….Or is it Ben Dardis in unreal
Plain and simple, Ben Dardis is one of the top prospects playing Minnesota High School Hockey and he does not get the respect he deserves. With 140+ teams in Minnesota, Dardis has made a huge impact over his four years in the Mahtomedi net and has been the most important player to his squad Throughout the first month of this season. Dardis has been pushed to the back burner on some prospect lists due to his lack of prototypical size for a goaltender (5’10), but his play is making it impossible for him to be ignored. While the D1 commitment will come, I think that Dardis has deserved some NHL Draft consideration in 2022 (Dardis was not a player to watch on NHL’s Central Scouting Preliminary List).
Here are some evaluation notes on Dardis from recent viewings:
-Keeps his torso upright when dropping to the butterfly, utilizes his legs to spring himself back to the ready position. When in the ready position, Dardis keeps holes covered and his blocker and glove provide maximum net coverage.
-Movements around the crease are precise and controlled, keeps limps tight to his body and brings his legs pads together quickly, preventing a large 5-hole. This controlled style makes him superior at cross-crease movements as he’s quick from going post-to-post without overcommitting.
-Dardis is excellent at playing redirects and there are three aspects to his game that makes him outstanding at stopping tipped pucks. 1) Sound positioning 2) Shot recognition 3) Superior reaction times.
-Active blocker: Very few goalies use their blocker to track shots the way Dardis does. Keeps his stick in the five-hole but can lift and direct his blocker quickly.
-Stays square to the shooter and challenges them, giving just small looks at open net. Dardis also prevents garbage goals by gathering loose pucks quickly.
-Shows confidence and plays up to the challenge. The bigger the game, the bigger the performance.
-Glove hand gets an ‘A’ grade. Direct and fluid movement with clean rebound control.
Dardis is showing he can bear a heavy workload and carry a team on his back. Dardis has an impressive resume as he has already Won a Minnesota State High School Hockey State Championship in 2020 as a sophomore (40 saves on 42 shots in the championship game, a 3-2 ot win vs Hermantown). The next step will be for Dardis to prove his talent in juniors before making the transition to college.
The size of Dardis will always make people question if he has a future in the world’s top league, the smallest goalie currently in the NHL is Casey DeSmith of the Penguins at 6’0 and the smallest goalie drafted in the NHL in 2021 was 6’1. While the trend right now is big, Dardis could be the exception and start a trend of shorter goalies making a comeback between the pipes in the NHL.