I suspect most of the team is picked before main camp starts, with the coaches watching to make final decisions for two or three spots.
If you have NetFlix check this out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrJ3ntd1FCU
While not every team with a high (negative) goal differential can blame it on their goalies, there is a serious gap in how goalies are evaluated in the US.
Coaches, who generally confess to knowing zero about the position, seem to use the following criteria when rostering goalies:
1. Is he European? He's in! (despite it being the UShl, NAhl, etc.)
2. Spent $5,000+ annually doing private goalie lessons with a high-profile coach for 3+ years? He's in!
3. Played for a Prep school (any, even crappy ones)? He's in!
4. Played for a team in HPHL or T1EHL? He's in!
5. Is he Canadian? He's in! (despite it being the UShl, NAhl, etc.)
6. Played on any AAA team in the US and they know his dad/uncle? He's in!
7. Advisor with graphics heavy web site says he's the next Vasilevskiy? He's in!
8. Played for any MN high school team? He's in!
9. Had an older brother in our program? He's in!
10. Team goalie coach likes the loud crunchy noise his C-cuts make? He's in!
Surely this is a bit sarcastic, but there is a kernel of truth in it.
Goalie evaluation has a real need for advanced analytics, probably more so than any other position in our sport. We have historic measures like goals against and save percentage. They provide absolutely zero context to evaluate a goaltender. Example:
Team Heroes goalie Bobby stopped 15/16 shots for a .937 save percentage and a 1.00 goals against average. No passes leading to a shot against him crossed the "royal road" and his team had six power plays. Two of those were 5-on-3s for 1:15. Coach says, "Bobby was solid in the net for us."
Team Sads goalie Jimmy stopped 43/48 shots for an .895 save percentage and a 5.00 goals against average. His team was short handed and gave up two goals during the 5-on-3 PKs and one on a standard 5-on-4 PK. Another goal was a 3-on-1 on a botched line change. Coach says, "Rough night, faced a lot of shots, but has to figure out how to keep us in the game."
The boxscore reads:
Bobby, .937, 1.00
Jimmy, .895, 5.00
In juniors, where a coach is only a couple of bad weekends away from the unemployment line, they have no motivation to risk their job, so the system perpetuates itself.
While a (valid) argument could be made about too many teams/kids in junior, the problem of poor goaltender evaluation would still exist.
When I started coaching I saw this goalie at tryouts making acrobatic saves and was impressed. I would have taken him, but then was told by an experienced goalie coach he mostly watches how the goalie makes the simple saves, not the highlight ones. He said the goalie was too erratic and reactionary and made things harder than they should have been. I never picked a goaltender again after that. More coaches should accept their limitations, especially if they never played goal.
Kind of funny...after my initial post/rant, I saw that a goalie Danbury (NA) traded earlier this season just committed to play NCAA D1.
Maybe Danbury just makes bad decisions in general?