It’s somewhat of a given that John Kleinhans of the Soo Thunderbirds is the best goalie in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
For one, the 1991 birth year tender from Sterling Heights, Michigan had the best numbers of any NOJHL goalie during the regular season: a 26-9 win-loss record to go with a .912 save percentage, 2.86 goals against average and 5 shutouts.
It also helps that Kleinhans is in his third full NOJHL season — he spent his first two with the Michigan Soo Eagles — and his save percentage has always been above the .900 mark.
Kleinhans has been a workhorse for the Thunderbirds this season as the NOJHL regular-season league leaders have gone through three backup goalies.
The Eagles, on the other hand, have the luxury of two no. 1 goalies in 1991 birth year Luis Puig and 1993 youngster Chris Truehl.
If Kleinhans is the best goalie in the NOJHL, then it says here that Puig and Truehl are tied for second.
The 6-foot-3, 195 lb. Puig, who hails from the north side of Chicago, put up good numbers of his own during the 2011-12 regular season. He shrugged off a concussion and subsequent mid-season slump to finish strong and with these numbers: 11-4-2 record, .894 save pct. and 3.73 GAA.
Puig has also posted three shutouts this season — including one in the opening game of the playoffs — and remarkably, all three have been in Blind River, which has been known to be a goalie’s worst nightmare with its tiny ice surface and dim lightning.
Puig, who joined the Eagles earlier this season from the North American Hockey League’s Michigan Warriors, is a late bloomer and is only in his second season of junior.
Truehl, who hails from just outside Madison, Wisconsin, has also excelled this season, his first in the junior ranks. The lanky kid with the quick glove and textbook style was 14-3-1 with a .907 save pct. and 3.31 GAA — and played some of his best games against the first-place Thunderbirds.
To me, the Thunderbirds are a better overall team than the Eagles in terms of junior experience, talent and depth. And I really like Kleinhans as a goalie.
But given my druthers, I’d rather have two good goalies like Puig and Truehl to choose from.
Just my thoughts.