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Canadiens 2014 Top 25 Under 25: #13 Dustin Tokarski

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After a fantastic performance in the playoffs, Dustin Tokarski clocks in at #13 on our list of the Top 25 Under 25.

Richard Wolowicz

In his 28 months as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, Marc Bergevin has demonstrated an adept touch in one-for-one trades. The most recent example is embodied by P.A. Parenteau, who joined the Canadiens in a deal that, at face value, looks like a fleecing of the Colorado Avalanche. Michael Ryder for Erik Cole was a similarly-favourable swap. The scale may not be the same, but in dealing former Hamilton Bulldog Cedrick Desjardins to the Tampa Bay Lightning in February 2013, Bergevin may have another swindling on his hands. Our #13 prospect is none other than Dustin Tokarski.

Tokarski offered the Canadiens' farm club top-10 AHL goaltending during his 56 games with the Bulldogs, but after a sudden injury forced Carey Price to the sidelines, the Saskatchewan native was thrust into the brightest of hockey spotlights.

Backstopping the most promising Canadiens playoff run in decades, Tokarski put up a valiant effort in five games of action against the New York Rangers before ultimately falling short of advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals. Before his appearance in the playoffs, Tokarski had already earned a two-year extension from the man who acquired him. With his performance on the biggest stage, he may have even earned himself a full-time job in the NHL.

Tokarskitsn_medium

Votes

Toker is the fourth consecutive player to earn a unanimous berth in the top 25, with Andrew's low vote coming in at 22nd. Tokarski also earned six top-10 votes, illustrating his stratospheric rise from his rank of 25 in January, and #29 this time last year.

Tokarski_votes

Strengths

Photo credit: Hamilton Bulldogs Hockey Club

Few players can match the resume of the Canadiens' prospective back-up. From the Telus Cup (Canada's Midget AAA Championship), to the Memorial Cup, to the World Juniors, to the Calder Cup, and now to a strong (if brief) debut in the NHL playoffs, Tokarski has proven himself at every level. Talking up a goalie's poise or experience can come across like a cop-out, but it's tough to argue with Tokarski's impressive pedigree.

More specifically, Tokarski is known for sound positional play, and while he doesn't have the size or peerless butterfly style of many top young keepers, he's also not likely to allow a goal based on a bad decision. If Tokarski does find himself adrift, he's quick enough to make up for his error, as well. His speed is definitely one of his best assets.

No error here, but how's this for reaction time?

Weaknesses

If we're going to discuss Tokarski's perceived poise and pedigree, it would be remiss to fail to mention his stereotypically negative attributes. At 5'11", Tokarski doesn't possess the height prized in many goaltending prospects. As of 2010, the average NHL goalie stood at 6'2", so when compared to an average competitor or even teammate Carey Price (listed at 6'3"), Tokarski's physical gifts don't match up. In the same vein, and while acknowledging the Tokarski is positionally sound, he doesn't make use of the strong butterfly style employed by many top NHL goalies, or a prospect like Zach Fucale.

If there were ever a book on Tokarski, it's likely be on his blocker side. The Daniel Briere misplay isn't pretty, but the reaction time on this Rick Nash Derek Stepan wrist shot does leave something to be desired too.

Projection

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Tokarski's success in the AHL, especially during his time with the Bulldogs, would seem to indicate that the soon to be 25-year-old is more than capable of taking the reins as a high caliber minor league keeper. At this point in his career, the real question is whether he can stick as Price's next understudy.

As one of the ECHL's top goaltenders last year, Mike Condon appears ready to push for an AHL spot, perhaps as a back-up to veteran journeyman and new Bulldog Joey MacDonald. Were that to set of circumstances to come to fruition, it would leave Tokarski in a battle with current Habs back-up Peter Budaj. Budaj is reliable, like-able, and a consummate professional, but with his younger counterpart on the books for almost a million dollars less than Budaj, the Canadiens may be willing to transition Tokarski into the number two role with the big club.

Goaltenders are fickle, but with Tokarski's poise and pedigree, he projects somewhere between a professional journeyman (not unlike, say, MacDonald) and an average NHLer. With Desjardins looking more and more like a permanent AHLer, it looks like Bergevin has once again pulled off a great trade.