At the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson had a few minutes to deliberate over the conditional first-round pick he obtained from the Los Angeles Kings in February.
Should he use the pick in 2012 (30th overall), or hang on to it for the following year? The decision hinged on the availability of a few players, and there was a good chance that players of interest would still be on the board when the Blue Jackets picked next. Howson phoned Kings GM Dean Lombardi to let him know they would be deferring to 2013.
Their target was Swedish goaltender Oscar Dansk. As the picks went by and the first round drew to a close at CONSOL Energy Center, the anxiety evaporated. Columbus was leading off the second round on Saturday morning, and for Howson and the Blue Jackets, there was no question they were going to select Dansk with the 31st overall pick.
Goaltending coach Ian Clark told BlueJackets.com earlier this month that he had Dansk listed as his top-rated netminder in the draft class, ranked ahead of Malcolm Subban (Boston) and Andrei Vasilevsky (Tampa).
Dansk was in the crosshairs, and despite some last-minute trade offers, Howson held firm. Many are thankful he did, too; Dansk's blend of North American playing/educational experience coupled with natural athleticism and a keen sense of the goaltending position rocketed him to the top of the Blue Jackets draft board for goalies.
Pro goalie scout and NHL.com writer Justin Goldman (@TheGoalieGuild) feels the same -- he had Dansk right at the top of the order, as well, and strongly believes the Blue Jackets picked the best goaltender in the draft.
"I think he has a few elements of his game that give him an edge over the other two highly-touted guys," Goldman told BlueJackets.com. "You see his demeanor in the interviews (post-draft) and he's a really confident kid. He's got that great, steely resolve and laid-back confident attitude...it's tremendous. It matches up perfectly with the way he plays on the ice."
One area in which Dansk is "ahead of the curve" compared to other goalie prospects is his simple game; he is economical with his movements and makes the most of his frame.
"You look at a lot of the top goalies in the NHL right now and it's all about the simplicity of the game," Goldman said. "Even a guy like Jonathan Quick, who looks so reflex-based and acrobatic, has found a way to simplify the game for the style he plays, too.
"Being able to do that when today's goaltending position is so technically-based and complicated is a huge advantage."
The other advantage, Goldman said, is Dansk's familiarity with the North American style of hockey at such a young age. Dansk is 18 years old, but played three seasons at Shattuck St. Mary's (arguably the most highly-regarded prep hockey school in the United States) and has international experience playing for Sweden at the IIHF World Junior championship.
The next step for Dansk is likely to be junior hockey in Canada. He was selected by the Erie Otters in the recently-completed CHL Import Draft and could provide some much-needed stability between the pipes. Getting used to the smaller ice surface can be a major adjustment, and it's what gives Dansk the immediate edge over his European counterparts who are looking to play major junior hockey, and eventually, in the NHL.
"That's the edge that he has over the other goalies in his class, and why Swedish and Finnish goaltenders are so darn good right now," Goldman said. "It's the training he got the last couple of years in Sweden with one of the most renowned goalie coaches in the world. All these little elements that Oscar has in his toolkit, so to speak, make me think he's going to be an absolute rockstar in four to five seasons.
"If he plays well in the major juniors and continues to develop, there's nothing stopping him from being a top-flight NHL goalie down the line."