Is Antti Raanta the next Tim Thomas or Niklas Backstrom?

Jonathan Willis
May 29 2013 09:08AM

Goaltender Antti Raanta is coming off a phenomenal season. In 2012-13 he posted the best save percentage in Finland’s top league and won the awards for best goaltender and regular season MVP (he’s pictured accepting that award above), as well as playoff MVP after back-stopping Assat to the league championship. Just for good measure, he was named one of Finland’s top players after taking the starting job for the club at the World Championships.

Unsurprisingly, multiple NHL teams are interested in the player, and the Edmonton Oilers are likely one of them.

Yesterday, I wrote about a rumour that the Oilers were interested in Elitserien goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum. Here’s what Bob Stauffer had to say about Starkbaum on Oilers Now yesterday:

I don’t think that Starkbaum would be the primary choice for the Edmonton Oilers out of Europe, I think that he might be a back fill. There’s somebody else they’re targeting. There’s a guy out of Finland that’s got a lot of people excited right now, and his name has been mentioned a couple of times. I’m pretty sure Jim Matheson – before Jim got in the bike accident – had written about a goaltender out of Finland named Antti Raanta, who ended up being the number one goaltender for the Finns at the World Hockey Championship. I know that there is at least three or four teams that are significantly in on him, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Oilers were one.

How Good Is He?

Raanta’s 0.943 save percentage ranks him second among Finnish league goaltenders since 2000-01 (the furthest back statistics go at the SM-liiga’s official website), behind only the 0.946 save percentage Tim Thomas managed in 2004-05. Other goaltenders to crack the tough 0.940 save percentage line include Kari Lehtonen (0.941), Niklas Backstrom (0.940) and Tomas Vokoun (0.940). The following list shows every goaltender with a minimum of 20 games played to record at least a 0.930 save percentage in Finland since 2000-01 (though I also included Vokoun and Riku Helenius, since both went to North America in the following year).

And here’s what it looks like if we zoom in on only the guys who made the jump to North America immediately following that season:

Interestingly, both Nurminen (in Atlanta) and Niittymaki (in Philadelphia) would emerge as starters within a few years, albeit with numbers that would have rendered them more suitable for the backup role. The risk is that Raanta won’t be a plug-and-play guy at the NHL level, like those two (and Riku Helenius); he wouldn’t be the first European goalie to need an adjustment period to North America.

The reward is the real possibility of landing a high-end starter Backstrom went from ‘unknown European guy in training camp’ to ‘high-end NHL starter’ basically overnight; Thomas’ journey was a little longer but the result was the same. Tomas Vokoun was already an NHL starter when he posted crooked numbers during the lockout.

A bold team with a solid starter and a fallback plan in the number three role could pencil Raanta in as an NHL backup, the way that Anaheim did with Viktor Fasth this year; the possibility of landing a 24-year old with elite ability just might be enough to justify that kind of roll of the dice.

Streakcred

Don't forget that it's not too late to play StreakCred - the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now it's only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.

Recently around the Nation Network

Lindy Ruff is a popular name when discussing a coaching change here in Edmonton, and his name has also cropped up many other places, including Vancouver. At Canucks Army, Cam Charron argues that Lindy Ruff Is Not a Head Coaching CandidateA quick excerpt:

Which brings us to Lindy Ruff. What does he have to bring? Championship experience? Nope. A new-age, "West Coast Offence"-style? Nope. Youthful exuberance? Nope.

 Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Quicksilver ballet
May 29 2013, 09:36AM
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He actually looks pretty good. Someone to push Dubnyk hard, or even out of the picture totally.

What's a guy like that worth, 4'ish over 3 yrs to start his time over here? At that price could they afford not to, if the Oilers are the chosen best fit situation for him.

Get both of these kids. maybe one pans out.

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#3 Romulus' Apotheosis
May 29 2013, 10:03AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Matheson was in a bike accident?

The Ghost of Hemsky as an Oiler takes first blood.

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#4 15w40
May 29 2013, 09:30AM
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Antti Raanta seems like as good a prospect as any other mentioned.

Question for him will be what works best for him as he is a free agent. He is not going to want to go to a team with an established #1 goaltender but he would likely want to go to a team where he isn't going to get shelled every night and has a chance to win.

Oilers fit on point #1 but not so much on point #2 and point #3 is up for debate.

If they can get a realistic option for another goaltender next year without surrendering any assets, that is the best case scenario.

With respect to the coaching stuff. I really think that after the brass figures out what type of team they are going to assemble going forward, then you find a coach that works or at least can work with those players.

The coach is going to have to be flexible and be able to adapt as opposed to plugging in players into "his" system.

Edit:

Either way, Krueger is going to get at least the first 25 to 30 games to see if he is that guy I would think.

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#6 madjam
May 29 2013, 09:33AM
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He should look good with Ristolainen and Klefbom to protect him .

Only two of last years draftees actually played most games with their teams that I can recall -Yakupov and Galchenyuk out of the first round .

