Michigan Tech’s biggest hole as of a month ago was goaltending, and while the run by Packy Munson against Minnesota State and Northern Michigan has softened that concern for next year, MTU can’t be confident going into next year not knowing which goalie will show up: the Munson we saw at book-ending the season or the one that mottled through much of the middle. With Devin Kero moving on after this season and rookie Robbie Beydoun returning, that leaves one spot open between the pipes for next season. Blake Pietila (not that one, his younger cousin) is having a great rookie campaign in the USHL for Cedar Rapids (11-11-2, 3.06 GAA, 0.902 SV%) but Pietila isn’t expected in Houghton until Fall 2019, likely replacing Munson on the depth chart. Currently that is the extent of goaltending in the pipeline, which isn’t unusual but it is missing a piece. There are few targets that THG has focused on throughout the second half of this season and we’ll lay them out here based on input from a few scouts that speak to us from time to time. The list is pretty short as it should be but we believe the next goaltender will be one of the following:
- Matt Jurusik (Sioux City – USHL)
- Maksim Zhukov (Green Bay – USHL)
- Keegan Karki (Muskegon – USHL)
- Dan Lebedeff (Janesville – NAHL)
One obvious similarity between all these potential targets is size, with all four listed at at least 6’2″—Keegan Karki is the tallest at 6’4″—but beyond that they’re from three different countries, playing in two different leagues and differ in age by almost three years. We did have a scouting report on a fifth goaltender (Vincent Purpura – Omaha, USHL) but between the time we started working on this article and publication, Purpura committed to Boston College. Below we break down each player on our list:
Matt Jurusik – Sioux City
With Michigan Tech looking for someone to come in and compete right away for the starting job, Jurusik makes the most sense. He’s the oldest of the group and has actually played two years of college hockey already. He spent the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons at Wisconsin before heading back to junior hockey in the USHL to figure out where he wanted to finish his college career. With two years of eligibility left, he’s another short term fix, but the experience should help. He was a very successful junior goalie with Janesville (NAHL), where he put up stellar numbers back in 2014-15 (1.57 GAA, 0.939 SV% in 40 games). His two years at Wisconsin are mostly forgettable but being the primary goalie in Mike Eaves’ last year at Wisconsin and losing favor under the new staff isn’t too much of a concern with how bad that program was for those two years. He’s rebounded nicely in his lone year in the USHL. His save percentage (0.908) and goals against average (2.81) are good enough for 12th in the league, and just this week he was named USHL Goaltender of the week. In two games last week he made 46 saves on 49 shots and earned two wins.
Maksim Zhukov – Green Bay
Zhukov likely has the highest upside of any of the goaltenders we listed above. He’s top ten in GAA (2.39) and save percentage (0.911), and helping Pat Mikesch and company secure a playoff spot in the USHL Eastern Conference. The connection to Mikesch and three future Huskies (Trenton Bliss, Nick Nardella and Carver Watson) has to help MTU’s chances here but Wisconsin is definitely interested in Zhukov and there are questions whether or not the Russian wants to play college hockey or could get himself through the NCAA clearinghouse to be eligible. As a 2017 fourth round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights, expectations are pretty high for him in the USHL and beyond. Whether his path will take him through college is a big question but if he decides to go that route, Michigan Tech should be working hard to convince him the Huskies are right for him.
Keegan Karki – Muskegon
Karki was one of the first names that came up as a possibility for MTU in early 2018 after the team continued to struggle to find steady goaltending. He recently turned 18 and is youngest on the list while playing for the playoff bound Lumberjacks. In 39 games for Muskegon, Karki is 22-16 with a GAA of 3.18 and a save percentage of 0.890. The former North Dakota commit has the worst numbers of the four but that doesn’t mean he won’t end up being a successful college player. The biggest knock on him is that his game isn’t ready… yet. He has a lot of potential, though. He stacks up pretty well to other goalies Vanbiesbrouck has nurtured in Muskegon. One of the better connections for MTU is his Finnish roots. He was born in Sartell, Minn., but has “SISU” printed on his mask so he’d probably fit in pretty well up in the Copper Country.
Dan Lebedeff – Janesville
Lebedeff is the wildcard here. He’s been a standout at Janesville this season after spending the previous two seasons with the Madison Capitols (USHL) but he is currently committed to Wisconsin. The reason he makes the list here is because there is a ton of speculation that Wisconsin is going hard after the previously mentioned Zhukov and if they succeed, they won’t have room for Lebedeff. If all that happens, Michigan Tech would be silly not to go after the Helsinki, Finland native. His three years in America have been as success as you could probably hope for and if the past is any indication, head coach Gary Shuchuk wouldn’t be afraid to put in a good word for his former coworker, Joe Shawhan. Lebedeff is top ten in the NAHL in both GAA (2.32) and save percentage (0.923). His team, the Jets are currently third in points in the entire NAHL and have already locked up a playoff spot.
Coach Shawhan is looking for someone that can help right away and with some Division 1 experience. Matt Jurusik seems like the obvious choice there especially with all the questions surrounding Zhukov, Karki’s youth, and not wanting to wait on Wisconsin to cut Lebedeff loose that leaves Jurusik as the top candidate to get the offer. We expect Michigan Tech to get a commitment to fill this spot relatively soon, stay tuned to our Twitter account and Facebook page for any future recruiting announcements. We still have 3 other recent commitments to profile after our recent article on Parker Saretsky and Tyrell Buckley.
Featured Image of Maksim Zhukov courtesy of Green Bay Gamblers