RDS is reporting that the Buffalo Sabres are set to announce the signing of goaltender Nathan Lieuwen to a three-year entry-level deal.
Lieuwen, 20, enters the professional ranks after four full seasons with the WHL's Kootenay ICE in which in he set an all-time franchise record with 85 victories. The 6'5, 190-pounder gathered 60 of those wins over his final two years, including a sparkling 2011 run that saw him earn the league's playoff MVP while he and Brayden McNabb steered the ICE to their first Memorial Cup appearance since 2002.
This past season, Lieuwen was named an Eastern Conference 2nd team All-Star, finishing 27-20-6-2 with a 2.50 goals against average (3rd in WHL), .914 save percentage (5th), and three shutouts (t6th). His season ended with a combined 121 saves in four games as the ICE were swept from the first round of the playoffs by Mark Pysyk and the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Sabres fans previously saw what Lieuwen was capable of when he backstopped the Sabres to the championship at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. He'll attend his first development camp this July after missing the 2011 sessions while recovering from a sports hernia.
Chosen in the sixth round (167th overall) of the 2011 draft, the Abbotsford, B.C. native becomes the fourth Sabres goaltender under contract for the 2012-13 season. He's slated to enter the mix for playing time in Rochester along with 6'6 rookie Connor Knapp.
It's abundantly clear that big, athletic netminders with long limbs are en vogue in today's NHL. The Sabres now have two to watch develop over the next couple of years while Ryan Miller (two years to UFA) and Jhonas Enroth (one year to RFA) play out their existing deals. Even if one of them gets shuttled to the ECHL at some point (will Amerks 2011-12 MVP David Leggio get extended?), it should never be considered a bad thing (see: Jonathan Quick) as the club develops home grown depth in the crease.