With the 75th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Carolina Hurricanes selected goaltender Jack LaFontaine in the 3rd Round. LaFontaine has since seen a rebirth as a true blue-chip prospect with real NHL-level potential since realigning himself and putting together some incredible seasons with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.
LaFontaine, when selected, was widely viewed as a serviceable option in net with a decent amount of upside; he had been solid in the OJHL with the Georgetown Raiders, and managed to translate his skill to the next level up in the NAHL with the Janesville Jets. Most goalies are selected after the 2nd round, though, and LaFontaine was no exception, even in 2016.
More from Analysis
After getting drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes, LaFontaine would enroll in the University of Michigan, where he would struggle in his freshman and sophomore years after playing 11 games in both seasons; his freshman year, he turned in a win/loss record of 1-7-1 with a .911 SV% and a 3.34 GAA. His sophomore year wasn’t much different, as LaFontaine turned in a 4-4-4 win/loss record, .889 SV%, and 3.51 GAA.
LaFontaine would then join the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, where he would truly begin his rebirth as a top-tier prospect. LaFontaine was given true starter minutes in Penticton; he played in 45 games in the 2018-19 season. In these 45 games played, LaFontaine registered a 30-13-1 win/loss record, .923 SV% and a 2.19 GAA. These numbers were night-and-day difference to his previous stats in Michigan.
LaFontaine would string together an impressive individual effort in the playoffs that season as well, turning in a 2-4-0 win/loss record, a .924 SV%, and 2.02 GAA.
After a successful season in the BCHL, LaFontaine seemed to feel comfortable enough returning to the NCAA, although he would enroll at the University of Minnesota instead of returning to the University of Michigan.
This would eventually turn into one of the best decisions he’d make in his still-budding career.
LaFontaine would go on to play in 25 games in the 2019-20 season, where he boasted a 9-9-6 win/loss record, a .919 SV%, and 2.55 GAA.
LaFontaine would take yet another massive leap forward going into the 2020-21 season. The Mississauga, Ontario native would roar into his senior season with a season-defining 9-game winning streak. He’d also only suffer consecutive losses twice this season as well.
After all is said and done, LaFontaine would have the best year of his young career; in 27 games played, LaFontaine turned in a 21-6-0 win/loss record, a sparkling .936 SV%, and a career-low 1.74 GAA. These stats are good enough among NCAA goaltenders to land LaFontaine 1st in wins and save percentage, 2nd in GAA, and tied for 2nd in shutouts (5).
This season’s performance was enough to earn LaFontaine several awards and recognitions, including a spot as a Hobey Baker Award (top NCAA hockey player) finalist and a spot as a Mike Richter Award (top NCAA hockey goaltender) finalist. LaFontaine was also awarded NCAA B1G All-Tournament Team, NCAA B1G Best Goaltender, NCAA B1G First All-Star Team, and NCAA B1G Tournament MVP.
Alongside this, LaFontaine backstopped the Golden Gophers in the Big 10 Tournament Championship, which they won decisively in a 6-4 decision over Wisconsin. The University of Minnesota are also taking part in the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament tonight as well, so if you’d like to see him in action, be sure and tune in. (Don’t forget to vote for LaFontaine for Hobey Baker Award winner by clicking here or visiting hobeybaker.com/vote!)
LaFontaine has had quite the road leading him to where he is now. In my opinion, Jack LaFontaine is the Carolina Hurricanes’ best goaltending prospect that isn’t named Alex Nedeljkovic (if you can even consider him a prospect anymore since he’s currently tearing up the NHL).