Kings goaltending consultant Bill Ranford was at Game 6 of the Reign-Thunder series Tuesday, along with Terry Murray, Dean Lombardi, Ron Hextall and Luc Robitaille. It was the first game for Murray and Lombardi, the second for Hextall and Robitaille, and the last of several this season for Ranford, who’s been keeping a close eye on Kings goaltending prospects Jeff Zatkoff and Linden Rowat.
Zatkoff had more downs than ups in the second half of the season, going 8-9-2 from February onward after coming back from his second groin injury of the season.
“I think when you look at the overall year (Zatkoff) had, the first half he was much stronger,” Ranford said. “The injury really hurt him a little bit, leading down to the stretch run.”
But at least Zatkoff got to play. It’s tempting to believe that Rowat, who only appeared in two games for the Reign and can only return to juniors as an overage player, should be even more concerned that he didn’t get to showcase his full potential. But Ranford said that’s not the case.
“The nicest thing for me is that Karl (Taylor) is in constant communication with me,” Ranford said. “Every practice is (Rowat’s) game.”
As far as the Kings’ ability to accurately evaluate him, it didn’t hurt that Rowat’s season with the WHL’s Regina Pats fell short of the postseason. The Pats were humming along in playoff contention before they lost Team Canada members Jordan Eberle and Colten Teubert to the World Juniors Tournament. The remaining Pats club lost six straight and could never regain its confidence even after Eberle and Teubert returned in January.
If anything, the short season may have helped Rowat somewhat; Ranford said that “it’s hard to evaluate (a goalie) when the team’s confidence around him goes south. Nobody would have fathomed the three-month collpase.”
And what did Taylor tell Ranford about Rowat?
“The first few weeks (Rowat) was in awe, a little excited just to be here,” Ranford said. “Now he’s more focused in practice.”