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FUTURE WATCH | Laurikainen settles in

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors.

It’s been three weeks since Condors goaltender Eetu Laurikainen returned to Bakersfield. Though he’s played only a handful of games, it’s safe to say that the goaltender hasn’t lost his stride.

Having started two of the seven games the Condors have played in 2016, Laurikainen said he’s feeling good and has once again adjusted to the pace of play and rink-size the American Hockey League has to offer.

“I think I’ve done alright. I mean we’ve won both the games,” he said. “There’s pretty much half a season left, so just keep getting better [from there].”

In December, the Oilers recalled the six-foot, 185-pound goaltender from Finland after they traded Condors netminder Ben Scrivens to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for winger Zack Kassian.

“I knew that it was possible [to return], if they make a trade or a couple of injuries happen, so, I was kind of prepared for that,” said Laurikainen.

“When they called me back up I just went there and now we have two goalies here and it’s a much better situation for me than it was in September and October.”

At the start of their season, the Condors had three goaltenders vying for a starting position. Laurikainen played in one game — unfortunately recording a loss against the San Jose Barracuda — before he was assigned to HPK Hameenlinna of the Finnish Elite League in November.

While in northern Europe, the now 22-year-old appeared in eight games recording a 3-5-0 record, 2.16 goals against average, .920 save percentage and one shutout.

“It was good,” said Laurikainen. “I got some games — that’s what I needed because we had three goalies in Bakersfield when we started the year — so it was good for me to go there and play some games [and] get some confidence.”

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors.

According to Laurikainen, making the adjustment from playing on the rinks in Europe (that measure a length of 200ft x 100ft) to playing on rinks in North America (that measure a length of 200ft x 85ft) can sometimes be a challenge.

“The rink’s bigger in Europe so there’s more space on the ice so guys have more time with the puck and they can make more fast plays, more passes. Here, it’s kind of more tough when guys have less room and they just have to drive the net hard and shoot from everywhere and the scoring chances come so quickly if you compare it to Europe.”

Needless to say, the Jyvaskyla, Finland native seems to have adjusted quickly to the change of play. Now with three games under his belt — including a 5-3 victory redemption game against the Barracuda — Laurikainen has recorded a 2-1-0 record, 2.34 goals against average, .928 save percentage and one shutout.

“I don’t know if you can handle [the adjustment] right at the start, but you’ve just got to get some practices and games in and then it just comes by itself,” he said. “There’s not like a switch that you can [turn] on and off when you go from the big rink to the smaller rink.”

Though it may not be just the flick of a switch as Laurikainen put it, it’s fair to say that the Condors goaltender has made his adjustment look effortless, considering his first game back with the Condors he stopped 30 shots for a 4-0 shutout victory over the Ontario Reign.

“For me, it takes like one week or two weeks I guess,” he admitted.

It’s been an interesting journey for this young man who has spent most of his years playing hockey in the European system, where he recorded a 3.15 goals against average, .915 save percentage and one shutout in 26 regular season games playing with the JYP of the Jr. A SM-liiga in his final season.

In 2012, Laurikainen was selected 20th overall by the Western Hockey League’s (WHL’s) Swift Current Broncos in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

Eetu Laurikainen when he played for the Espoo Blues. Photo by Antti Romsi / Jatkoaika.com

It’s pretty impressive considering Laurikainen said he almost didn’t play hockey.

“When I was a kid I played a lot of different sports, I did swimming and soccer and gymnastics too. I wanted to play hockey but my mom didn’t want me to play hockey at the start,” he said.

He stuck to playing hockey with friends, on the road or rink, whenever he could, until a young woman intervened.

“[She was from] our hometown women’s team, [and she] played with us there and she was like, ‘Okay, you’re pretty good.’ And she went to meet my dad and mom and just say that they need to put me on a team.”

Soon after, a young Laurikainen was officially enrolled in hockey when he was 10 years old.

“That’s kind of late, I guess, [compared to] nowadays,” he said.

Laurikainen spent two seasons with the Broncos — where the Oilers first scouted him — appearing in 114 games, posting a record of 55-43-12, as well as registering four shutouts. He also played in 11 career WHL playoff games.

After his two-year stint with the Broncos, Laurikainen played one season with the Espoo Blues of Finland’s SM-liiga. He appeared in 37 games where he posted a 17-10-9 record, 2.10 goals against average, .933 save percentage and four shutouts.

In May 2015, the Oilers agreed to terms with Laurikainen on a two-year entry-level contract. His performance during the 2015 Young Stars Classic only confirmed the depth he was bringing to the group of goaltenders.

Though he admits he found it was tough at first, he found the advantages of working with the players and coaches helped him improve.

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors

“I just tried to listen. If the coaches have something that I can use in my game then of course I’ve got to learn to try to be better,” he said. “I just try to play my own game, that’s pretty much it, and try to get as much information as I could.”

Laurikainen took the information and ran with it, has applied it as best he can and is working with what he has to his advantage.

Of the 34 games now played, the Condors are 16-14-4 for 36 points and are currently sitting in the middle of the pack in the Pacific Division standings.

“I think we’re playing better now than my first time I was here,” Laurikainen said of his immediate observation of the team. “We played the last games really well and we’re fighting for a playoff spot.”

Poised to make an impact between the posts with his team, Laurikainen is working towards turning his stride into a respectable swagger.

