We’re less than two weeks into the new NHL season, but the Arizona Coyotes are already going through goaltenders like they’re going out of style. Antti Raanta and Louis Domingue haven’t been able to get the job done for head coach Rick Tocchet, and, as a result, the Coyotes will use their third goaltender of the young season on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center, as 21-year-old rookie Adin Hill will make his NHL debut against the Dallas Stars.
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) October 17, 2017
It’s a Long Way to the Top
Like many players, Adin Hill’s journey to the NHL has been a long one. Following the 2014-15 WHL season, Hill heard his name called in the third round of the 2015 Entry Draft as then-general manager Don Maloney elected to take the young goaltender with his 76th overall selection. Hill was fresh off of a stellar campaign in the with the Portland Winterhawks when he was drafted – he won 31 games with his WHL club and recorded a 2.81 goals-against average along with a league-leading .921 save percentage.
— Five For Howling (@Five4Howling) June 27, 2015
Hill returned to the WHL in his post-draft season and posted yet another solid campaign. As a team, the Winterhawks regressed badly after seeing their top three scorers from the previous season (Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nicolas Petan, and Chase De Leo) all graduate and turn professional, but Hill managed to keep his club in most of their games.
Among all WHL goaltenders that appeared in at least 50 games in 2015-16, Hill ranked fourth with a .917 SV% and ranked seventh with a GAA of 2.96. Hill also led the league in games played, minutes played, shots faced, and saves, suggesting that he could be a future high-volume starting goaltender in the NHL.
Aidin Hill – A Solid Start in Tucson
Following his final season in Portland, Hill graduated from junior hockey and turned professional. As Portland was eliminated from the playoffs in just four games, Hill had the chance to make his pro debut with the Springfield Falcons at the end of the 2015-16 AHL regular season. He did not look out of place during his brief time there, as he won once in four starts and posted a .905 SV% with a 3.05 GAA.
Following his brief taste of professional hockey in Springfield, Hill started his first full season as a pro last year as a member of the Tucson Roadrunners. He also had a cup of coffee in the ECHL with the Rapid City Rush, but most of his work came in Tucson, where he boasts a career record of 18-18-6 and has recorded a .908 SV% and a 3.06 GAA in 46 career AHL games.
He’s been especially good to start the 2017-18 season – he posted a shutout in his last start against the Bakersfield Condors on Oct. 14 and has allowed just one goal on 31 shots in two games on the season.
A Tough Matchup
Hill will have his work cut out for him as he begins his NHL career on Tuesday night in Dallas. The Stars boast one of the NHL’s most dangerous offenses and can strike extremely quickly with their solid core of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg.
Although Tuesday’s contest will be Hill’s first regular-season action, he’s had success during the preseason, albeit in limited time on ice. Hill played the third period against the Calgary Flames on Sept. 22 and stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced, with the only goal coming while the Coyotes were shorthanded. Hill also played 29:11 in one preseason game last year – he stopped all 16 shots he saw against the Anaheim Ducks on Sept. 27, 2016.
However, as we all know, the regular season is vastly different from the preseason. Hill also will be playing in front of a Coyotes defense that has struggled badly this season. The team has given up countless Grade-A chances in every game this year, and neither Domingue nor Raanta have been able to be successful in goal as a result.
Working in Hill’s favor, though, is the fact that he boasts prototypical NHL size – at 6’6?, 202 lb, he fits the mold of the big, modern-day goaltender. He has all the physical tools necessary to be a successful NHL netminder, but will he be able to slow down a potent Stars offense in his first crack at the NHL? We’ll soon find out.