When the NHL Draft concluded last weekend, we spoke with Scott Howson and he indicated both drafted goaltenders could play junior hockey in Canada this upcoming season.
The first step in that process came today with the CHL Import Draft, and it was nothing but good news for both Oscar Dansk and Joonas Korpisalo. The top-ranked Swedish (Dansk) and Finnish (Korpisalo) netminders in the 2012 draft class were both selected in the top five of the import draft, a strong indication that they could each have starting jobs as early as this season.
Dansk was taken third overall by the Erie Otters (OHL), a club that struggled mightily last year (10-52-6) and could use some help between the pipes. The big, athletic goaltender will get playing time, and could play a large role in getting the Otters back to respectability in the Midwest division.
If Korpisalo decides to play junior hockey, he will start his career in the WHL with the Prince George Cougars. The 18-year-old Finn is regarded as one of the quickest and most athletic goalies in the draft, and if he gets a chance to crack the lineup for the Cougars, we could be hearing his name a lot as the season progresses.
I talked to Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark about both of these goaltenders, who will be in Columbus for development camp beginning July 3. Here's the transcript of our conversation: On Joonas Korpisalo:
On Oscar Dansk:
"He was rated second amongst European goalies according to Central Scouting, but we had him as the top-ranked goaltender. In our evaluations - and we spent a lot of time watching all the top-rated goaltenders, Vasilevski, Subban, those guys - we really felt that Oscar was the elite goaltender available. You're dealing with a goaltender who's got some size (6-foot-2), and he has a presence to him - there's no doubt about that. He has tremendous clarity in what he wants to become, and that's an elite National Hockey League goaltender. He is single-minded in that goal. It's a very direct mentality and clear path he has set for himself. He has tremendous mental skills in the face of pressure, he has excelled on the biggest stages, and has a great mental makeup for goaltending. He's a very well-schooled goalie with great positioning and he's really good athletically. He has great balance in his game; some goalies are technical or athletic with skill -- he has strength across all aspects of the position. He's such a well-rounded goaltender, and a tremendous puck-handler, as well."
"He's a very confident goaltender on the ice, and a very confident goaltender off the ice. You get a bit of a different product when you're dealing with a Finnish goalie opposed to a Swedish goalie; Finnish goalies play on a smaller ice surface, so it's a little closer to a North American style of play. The Finns have an excellent track record in goal, and they do a tremendous job with goaltender development. There's a great balance in all of their styles; these goaltenders are very athletic and strong laterally. Joonas plays a game that's higher out where he's more in the shooter's face, and he has tremendous recovery skills. He's a fiery guy in the net, and for me, he's a got a little Pekka Rinne in him and a little Tuukka Rask in him. He has great mechanics like Rask does, but he also has the edge and the spirit of a Rinne. You're dealing with a goaltender who has a pretty special mental makeup."On the future of the Blue Jackets organization in goal:
"It's critical. We talk to our goaltenders very, very directly about the demands we have of them, given the importance of the position. We have the expectation that they will be the hardest workers on the team. We have the expectation that they will be the fiercest competitors on the team, and we expect them to lead by example with their work ethic. As you begin to build the strength of your stable, the internal competition is there. We're beginning to build it here - it doesn't happen overnight. We're extremely excited about not only the elite talent that's here, but the competitive culture it's developing, as well."