Statistics For In The System Through Past Seasons: 14-15 | 13-14 | 12-13 | 11-12
Stats Updated as of Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bakersfield (AHL) - Forwards


Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
GREG CHASE C 20 19 1 6 7 +3 25
BRADEN CHRISTOFFER LW 21 29 1 3 4 -10 57
JOSH CURRIE* C 23 22 3 4 7 +4 25
LEON DRAISAITL C 20 6 1 1 2 -5 4
MATTHEW FORD*   RW 31 32 16 11 27 0 36
RYAN HAMILTON   LW 30 32 9 7 16 -4 32
KELLEN JONES*   LW 25 7 0 2 2 +1 4
ZACK KASSIAN   RW 24 4 1 0 1 +1 6
KALE KESSY   LW 23 29 6 4 10 +6 45
JUJHAR KHAIRA   LW 21 20 3 7 10 -3 16
ROB KLINKHAMMER   LW 29 3 3 1 4 0 0
ALEXIS LOISEAU*   C 21 12 1 2 3 +1 @
ANDREW MILLER   RW/C 27 26 8 16 24 -1 10
MITCH MOROZ   LW 21 28 2 4 6 +2 83
PHILIP MCCRAE* C 25 12 2 1 3 -5 6
IIRO PAKARINEN   RW 24 4 1 2 3 0 4
TYLER PITLICK   RW 24 10 2 1 3 -1 2
KYLE PLATZER RW 20 28 5 7 12 -2 8
MARC-OLIVIER ROY* C 21 20 4 1 5 -3 8
ANTON SLEPYSHEV LW 21 20 4 1 5 -9 12
JOSH WINQUIST*   LW 22 11 6 5 11 +2 24
BOGDAN YAKIMOV   C/W 21 19 3 4 7 -5 8
DANIIL ZHARKOV (INJURED)
LW 21 - - - - - -
Bakersfield (AHL) - Defencemen


Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
BEN BETKER   d 21 1 0 0 0 0 0
MARK FAYNE   d 28 4 0 1 1 0 4
MARTIN GERNAT   d 22 20 0 3 3 +1 10
brad hunt   D 27 26 6 17 23 -6 8
JOEY LALEGGIA   D 23 30 4 9 13 +10 20
DAVID MUSIL D 22 33 3 3 6 +5 25
NIKITA NIKITIN   D 29 20 1 9 10 -8 0
DARNELL NURSE   D 20 6 0 1 1 0 7
JORDAN OESTERLE   d 23 26 2 13 15 -1 6
NICK PAGEAU*   D 27 12 0 1 1 -5 2
GRIFFIN REINHART   D 21 14 1 4 5 0 12
DILLON SIMPSON
D 22 24 0 5 5 -3 6
Norfolk (ECHL)


Name POS age    GP G A P +/- PIM
BEN BETKER D 21 39 1 13 14 +4 33
GREG CHASE F 20 13 6 4 10 +2 18
Canadian Hockey League
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
CALEB JONES  D 18 45 7 26 33 +1 35 PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS (WHL)
ETHAN BEAR  D 18 44 12 31 43   +8 20 SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS (WHL)
NCAA & USHL
Name POS age  GP G A   P +/- PIM team
EVAN CAMPBELL   LW 21 21 2  5 7 +2 14 UMASS-LOWELL (NCAA)
WILLIAM LAGESSON
D 19 19 2 4 6 -3 14 UMASS-AMHERST (NCAA)
JOHN MARINO d 18 30 2 12 14 +5 16 TRI-CITY (USHL)
AIDAN MUIR LW 20 21 1 3 4 -8 8 WESTERN MICHIGAN (NCAA)
TYLER VESEL   C 21 22 3 10 13 +7 2 NEBRASKA-OMAHA (NCAA)
Europe
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
ROMAN HORAK C 24 49 10 13 23 -9 28 CHEKHOV VITYAZ (KHL)
PHILIP LARSEN   D 25 43 6 22 28 +13 10 JOKERIT HELSINKI (KHL)
ZIYAT PAIGIN  F 20 29 8 13 21 +4 6 SOCHI HC (KHL)
  8 0 1 1 +2 2 KAZAN AK-BARS (KHL)
ANTTI TYRVAINEN  F 26 7 2 0 2 -2 4 FARJESTADS BK KARLSTAD (Sweden)
  13 5 1 6 +1 53 ILVES TAMPERE (finland)
2016 World Junior Hockey Championships
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
WILLIAM LAGESSON
D 19 7 2 1 3 +7 4 SWEDEN
Goaltenders
Name age GP w l T GAA SV% team
KEVEN BOUCHARD   19 6 3 1 2 3.47 .875 MONCTON WILDCATS (qmjHL)
  21 4 13 2 3.97 .872 baie-comeau (qmjHL)
LAURENT BROSSOIT 22 21 11 7 2 2.55 .927 bakersfield (AHL)
EETU LAURIKAINEN 22 3 2 1 0 2.34 .928 BAKERSFIELD (AHL)
8 3 5 0 2.16 .920 HPK HAMEENLINNA (FINLAND)
ZACH NAGELVOORT   21 9 5 2 1 3.14 .888 michigan (ncaa)
MIROSLAV SVOBODA   20 1 0 1 0 6.00 .750 TRINEC OCELARI (CZECH)
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