The Detroit Red Wings made three selections in the second round of the 2023 Draft, and Trey Augustine was my favorite by far. He was dominant for the USA U18 team in the National Team Development Program (NTDP) and was excellent for the USA at the World Junior Championship despite being only 17 years old.
Some believe that his size will prohibit him from being an NHL starting goaltender, but I think that his ability to track the play in front of him while maintaining composure in the crease will allow him to beat the odds and make the NHL as a goalie with below-average size.
The first thing people point out with Augustine is that he’s “only” 6-foot-1 and is therefore a risk because he’s below the expected height for a starting goalie in the modern NHL. The average height for starting goalies in the NHL changes each year but typically hovers around the 6-foot-3 mark so Augustine isn’t significantly below the average. While having a bit more length would likely help Augustine in the long run, he has compensated for a lack of size by improving his mechanics and his ability to track the play in front of him.
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When it came to pure skill and hockey sense, there was no doubt for me that Augustine was the best goaltender in the 2023 Draft class. Sure, goalies like Michael Hrabal and Carson Bjarnason have the height advantage and someone like Scott Ratzlaff may be a more explosive athlete, but none of them can follow plays and track the puck as well as Augustine.
I really love Augustine as a stylistic foil for Detroit’s other top goaltending prospect Sebastian Cossa who is well known as a fierce competitor who plays with a bit of barely-controlled chaos. Cossa is 6-foot-6, is a much more explosive athlete while Augustine is smaller and plays with absolute control and poise. Two goalies on completely opposite sides of the stylistic spectrum gives the Red Wings a really fascinating pair of goaltending prospects to work with over the next few years.
Augustine’s Draft Year
As I alluded to earlier, Augustine’s draft year with the U18 team in the National Team Development Program (NTDP) was absolutely remarkable with a 29-1-2 record, a .926 save percentage (SV%), and a 2.13 goals against average (GAA). The last time the U18 team’s starter had stats that were even in that ballpark was in 2019-20 when Drew Commesso had a .920 SV% and an 18-7-1 record. Commesso has gone on to play three solid NCAA seasons and is set to make his pro debut this season with the Rockford Icehogs in the AHL.
Augustine took over the starter’s net at the World Juniors last December, winning four of five games at the U20 tournament as a 17-year-old goalie. He was one of the best goaltenders at the whole tournament despite his stats not looking too pleasant as a result of a barn-burner bronze medal match against Sweden where the two teams combined to score 15 goals.
To cap off a wildly successful season, Augustine backstopped Team USA to gold at the U18 World Championships where he had a perfect 6-0-0 record. Obviously this American team gave him a lot of support by scoring a tournament-high 51 goals (18 more than the next highest teams, Sweden and Canada), but Augustine was excellent in his own right. He only allowed nine goals across those six games giving him a .934 SV%.
What’s Next for Augustine?
Augustine has committed to play for Michigan State University where he will play alongside Red Wings prospect Redmond Savage, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Isaac Howard and top 2024 Draft prospect Artyom Levshunov. Michigan State’s starting goalie for the 2022-23 season, Dylan St. Cyr, has gone pro and that leaves a massive hole in net for the Spartans that I’m sure Augustine is eager to fill.
His biggest competition for the starting spot will be Luca Di Pasquo who was phenomenal last season in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) for the juggernaut Penticton Vees. I think the most likely outcome is that Augustine leads the team as the starter from the outset but this will be a situation to monitor as his freshman season kicks off soon.
The NCAA has a track record lately of being kind to goaltenders who aren’t the biggest or most athletic (the name Devon Levi may ring some bells), so I think Augustine has a real chance to be a difference maker at the college level even as a freshman. His uncanny ability to stay in position and track pucks through chaos is going to serve him very well and I expect he’ll have a strong college resume after two or three years of NCAA competition.
When Could Augustine be in Detroit?
I think the most realistic expectations for most top goaltending prospects is for them to be meaningful contributors in the NHL (consistent backup or maybe starter) roughly four to five years after their draft. Thatcher Demko spend two years in the NCAA and three in the AHL after being drafted, Jake Oettinger spent two years in the NCAA followed by two in the AHL, and Jeremy Swayman played three NCAA seasons and one AHL season before jumping into the NHL full time.
All prospects take time, but goaltenders are the biggest tests of a team’s patience. I expect Augustine will play at least two years in the NCAA, with a third year not being out of the question. After that he shouldn’t find it difficult cracking the Grand Rapids Griffins’ lineup since Cossa would theoretically be on the NHL roster by that point if all goes to plan. After at least two years of pro experience I think it’s possible we see Augustine as a regular in the Red Wings’ lineup so I’ll set the timeline at him playing his first NHL game sometime in the 2026-27 season and cracking the roster as a regular player in the 2027-28 season.
Augustine is a remarkably smart, reliable, and poised goaltender who has the potential to be a good starting goalie in the NHL someday. Goalies take a lot of time and patience to develop but I think the addition of Augustine by the Red Wings was a really savvy move at this past draft as the future of the entire team no longer depends on Cossa hitting as a great NHL starter.
I am very confident in Augustine’s ability to succeed in the NCAA, even if it takes him a little while, and I expect his style to translate incredibly well up levels as he develops. The strength and explosiveness can be improved as he continues to grow (he’s still only 18) which will certainly help him become even more consistent on difficult cross-crease plays, but the hockey sense is excellent and will serve him well in professional hockey someday.
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