It’s been less than four months since the Winnipeg Jets selected Tri-City goaltender Eric Comrie in the second of the NHL draft, and with the team hoping the future includes the young net minder, they have been keeping their eyes on him.
“He’s an important part of their plans,” said Jets goalie coach Dusty Imoo, who arrived in the Tri-Cities on Thursday. “We’ve had a player development guy come out as well and watch him and make a report. Everyone is very happy with what he’s doing here, especially since this year is a bit of a different challenge for him. This isn’t a powerhouse team like Tri-City is used to having. They are a little younger and he’s having to show a little bit of leadership and it’s a great learning experience for him.”
Imoo put Comrie, 18, through positioning drills Thursday afternoon. He taped the session and will be able to use it as a learning tool.
“He’s about the easiest kid to teach that I have dealt with,” Imoo said. “It is a tough position. It’s very individualistic, but hockey is a team game. You get singled out when you are good or bad, but you are still in a team game. To stay grounded and focused on the team sometimes can be challenging, like this year when he is a main piece of the puzzle, but he still gives credit out to everyone.”
Which is a trait Imoo wasn’t sure Comrie was portraying for the Jets, or if that was his natural personality.
“When I first met Eric, I wondered if all of this was real,” Imoo said. “But he really is a genuine kid. He loves his teammates and cares about the team. There are a lot of good goalies out there, but it is hard to get someone who is humble and doesn’t feel you owe him something.”
The Jets took Comrie 59th overall in the June draft. Imoo said Comrie may have gone higher, but teams were leery of the hip surgery he had in February.
“I think that was a general concern throughout the NHL,” Imoo said of Comrie’s shortened season. “I think if that surgery had never happened, he would have been a first-round goalie, for sure. It’s not that he is less valuable, but people pulled off the gas — the fear of the unknown. I do know when we got him, the staff felt like they lucked out.”
Heading into Friday’s game against the Victoria Royals, Comrie had a 2.58 goals against average, a .926 save percentage and one shutout. Numbers that have the Jets hopeful for the future.
“With some players you wait and hope they improve,” Imoo said. “We see he already has a great base and combined with his work ethic and personality, I think his maturity will help his progress. I really think he can be an NHL goalie.”