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Prospect Update: Gage Alexander
By Thomas Harrington
One of Anaheim’s 2021 fifth round picks, goaltender Gage Alexander, finished his junior career and made his ECHL and AHL debuts this past season.
Alexander started the year in the WHL, playing for a new team, the Swift Current Broncos. He was traded to Swift Current from the Winnipeg Ice last summer. With the Broncos, Alexander played in 15 games and had a record of 8-5-1 with a 3.47 goals against average and a .898 save percentage. Swift Current wasn’t a great team and they ended up missing the playoffs.
In December, the decision was made for Alexander to turn pro. He signed his entry-level deal and went to the ECHL, playing for the Tulsa Oilers. He played in six games for Tulsa and had a record of 1-4 with a 3.61 goals against average and a .875 save percentage. Tulsa wasn’t a great team last year and finished with the second fewest points in the ECHL. When Lukas Dostal and Olle Eriksson Ek were both recalled to Anaheim in February, Alexander was recalled to San Diego. With the Gulls, Alexander played in 16 games and had a record of 5-7-3 with a 3.59 goals against average, .887 save percentage, and one shutout. Defensively, the Gulls were not a strong team and most goaltenders struggled with them. In March, he made 26 saves on 26 shots and became the youngest player in Gulls history to post a shutout. He was playing better than Eriksson Ek, and when Eriksson Ek returned to San Diego, Alexander got the majority of the playing time through most of the rest of the season.
I had three expectations for Alexander last summer, and he technically failed to hit any of them. However, that’s not entirely his fault. My first expectation was for him to play in more than 30 WHL games, because I did not anticipate him turning pro so soon. Between the three leagues that Alexander played in, he played in 37 games, so I’m actually going to say that he hit this expectation from a year ago. Second, he was going from one of the best WHL teams to one of the worst, so I wanted to see him put up a strong season and not see his numbers fall off too much. Looking just at his WHL numbers, his goals against average rose from 2.40 to 3.47 and his save percentage fell from a .911 to .898. Finally, if his team made the playoffs, to put up better postseason numbers than he did the year before. He left the WHL before Swift Current had a chance at the playoffs and they ended up not making them, while the Gulls weren’t anywhere close to a postseason berth.
Turning pro so early certainly surprised me, and it will be interesting to see where Alexander plays next year. Regardless of what Anaheim’s goaltending situation is, I don’t think Alexander will be ready for the NHL this season. He should spend the year in San Diego with Calle Clang. Alexander could also again see time in the ECHL next season, depending on how he is playing.
I have one expectation for Alexander next season. Whether he’s playing in the ECHL or AHL, to put up better numbers than he did this past season. This past season was a bit of a whirlwind for him, going from the WHL to the ECHL to the AHL. It can take some time for players to adjust to the pro game when they leave junior hockey. Hopefully Alexander has a better idea of what things will be like going into this coming season.
Alexander is still a number of years away from making his NHL debut. Goaltenders usually take a little longer than skaters to develop, and this will be his first full professional season. I think he’ll spend at least one, if not two full years in the minors before he gets serious consideration for NHL games. However, for that to happen, his numbers in the AHL are going to need to significantly improve from last year. With hopefully a better defense in front of him this season, that will happen.
Alexander has two more years left on his entry-level contract, and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s over. If he can become a solid AHL player in that time, I anticipate him being re-signed on a two-way contract. It would be very surprising to see him get a one-way deal. If he does, that means he’s possibly surpassed Dostal on Anaheim’s goaltending depth chart.
The next prospect update will be on forward Brayden Tracey.
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August 20th, 2023