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Ottawa-born goalie gets NHL call-up

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Daniel Altshuller GREGG FORWERCK PHOTO
Daniel Altshuller GREGG FORWERCK PHOTO

At 21, Daniel Altshuller has registered some pretty impressive highlights in his still young hockey career. First, there was the time he was selected from the second-tier Nepean Raiders junior team to backstop a group of OHL skaters on Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Altshuller shut the door on some high-level competition, led the team to a gold medal and was voted tournament all-star.

Then there was the time the Carolina Hurricanes selected him in the third round, 69th overall, of the 2012 NHL entry draft in Pittsburgh, marking the start of his pro career.

Pretty good memories, to be sure, but they were eclipsed recently when Altshuller got to live the dream – to actually suit up for a game in the NHL. In all, Altshuller spent four games with the Hurricanes, called up from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL) to serve as Eddie Lack’s backup when starting goalie Cam Ward sat out with an injury. One of the games was in Toronto, just down the road from his hometown of Ottawa, so Altshuller had plenty of support as he made his NHL debut.

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“A lot of my family came to watch,” he said on the phone from Charlotte. “It was a great experience in that building. It was a sold-out arena. It was awesome.”

What makes his NHL debut even more remarkable is that the six-foot-three, 205-pound netminder started the season playing for the Florida Everblades in the ECHL, two rungs below the NHL.

His career trajectory is clearly pretty steep. He spent last year – his first as a pro – with the Everblades, where he recorded an .881 save percentage and a 3.34 goals against average (GAA). Not exactly Carey Price numbers.

But something happened over the summer – all of it good. He worked hard on his game and focused on improving his skating. And with a year of pro hockey under his belt, he began to feel more confident in his abilities.

He started the season with the Everblades, in the Fort Myers area, and in 14 games, produced a 1.58 goals against average and a .941 save percentage. He led the ECHL in pretty much all important goalie statistics – wins, shutouts (3) and save percentage.

Called up by the Checkers, the Hurricane’s AHL affiliate, he continued to turn heads while turning away pucks. In his first 11 games, he played a big part in the team’s 9-1-1 record, boasting a 1.71 goals against average, a .941 save percentage, and one shutout.

He’s cooled off a bit since then. After 13 games, he now sits with a won/loss record of 9-2-2, with a 2.17 GAA and a .929 save percentage.

Pretty good numbers for a rookie who is still feeling his way in the pro leagues. But as they say, goalies are voodoo – you never know just how they’ll turn out.

Even he admits, “With young goalies, it takes time.”

He feels he’s continuing to make steady progress in his on-ice performance.  And he doesn’t seem all that intimidated by the competition.

The step up to the AHL, where he serves as the backup to veteran Drew MacIntyre, was manageable. “It’s not really a big jump,” he said. “It’s just a little more organized and structured.”

Management told him they were going to give him a chance, and “if I play well, it could be a more permanent situation,” he recounted.

Like other elite prospects, Altshuller has enjoyed success at all levels of hockey.  In his first year with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) he won the Dinty Moore Trophy for having the best rookie goals against average.

He was named to the OHL’s first all-rookie team, and a year later, he was named top academic university or college player, receiving the Roger Neilson Memorial Award.

A student at Ottawa’s Hillel Academy growing up, Altshuller was preparing to backstop Canada at the Maccabiah Games in 2013, but he had to withdraw so he could attend the Hurricane’s development camp.

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He still has plans to visit to Israel. He, along with his brother and a friend, have applied to the Birthright program, and if accepted, they expect to visit the Holy Land this summer.

In the meantime, he’s got pucks to stop and games to win.

Asked to provide a scouting report on himself, Altshuller said he’s developed his own unique style.

The website Hockey’s Future describes him like this: “Altshuller has all the tools to be a dominant butterfly goalie: size, athleticism and a calm consistency. Since turning pro last year, he’s been able to wrestle away significant ice time in net. He is capable of handling a big workload…

“His tools and athleticism suggest he can be an NHL goaltender one day. To reach that level he will need to gain game experience.”