A Bright Future
You only have to look as far as the Canucks for proof of that.
The goaltending situation in Vancouver has never looked so bright and it's no coincidence the organization is succeeding at every level.
The Canucks, Moose and Salmon Kings are all enjoying solid seasons, and they're all being led by the likes of Roberto Luongo, Drew MacIntyre, and Julien Ellis.
And while the Boston College is hardly a Canucks "farm team", their keeper could be the brightest prospect of all.
Goaltending prospect Cory Schneider is in his third season with the Eagles and is leading his team to their second straight Frozen Four tournament berth while picking up a laundry list of Hockey East and NCAA awards along the way.
Schneider, the Canucks 26th selection in the 2004 draft, has positioned himself as one of the organization's top prospects despite the fact that he has yet to attend a Canucks training camp.
Of course this doesn't mean the team and the Vancouver fans alike haven't been keeping a close eye on him. There's a definite buzz surrounding the Marblehead, MA native, and for good reason.
"No question, (Schneider's our go-to player)," Boston College coach Jerry York told NHL.com. "He's one of the top goalies to ever play here."
At 6'2", 200 pounds, Schneider is an imposing figure in the nets. He knows how to use his size and positioning to his advantage. And while his technical skills draw raves from scouts, it's his confidence as much as anything else that sets him apart.
Schneider possesses composure beyond his years. Couple that with a zealous commitment to off-ice conditioning that allows him to shoulder a heavy load in the nets, and it's easy to see why he's setting the NCAA on fire.
"I don't necessarily see myself as the quarterback," said Schneider, "but hopefully I provide the team with some insurance. The guys can play their game and not worry too much about what's behind them in goal."
Schneider is a true workhorse for the Eagles. He's played in an NCAA-leading 40 games, appearing in close to 2400 minutes this season. His 2.10 GAA and .927 Save Percentage both rank seventh in the NCAA, and his six shutouts are one off the league lead.
It's not just Schneider's stats that impress, it's the effect he has on his teammates.
"Cory is the backbone of our team," said junior forward Pat Gannon on the Screaming Eagles' website. "He's so reliable. Every time he's in the net, we know we have a good chance to win."
"If we get more than three goals, it's almost a guaranteed win. He's so confident in the net that you know he's going to stop the puck."
It would be hard to argue that Gannon's confidence is misplaced after watching Schneider make 37 saves in a 4-0 shutout of Miami last week to propel the Eagles to a second consecutive NCAA Frozen Four berth.
The Eagles will be looking to avenge their 2-1 loss to Wisconsin in last season's title game when they play North Dakota in St. Louis on April 5. The winner of that game will then face off on April 7th against the winner of the match up between Maine and Michigan State.
"It's tough to stay focused because everyone is excited," said Gannon. "We're ready to get out to St. Louis, but we'll prep, we'll look at game film and focus on North Dakota."
"We just have to keep playing the way we've been playing. Everybody has to play his role... Cory has obviously been playing great; [we need him to] just keep it up in net. He's been really solid."
Coming into St. Louis, the Eagles had won sixteen of their last eighteen games, including the past 12 straight. That streak is even more impressive when you consider that it includes sweeping through the first six games of the NCAA tournament, outscoring their opponents 29 - 6.
B.C. started the tournament with back-to-back wins over Northeastern in the preliminary round with Schneider stopping 45 of 46 shots. They backed that up in the Hockey East tournament with wins over Boston U. and New Hampshire, with Schneider making 66 saves over the two games. For that he was named to the Hockey East All-Tournament Team as well as the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week.
Schneider stepped his game up even further in the two-game Northeast Regional Tournament in Manchester, NH, allowing only 1 goal on the 62 shots he faced, including the 37 save shutout of Miami in the final.
That shutout was the 14th of his career, setting a new B.C. school record.
Schneider was recognized for his outstanding play, picking up the NCAA N.E. Regional Most Valuable Player award, and was named to the All-Tournament Team, both for the second season in a row. Additionally, he was named the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week for the second straight week and fifth time this season.
His success this season is no fluke. Over the past two years, he has started every game that he has been eligible to, backstopping the Eagles to a 52-24-2 record.
Last season, he was named to the AHCA All-American First Team while collecting Hockey-East's Top Goalie, and 3-Star award honors.
As a freshman, Schneider recorded a 13-1-4 record and was named to the Hockey-East All-Rookie Team.
Schneider has also represented his country well, playing for the USA in the 2005 and 2006 World Junior Championships - including being named player of the game twice at the 2006 championships in Vancouver - and backstopped Team USA to a Gold Medal at the 2003 Under-18 Junior World Cup.
His on ice exploits have not come as the result of sacrificing the student part of the equation. Schneider epitomizes the term Student-Athlete; being named to the 2005 and 2006 Hockey East All-Academic team (the 2007 team has not yet been named), and is on pace to graduate with a finance degree from the Carroll School of Management in just three years.
Whether in the classroom or on the ice, Schneider's excellence is undeniable. Good thing too, with the depth between the pipes in the Canucks organization, getting to the head of this class could be quite a test.