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Ortio looking to nab starting role next season

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

-- Make no bones about it, Joni Ortio wants to be in Calgary full-time next season.

He got a small taste of the NHL over the past couple of years, playing in nine games in 2013-14 and six games in the 2014-15 campaign.

The Finn handled himself well at the NHL level, particularly this past year when he went 4-2-0, pitched a shutout in Vancouver, and cobbled together a 2.52 GAA and a .908 save percentage. That experience, coupled with his development in the AHL, has him feeling confident that he can land a roster spot with the Flames next season.

But he doesn't just want to be in Calgary, acting as a back-up.

He wants to steal the starting gig next fall.

"No one wants to back-up. Everyone wants to play," he said during his exit interview on Tuesday. "That’s what I’ll be looking to do next September in camp and trying to steal that number one job."

In addition to his work in the NHL this past year, Ortio provided the Adirondack Flames with solid goaltending until his season was felled by a high ankle sprain.

In 37 appearances, the 24-year-old put together a 21-13-1 record with a 2.69 GAA and a .912 save percentage and was named the team's Most Valuable Player at the year-end awards.

"When you take someone out of the lineup and things change, I think it’s a pretty good indicator of how important he was," Adirondack head coach Ryan Huska said of Ortio. "When Joni was here we were having a fair amount of success. When we lost Joni to his injury, even before that when he was called up for two and a half weeks, we didn’t have much success."

While he is confident in his skill set, Ortio knows the path to the NHL won't be easy. The Flames mantra of "Earned, never given" is one which the organization takes very seriously. If a player isn't on the top of their game in training camp, they won't be on the opening night roster.

"You can’t take anything for granted. There is no guarantees," he stated. "It’s going to be the two best guys in training camp that are going to get the spots. That’s what our standards are over here. No one is guaranteed a spot. I’ve got to work hard. I’ve got to have a really good summer. Obviously try to improve and get better, stronger physically, and just be ready come September.

"The opportunity is going to be there. It’s just up to me to grab it. No one is going to give it to me. I need to go take it myself."

Ortio, who was the Flames' sixth round pick in 2009, is heading into the 2015-16 season with a one-way deal, an element that makes this summer even more important for the young goaltender.

"It’s huge. You’ve got something to work for. It’s not just another season. It could – and hopefully is – my first full year in the NHL. I don’t think there’s any bigger motivation than that."

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