ECHL: Could Walleye’s Bednar Be the Next Man up for Grand Rapids?

Red Wings prospect named player of the week

The Toledo Walleye have had an outstanding season thus far, partly due to their offensive firepower. A big reason for their success has been the play of goaltender Jan Bednar, who has seemingly come into his own during his second pro season in North America.

Walleye’s Bednar is making noise at the ECHL level

While his teammate John Lethemon leads the team in wins with 14, Bednar has compiled a solid 12-4-1 record with 2.97 goals against average, a .889 save percentage, and one shutout. He made his pro debut last season in Toledo after being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings 107th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Bednar, a 6-foot-4 and 200-pound netminder, made a splash after a successful stint with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Maritime Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He went 1-1 with a 3.01 GAA and a .901 save percentage after debuting at the end of the 2022-23 Walleye season. After an average training camp with the Red Wings, he was sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL) and then to the Walleye.

Bednar has a lot of athleticism for a bigger goaltender but was sent to Toledo to work on positioning, rebound control, and side-to-side movement. He has done a tremendous job between the pipes this season and has shown great improvement on the things he needed to work on. One has to wonder when he will get his shot in Grand Rapids, which owns his contract.

Sebastian Cossa and Michael Hutchinson are with the Griffins. Cossa is having a solid season, posting a solid 10-7-3 record, a 2.70 GAA, and a .908 save percentage. Hutchinson has a record of 9-8 with a 2.89 GAA and a .895 save percentage. Lethemon has already appeared in a game for Grand Rapids this season, so Bednar is deserving of a shot in the higher league, even as a backup. This would give him a first-hand look at what to expect when he is with the Griffins.

Photo: Rick Crossman | Inside The Rink

While Bednar has yet to make his AHL debut, one has to wonder when he will get his shot. The organization may want to give him a full season in the ECHL before giving him a promotion to the AHL. This would not be the worst thing for his development as Detroit does not want to rush it. However, calling him up for a spot start to get him acclimated to the Griffin style of play could also do him some good. He is playing great hockey and on the cusp of playing at the next level, as he is a solid goaltender who has rebounded nicely from his struggles last season. As he rounds into form, he has to be consistent in his play as he is still learning, but so far, his play has spoken volumes.

There is a chance that Lethemon could get the call before Bednar, but that may not be such a bad thing. This would give Bednar the opportunity to flourish as a number-one goaltender with the hopes of moving up next season, which would be huge for his development. He could use more games to show the Red Wings organization he has truly come far in a year and put some pressure on management to give him a chance in the AHL. There may be some movement between Grand Rapids as Ville Husso may be going up to Detroit after his conditioning stint with the Griffins. Will Bednar get a call this season, or will he continue to develop this season at the ECHL level?

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