The Swift Current Broncos hope they’ve found their #1 goaltender for next season. As expected, they drafted a netminder in yesterday’s CHL Import Draft. Swift Current nabbed Eetu Laurikainen of Jyväskylä, Finland with the 20th pick of the first round. He was the fifth goalie taken and third by WHL teams after Prince George took Joonas Korpisalo and Victoria added Patrik Polivka.
So why Laurikainen? I’m on holiday, but Swift Current Online’s Todd Vallee was able to chat with both Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb and Laurikainen yesterday.
Laurikainen is apparently a late bloomer. He’s heading into his 19-year-old season and wasn’t picked in the NHL draft, but I hear he outperformed a lot of the drafted guys this season. He could have been overlooked because of his size at 5’10 and 161lbs. Mark Lamb told me in a brief conversation today that Laurikainen is very technical and athletic. Maybe more importantly, Lamb is confident they will have no problems bringing him over. The Finn is excited to come here and prove he deserves a spot in the NHL.
Swift Current selects Finnish goaltender Eetu Laurikainen, a very instinctive and sound postional goaltender. Technically solid.
—Ross MacLean (@rossmaclean) June 27, 2012
Checking the stats… among goaltenders that played 15 games or more in the JYP U20 Finnish league, Laurikainen was in third spot with a 0.915% save percentage. Columbus 3rd round draft pick Joonas Korpisalo (picked by Prince George early) was only slightly ahead of that at 0.920%. Laurikainen also played six games for JYP-Akatemia in Finland2 and put up a 0.919% save percentage there. He was also a part of a championship team in 2011 and put up a 0.960% save percentage in the playoffs. Knowing how to win is always an important bonus.
We can speculate but it’s impossible to know how good he will be in North America until he is here and playing.
So how will the goaltending look next year? Austin Smith is also going to be 19 next season so just speculating but I would think he will need a great camp to either compete for the starter’s job or hang on as back up.
I imagine there will be some push from the Broncos to see if a guy like Steven Myland, Landon Bow or even a real young guy like Alec Dillon are ready to assume that role yet. There is certainly a school of thought that it would be better to have a younger guy in that role so he can prepare to assume the #1 job down the line. Would that be as soon as 2013-2014 or is there a chance Laurikainen could be here as a two-spotter? That’s a question we are a ways away from answering.
The other positive about adding Laurikainen is that the Broncos (at least as of now) won’t have to use an overage spot on a goaltender. Having to do that robs your team of the ability to either keep an important returning piece of the puzzle. Last season the Broncos lost Jordan Peddle because they had to add an overage goaltender in Jon Groenheyde. He would have had a major role on that roster and could have been a difference maker in getting them closer to the playoffs. Now this fall Laurikainen’s addition will allow them to hold on to one more of Moser, Magnus, Blanke, Reum, Fleming or Evans. It also gives them flexibility to see what other overage players are out there because their number of open spots isn’t as limited.
In the end it’s good to remember something Jon Keen said on twitter yesterday. Everybody thinks their import pick is coming over and he’s a stud… but it’s better to take a “wait and see” approach until then. Broncos fans have learned that one a few times.
For those who asked… Steffen Soberg’s CHL rights still belong to the Broncos. That probably won’t be an issue as Soberg has signed to play another season in Norway.
WHL SCHEDULE RELEASED
The WHL released their schedule yesterday and our own Colin Powers also caught up with Mark Lamb to get his take on that…
Colin Powers interviews Broncos Coach/GM Mark Lamb (Download)
Honestly the PDF file we get makes it difficult to ge the kind of read on the schedule I would want to… at least until we are able to just look at the Broncos schedule. From talking to a member of the management team about it earlier they were quite pleased with how the schedule came together. I believe there only three “3 in 3” situations and they include home dates in there to make it less of a trial.
The main differences between this year and last year is that the US Division teams are in Swift Current instead of the BC Division teams. Our trip to BC will be from December 4th to the 14th.
2/3 of the home games are scheduled for weekend dates. That should be great for the bottom line. Hopefully the games can become bigger and bigger events this year. The more people who come through the door the more exciting it is to be a part of it. I know some of the big crowds last year really brought the buzz back to the rink.
The home opener is September 22nd against Moose Jaw. Do you have your season tickets yet?
- Former Broncos Coach/GM Dean Chynyoweth is now the bench boss for the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL. They’re the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. It’s great to see him land on his feet quickly after the Islanders let him go as an assistant coach following the season. I believe this is his first opportunity to be a Head Coach at the professional level and as such a chance to prove he could be an NHL bench boss as well. The AHL is often the best route to a pro job if you can succeed there. There was some speculation he would end up in Kootenay, but I had heard quickly that wasn’t going to be the case. Chynoweth was not ready to return to junior yet.
- Former Bronco Aaron Rome may be looking for a new home on July 1rst. The Canucks have not offered the unrestricted free agent a new contract. Rome’s agent believes his play priced him out of being there. Hopefully the physical blueliner is able to find a good home as soon as Canada Day. Meanwhile, Vancouver did qualify their other former Bronco, gritty two-way player Dale Weise. Weise will be back in Swift for the WW Smith Alumni Golf Classic and I will have an interview with him on the blog shortly.
- Former Bronco Cody Eakin got some praise from his new GM. The Dallas Stars traded Mike Ribeiro to Washington for Eakin and a 2nd round pick. “He’s the type of player that does anything to help the team win. His work ethic will be there,” said Joe Nieuwendyk. “He’s a very versatile player; he plays with a lot of energy and a lot of passion. I don’t like to get too caught up in the second- and third-line stuff, but he is a player who can help us.” Check out the whole article here and a profile of Eakin by a Stars blog here.
- The Cochrane Eagle talked to a few different sources inluding a Flames scout and Coda Gordon’s mother for an article on him being drafted. They also have a picture of Coda as a 6-year-old in a Flames jersey. Now he will get one from the team with his name on it. How awesome is that? It was interesting to see a comment from a Flames scout on how they respect Mark Lamb’s ability to develop young players. The word is getting out as the Broncos are producing NHL draft picks.
- I also got a comment on my story about Graham Black being drafted from his Midget Sask First coach Rod Benroth. “For all those kids who never got drafted in the WHL never give up on your dreams, hockey isn’t over at the age of 15!” said Benroth. “In 2009 Graham Black tried out for the Midget Saskfirst team in Zone 2 and from there it just took off! Congratulations Graham you earned it!”
- Congrats to Swift Current product Evan Vossen on inking a pro contract with Stockton of the ECHL. Vossen just wrapped up his CIS career by captaining McGill to a CIS championship for the first time. He’s the son of new Legionnaires Coach Dale Vossen. Hopefully this is the start of something big for Evan. We now watch to see what will happen to other local products as free agency approaches. Where will Travis Moen end up after July 1rst? I know I’ll be watching my phone while I enjoy the Canada Day celebrations here in Ottawa. I’m sure many of you will do the same while you’re out having a blast at Frontier Days.
That will do it for now. I have interviews with a few alumni like Weise and Justin Dowling that I want to get on the blog before the golf tournament. I will also make sure to follow-up on any big news if it hits while I’m away. That said, I do also intend to enjoy my two weeks off so I apologize if the website isn’t as active as it might otherwise be. Who knows I might get bored with doing nothing and find some things to post about anyway. There are some topics I’ve been meaning to cover and free time usually leads to me talking about hockey anyway.
For now I will sit out on my parent’s dock and enjoy this view…