NHL Draft: The Silent Assassin

July 29, 2005

NHL Draft
NHL Draft Preview Schedule
(July 25th-30th)
Tuesday, July 26:

By Elliot Olshansky

Assistant Editor, CSTV.com


In one year at the University of Vermont, Joe Fallon has made plenty of noise.  Just not with this mouth.


The sophomore-to-be from Bemidji, Minn., had a stellar freshman campaign with the Catamounts, setting a new school record with five shutouts, winning multiple Rookie of the Year awards, and backstopping UVM to a nation-best 11 game unbeaten streak.  For head coach Kevin Sneddon, though, it was the beginning of that streak that best illustrates the kind of player Fallon is.


"We had just gotten swept at home against Niagara," Sneddon recalled, "who played very well against us, but we just didn't do a lot of the things we needed to do to have success, and we're going up to play the No. 1 team in the country, Minnesota Duluth, and so I was pretty nervous about doing that, but at the same time, it was a pretty good opportunity to gain some confidence back if we play well out there."


"Playing well out there" was exactly what Fallon had in mind when he returned to his home state.  The rookie netminder made 29 saves on 31 shots to help the Catamounts to a 3-2 win in front of 4,653 stunned fans.  Less, of course, the family members and friends who made the three-hour trek from Bemidji to Duluth to see Fallon play.


As impressive as the win was, it was only the beginning, both for Fallon and the Catamounts.  "We come back - which everyone expected to be a blowout - the next night," Sneddon said.  "We tied them, and he had 40 saves.  He pulled that game for us, at least in terms of the tie.


"I see him the next morning, as we're getting onto the plane, and I ask Joe, `Hey, this had to be great.  You've got to be enthusiastic.  Your family and friends got to see you beat a school that didn't recruit you.  How do you feel?  His response was, `Good,' and he just got on the plane.  That was probably the longest conversation I had with Joe all year."


Thus far, Fallon has done his talking in the crease, and that has plenty of NHL scouts talking.  In his freshman season, Fallon posted a school record 1.96 goals-against average, topping the old record of 2.34, set by Tim Thomas during UVM's Frozen Four run in 1995-96.  Fallon also finished .921 save percentage, second only to Thomas in Catamount history. "Some pretty good goaltenders have gone through Vermont," Sneddon said, "and he's breaking records."


In the Central Scouting Service's final rankings heading into Saturday's 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Fallon is ranked 15th among North American goaltenders, tops among all US collegians, which likely means that he can expect to hear his name called sometime in this weekend's draft.


"I like him," CSTV analyst Dave Starman said of Fallon.  "He and [Denver goalie and Frozen Four MVP] Peter Mannino remind me a lot of each other, because they love to get shot at.  It sounds weird to say that for goalies, because that's their job, but this kid just loves for people to take shots at him. He's always at the top of his crease, he's always ready, and he's always looking through screens and looking around to find pucks. Chris Terreri was like that.  Glen Healy was like that.  Mike Richter's like that.  They just can't wait for the puck to get to them so they can stop it."


In addition to his love for being shot at, Fallon's quiet nature takes a backseat to his competitive energy when he steps on the ice, as his personal "volume knob" gets turned up.  "For a quiet young man," Sneddon said, "he's very vocal on the ice, which is extremely helpful to your defensemen."


"I guess I feel more comfortable," Fallon said of his on-ice transformation.  "When I play, I need a lot of energy, and I always talk to the defensemen, or yell at the defensemen or something like that.  I need a lot of energy to keep getting better and better every day, so I yell."


There's no yelling now, though, as Fallon patiently waits to hear his name called in Ottawa, and true to form, isn't worrying too much about which team picks him.  "I would want to be on any team," Fallon said. "The teams I've talked to are Vancouver, and Nashville, but I'm an older player in the draft this year, and there's a lot of '87 [birth years].  They'll probably see how low they can pick me."


No matter how high - or low - Fallon gets taken in the draft, Sneddon believes that one NHL team is going to be lucky to have him.  "I think whatever team does draft him gets a steal," Sneddon said.  "This young man is never complacent with anything that he achieves. I think in today's world, when you can find that, you've got something special. I think the sky's the limit."


True to form, Fallon has his mind set on his next season with the Catamounts.  "I was part of a terrific year," Fallon said, "a rebuilding year for Vermont, and it helped us get a lot of momentum heading into Hockey East this year. I feel like there's a lot more excitement with the guys on the team this year."


Between the Catamounts' move into Hockey East and a promising professional future after he leaves Burlington, there seems to be plenty of excitement in Joe Fallon's future.  Just don't expect him to talk too much about it. Unless, of course, he's in the crease.


Elliot Olshansky is an Assistant Editor for CSTV.com.



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