacCharles, a goalie scout for International Scouting Services, has said Halverson could be a mid-round steal.
“He’s a big kid at 6-foot-4 who still has a lot of filling out to do in his slender frame, but he is positionally sound and takes up a lot of net with minimal effort,” MacCharles told Yahoo! Sports. “He is a guy that got better as the season went on and he gained more confidence playing at that level. He hasn’t seen a lot of action, but has had the good fortune to play behind an NHL-drafted goaltender in Matt Murray. Halverson also has the benefit of being tutored by Jon Elkin in Sault Ste. Marie, one of Canada’s top goalie coaches, so I think he’s in a great situation to develop his game.”
The draft resumes today at 10 a.m., starting with the second round. No goaltenders were selected in Friday’s first round.
Halverson’s Greyhounds teammate Jared McCann was the 24th pick by Vancouver.