COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s not difficult to recognize Blue Jackets goalie prospect Joonas Korpisalo, and that's a good thing.
He was the 6-foot-2, lanky goaltender wearing extremely-visible, red-and-yellow goalie equipment indicative of his Finnish club (Jokerit), the organization previously headed up by Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
Korpisalo’s goalie mask is highlighted by the “jester” of Jokerit, but there’s nothing funny about the significant improvements he’s made in his game.
Rewinding to one year ago, the Blue Jackets drafted two goaltenders at the 2012 NHL Draft – first it was Oscar Dansk at No. 31 overall and Korpisalo followed in the third round – and both recently took part in development camp for a second consecutive year. In selecting both goalies, the Blue Jackets were able to draft the two highest-rated goalies on their list, giving the organization a strong pipeline in net.
Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark is the man who puts in the time to make sure these kids fulfill their NHL potential, and he sees development camp as his best annual opportunity to go “hands on” with the goalie prospects. One of his objectives is to give the players specific instruction to take back to their respective teams, and last year, Korpisalo (like all the goalie prospects) had some homework when he returned to Finland.
"First and foremost, they’re bigger and stronger and that’s the normal evolution you see (year-to-year)," Clark said. "You hope that additional size and strength parlays into a bigger presence in the net, faster presence in the net and a quicker presence in the net.
"They’ve got a great role model here in Sergei Bobrovsky, watching how quick he is and how he takes his athleticism so seriously and how it converts on the ice in game situations."
It was a busy year for the 19-year-old netminder, as well; he played for Jokerit’s junior club and was loaned to Kiekko-Vantaa in Finland’s second division and made 18 appearances.
Korpisalo also made a handful of international starts for Finland, and racked up five appearances at the 2013 World Junior tournament in Ufa, Russia.
With all that experience in his back pocket, the most encouraging thing for Clark is that Korpisalo gained it all while implementing some changes in his game.
“He made an adjustment in his basic positional game…he’s a big goalie, and has traditionally played above his crease much like a Pekka Rinne,” Clark said. “Those are two big goalies that play fairly aggressive for big goalies. In speaking with Joonas, he sort of trimmed that back a little bit and brought a little more control to his game. He changed his glove hand position and I think that’s all working well for him.”
During development camp, Clark said Korpisalo’s top characteristics were on full display.
“He’s a goaltender that has fantastic intangible attributes,” Clark said. “He still has to work on cleaning up some of the mechanical and structural aspects of his game, but his compete level and natural athleticism are lights-out.
“Those are things we continue to see in his game, and as he continues to evolve, I think we’ll see a more consistent and elite level of performance from him.”