While the Toronto Maple Leafs try to figure out which of James Reimer or Jonathan Bernier will be “the guy” for the rest of the year, their younger goaltenders are doing impressive things in the leagues below. This week, 21-year old Garret Sparks picked up Goaltender of the Week honors in the ECHL.
Sparks played in three games this week, and looked stellar in all of them; including back to back first star outings on the road against Gwinnett and Greenville. He made 27 saves on 28 shots in a 3-1 win on Tuesday, had a 34 save shutout on Thursday, and capped things off by stopping 23 of 24 on Saturday in a return to Gwinnett. This gave him a 3-0-0 record on the week, but even more impressively, a 0.977 save percentage.
The Big Scope
These three games have just been the exclamation point on what has been an incredible bounceback for the Elmhurst, Illinois native. Since returning from a groin injury and a brief Marlies cameo, Sparks has stopped stopped 302 of 315 pucks, good for a 0.958 save percentage over his last eight starts, in which he has a 7-1-0 record, which has catapulted the Solar Bears out of the ECHL’s basement and back into playoff contention.
As it stands, Sparks is the best goaltender in the ECHL by a considerable margin. In 20 games, he’s put up a 12-3-1 record, posted three shutouts (tied for the league lead with Oliver Roy, who has played nearly twice as many games), and leads the league with a 0.936 save percentage (10 points ahead of second place). Combine this with his 0.966 in two games with the Marlies, and he’s put up video game numbers when healthy.
Sparks was ranked eighteenth (second amongst goalies) in our mid-term prospect ranking, which is the same position that we had him during the preseason (where he was first amongst goalies). I also talked about Sparks’ play in yesterday’s mailbag.