After four seasons and 204 games played in the QMJHL, Zachary Fucale, 20, is ready to embark on his professional career. During the 2013 NHL draft, Fucale was the first netminder drafted, being selected in the second round, 36th overall by the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens hadn't drafted a netminder since they snagged some guy named Carey Price in 2005.
With Price coming off a historic season and having three seasons remaining on his contract, it's not likely he'll be leaving the crease anytime soon. But, that fact is not going to deter Fucale as he works on sharpening his skills with the Habs farm team, the St. John's IceCaps. Determined and focused, he keeps a positive and optimistic attitude regarding his journey to the NHL.
"My goal, my dream, my vision is to play in the NHL, that's where I want to play. Every time I get to be in an NHL camp, that's a chance to be up there. So my goal is to play in the NHL, whether I'm 18 or 30. That's what I want to accomplish, I want to prove to the Montreal Canadiens that I can play. I'll just take one step at a time. This year I'll do my best to stay up there, bit if it's in my best interests to play in the minor leagues for a bit that's exactly what I'll do and I'll prove myself there and accomplish my dream from there."
At 16 years old, Fucale was given the opportunity to dive right into the QMJHL and play 58 games with the Halifax Mooseheads in his first season. During his rookie campaign with the Mooseheads, he set a QMJHL record for most wins by a rookie, was named to the QMJHL all-rookie team, and was awarded the Trophee Raymond Lagace as defensive rookie of the year.
In November 2012, Fucale was named the number one North American Goaltender in the NHL Central Scouting rankings for the upcoming 2013 NHL Draft.
The 2012-2013 campaign saw Fucale become the Mooseheads' all-time leader with 79 wins. He became the fastest 17-year-old to reach 50 career wins in the QMJHL, then again at 18 years of age when he became the youngest goalie to reach 100 wins in QMJHL history. At the same time he set a new record for achieving that mark in the fewest games, winning his 100th game in 145 starts.
During the 2013 Memorial Cup tournament, he helped the Halifax Mooseheads capture their first ever Memorial Cup by maintaining a .902 save percentage and a 3.52 GAA. Fucale turned aside 40 shots to beat the Portland Winterhawks 6-4 in the championship game and was named to the tournament all-star team.
When he was traded to the Quebec Remparts in December 2014, his departure left him with the status of the club's all-time leader in regular season wins (126), playoff wins (35), and shutouts (15).
Fucale was named to Canada's roster for the 2014 and 2015 World Junior Championship. After Canada finished fourth at the 2014 championship, he led Team Canada to a gold medal, their first in five years, at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. Going into the Gold Medal Final with a perfect 4-0-0 .50 GAA and .971 save percentage, Team Canada won 4-0 with a 23 save shutout from Fucale.
Growing up in Montreal, Fucale was one of the many kids who dreamed of playing for the Montreal Canadiens, and in 2015 he donned the Habs uniform and started his first pre-season game. Two goals slid past him, including the overtime winner, in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on September 22. Four days later, he was reassigned for the 2015-2016 season to the St. John's IceCaps where he shares netminder duties with Dustin Tokarski.
Will we see Zach Fucale between the pipes for the Montreal Canadiens again? With Therrien's backup goalie strategy keeping us on our toes these last two seasons it's anybody's guess.
When Price was injured by Chris Kreider during the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, backup goalie Peter Budaj didn't get the start, instead Dustin Tokarski was called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Then during 2015 training camp, Tokarski was sent down to the new AHL farm team and Mike Condon stole the honor of being Price's backup.
With this trend, it's possible that we'll see Fucale make an appearance in the NHL sooner rather than later.