CALGARY, AB -- Earlier this year, when netminder Joni Ortio was assigned to TPS Turku of SM-liiga after putting in just nine games with the Abbotsford Heat, some questioned if his future with the organization was in jeopardy.
"He is still in the plans but the factor there is what is best for his development," Flames general manager Jay Feaster assured CalgaryFlames.com. "In our minds, the idea of being in the American League and playing a game every two weeks - that's probably not the best thing for his development, particularly if he can play at the elite level in Europe and be a go-to guy."
Heat goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet is convinced Ortio can make an impact next year now that he has spent a significant amount of time in the AHL and understands what it takes to remain on a roster in such a competitive league.
"At the end of Joni's stint here, he started to put in some good games because he was starting to play a little bit more often. At the start of the year, he's getting in there every 10 games at the development league, development level, that's the last thing you want for a guy of that age.
"For him, I think it was a great choice," Sigalet said of Ortio's time in Finland. "To go over there and play every single minute, every single game and get in a little bit of a rhythm."
This summer is a crucial point in Ortio's development. If he is able to take what he has learned over the course of the 2011-12 season and make the necessary adjustments, he will be able to solidify a roster spot with the Heat.
"Everyone knows it's not going to be given to him," Sigalet said. "I think he'll come over here, having a taste this year, with a little bit better work ethic and understanding of what it takes to stay at this level."
The Flames selected Ortio in the sixth round (171st overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft.