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Catching The Torch: Jakub Dobeš settling in as USHL’s top goalie

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The Omaha Lancers goaltender is a force to be reckoned with between the pipes this season.

Justin Berl/Getty Images

Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Habs prospects playing at the Junior (OHL, WHL), and collegiate (NCAA) level.

This season, the success of the Omaha Lancers is attributable in no small part to goalie Jakub Dobeš. The Lancers have scored at an average USHL rate, about 3.13 goals per game, but at the other end, pucks are simply not penetrating their net. Dobeš won't let them.

When ranking the netminders by goals allowed, the Habs fifth-round pick of 2020 finishes first with 1.89 — an extremely low mark for a league that routinely features blowouts. And when listing those same netminders by save percentage, the Czech ends up at second with a 0.927 record. However, this isn’t exactly fair as Aaron Randazzo, the leader in that category, has only played five games to Dobeš’s 14.

The Lancers have tried to squeeze as much potential as they can from their new force between the pipes. And coming back from the Christmas break, the 19-year-old Czech goalie shows no sign of slowing down, chaining together multiple dominant performances.

Dobeš’s game versus Des Moines on Sunday featured two highlight-reel-worthy stops, a windmill-like glove catch and a timely blocker deflection on a mid-slot shot. But the rest of the saves were much more subtle and controlled, coming from short and quick shuffle steps to achieve the right depth and angle, allowing his large, 6’5 frame to do most of the work for him. The white jersey of the goalie became the only possible target for shooters rushing in the zone and most pucks hit him right in the chest.

Dobeš’s best save of the game came during a 3-on-2 against late in the first period. A right-handed puck carrier approached through his right circle and passed back to another opponent attacking the center of the ice. Dobeš slid to his left, blocking much of the net for the new shooter, and focused his attention on the posture of the attacker with the puck extended far from his body and his open blade aiming for the right side of the net. The goalie stopped his slide and raised a shoulder just in time to deflect the puck closing towards the top of the net.

The Buccaneers finally scored in the middle of the third period. They needed a man advantage and four consecutive shots to finally slip the puck past a battling and sprawling Dobeš. It was only the fifth goal that the Czech netminder had allowed in the past four games.

The netminder’s energy and sound positional play will continue to challenge all USHL teams coming through Omaha for the rest of the season’s calendar. With continued improvements to his technique, the starting position at Ohio State University next year should be his.

Brett Stapley, C, Denver Pioneers

Stapley hasn’t looked like himself in this start to the year. The departure of Emilio Petersen, signed by the Calgary Flames, and Liam Finlay, his usual partner, has hurt his game. Now, he has to rebuild chemistry with two seniors who play a different game than the one he was used to.

Stapley has always been about creating as many puck exchanges as he can. He is a support man and set-up man; he connects plays. His new linemates have some individual talent but the give-and-go, east-west movements, and wall-cycles that naturally happened every time Stapley stepped on the ice last year are now gone. They are replaced instead by straight-line drives and blue-paint rushes in the offensive zone.

We talk a lot about the need for prospects to diversify their game in this series: Playmakers have to become shooters, off-puck threats have to learn to manufacture their own offence, defensive players have to become better at breaking out, etc. Stapley’s current situation shows why this is a necessity. Players can’t depend on their team to always set them up for success — just look at Cole Caufield. They have to find ways to use what is given to them, to adapt, and to shine in different circumstances.

The strengths of Stapley aren’t gone, they just aren’t propped up like they were before. This is an opportunity for him to work on other facets of his game.

The prospect did give us a look at a different side of his game last weekend. He scored off two individual efforts. On Saturday, on a first-period powerplay, he caught a drop pass, attacked the middle, entered the offensive zone, and cut laterally against the last defender before releasing counter to the goalie’s movement. Later in the game, he intercepted a pass, moved wide on another defender and took on the goalie one-on-one. At his image, his move of choice was understated but effective; he simply cut across, scanned the goalie for a weakness, and slip the puck five-hole.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Stapley game without some creative passes. A behind-the-back spin feed almost sprung a teammate for an open shot in the slot. Unfortunately, the puck landed slightly out of range.

Stapley’s skating hasn’t changed much since his Sophomore year. His limbs bend at the right angle for the most part, but his stride recovery remains quite wide, limiting his speed output, acceleration, and elusiveness. Something he has improved from since last year, however, is his aggressiveness. He plays a more physical game, along the boards and in front of the net. This developed taste for close contact could open up some new scoring opportunities as the season moves on.

NCAA/USHL weekly stats

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 0 0 0 0
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 0 0 0 0
Sean Farrell 2020 LW USHL Chicago 2 0 1 1
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Tri-City 0 0 0 0
Jack Smith 2020 C USHL Sioux Falls 0 0 0 0
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 0 0 0 0
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 0 0 0 0
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 0 0 0 0
Blake Biondi 2020 C NCHC Minnesota-Duluth 0 0 0 0
Luke Tuch 2020 LW Hockey East Boston 0 0 0 0

NCAA/USHL Season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Cole Caufield 2019 RW Big Ten Wisconsin 31 30 22 52
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 31 6 7 13
Sean Farrell 2020 LW USHL Chicago 53 29 72 101
Sean Farrell (playoffs) 2020 LW USHL Chicago 6 1 4 5
Rhett Pitlick 2019 LW USHL Muskegon/Tri-City 43 13 21 34
Jack Smith 2020 C USHL Sioux Falls 47 7 6 13
Jayden Struble 2019 LD Hockey East Northeastern 18 2 10 12
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 19 6 13 19
Brett Stapley 2018 C NCHC Denver 13 5 4 9
Blake Biondi 2020 C NCHC Minnesota-Duluth 25 2 3 5
Luke Tuch 2020 LW Hockey East Boston 16 6 5 11

Goalie weekly stats

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Jakub Dobes 2020 USHL Omaha 0-2-0 2.10 0.923 0

Goalie Season to date

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Jakub Dobes 2020 USHL Omaha 26-16-2-1 2.48 0.908 2
Jakub Dobes (playoffs) 2020 USHL Omaha 0-2-0 2.10 0.923 0