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#7 The Beaker
May 29 2013, 09:42AM
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@15w40

If you are only giving Kruger 25-30 games (he wouldnt have even had a full 82 games under his belt yet) and are really not that sure of him then you get rid of his now and go head hunting for best available coaches. You do not go into the year with him and get whatever coaches are sitting in their underwear on the couch watching netflix in January.

You go into the year expecting to give him the full year unless something goes completely sideways or you don't go into the season with him at all. Enough of this "I'll assess some more" crap.

And as for the Finn, yes, go for it. That just makes sense. Low risk, potentially high reward type scenario. Can only be an upgrade at this point in time for nothing but $$.

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#8 The Beaker
May 29 2013, 09:45AM
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madjam wrote:

He should look good with Ristolainen and Klefbom to protect him .

Only two of last years draftees actually played most games with their teams that I can recall -Yakupov and Galchenyuk out of the first round .

If we go into the year with 2 rookie Dmen in our top 6-7 (never mind one of them only just being drafted) then I will puke. That's one of the worst ideas ive seen in a long time. We'll be looking at McDavid for sure if we do that.

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#10 The Beaker
May 29 2013, 09:49AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The excellent Cody Nickolet says that Minnesota is likely one of the teams interested in Raanta.

Makes sense, given their experience with Backstrom.

They should offer him Parise money.

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#11 Archaeologuy
May 29 2013, 09:52AM
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Matheson was in a bike accident?

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#12 The Beaker
May 29 2013, 09:53AM
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Oh P.S. (sorry for so many posts I'm just bored atm) I know playing in Florida players dont have to pay tax which is an incentive to play there (at least thats what i've read). Do players who play here pay significantly more in tax and therefor a 6 mil contract here isnt the same as a 6 mil contract in say.. Texas?

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#13 Ryan2
May 29 2013, 09:57AM
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The Beaker wrote:

If we go into the year with 2 rookie Dmen in our top 6-7 (never mind one of them only just being drafted) then I will puke. That's one of the worst ideas ive seen in a long time. We'll be looking at McDavid for sure if we do that.

If we go into the year with current blue line then it will not matter who is in net. I caught the 3rd period of the game last night and was amazed at how bad the Oilers' D looks compared to the Sharks and Kings. Until the blue line is addressed it will not matter who the Oil have in net.

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#14 madjam
May 29 2013, 09:57AM
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We went nowhere with our defence last season and Whitney ( 3rd most proficient Oiler defenseman in offensive zone ) is gone making us even weaker . Not like our defence is a stong one to begin with . Can two good rookies do much worse ? I'd be more prone to puke if we try to go with whats left from last season .

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#16 Archaeologuy
May 29 2013, 10:06AM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

That made me laugh

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#17 Ducey
May 29 2013, 10:07AM
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The Beaker wrote:

If we go into the year with 2 rookie Dmen in our top 6-7 (never mind one of them only just being drafted) then I will puke. That's one of the worst ideas ive seen in a long time. We'll be looking at McDavid for sure if we do that.

McDavid is not eligible until the 2015 draft.

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#18 Vaclav
May 29 2013, 10:07AM
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@Jonathan Willis

Any idea why Viktor Fasth wasn't on an ELC last season? He was 29 years old when he signed with Anaheim. Is there an age when you're no longer subject to an ELC and it is just a SPC?

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#19 15w40
May 29 2013, 10:07AM
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@The Beaker

Your are probably right on the coaching in that if management doesn't have confidence enough to give him a full year then change it now.

I was coming at if from the angle that MacT has stated after so many coaching changes - it might not be the coach. He also said he was looking at augmenting the coaching staff, whatever that means.

What my point is, is that if they airlift in 33% of the roster and the ship still looks like its headed into the abyss, then I can't see him sitting on his hands until a whole season goes by again and they finish in the bottom 5 of the league again.

Unless of course they are shooting for the next shiny marble in the 2014 draft.

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#20 northof51
May 29 2013, 10:09AM
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The high SV% in some of these Euro leagues made me wonder about equivalencies across different leagues.

So, I did a (quick) informal comparison of this year's top goalies (SV%) in the NHL and looked back at their AHL stats. Almost every one of them that spent significant time in the AHL (with the exception of Reimer) has a better career SV% in the NHL.

It would be interesting to see if there could be some sort of coefficient assigned to goalies through different leagues, or maybe one exists? (Same as has been done for scoring totals). It would help in projecting some of these Euro goalies...

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#21 Oiler Al
May 29 2013, 10:11AM
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Coming to NHL/AHL gives you a shot of reality, the numbers take a dive, and I think thats playing behind better defense men in some cases.

I guess Backstrom might be the only exception on the list

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#23 Ducey
May 29 2013, 10:16AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Tax rates across the league would be interesting to look into. I've heard that Alberta taxes are better for hockey players than the taxes are in many other jurisdictions, but I've never dug into it.

Alberta has flat 10% tax and therefore is better for higher earning players than other places in Canada.

But the overall tax burden is higher than much of the USA. But its complicated. Here is an NFL example:

http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2013/apr/26/adam-schefter/nfl-reporter-says-no-2-pick-nfl-draft-will-earn-mo/

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#25 The Beaker
May 29 2013, 10:40AM
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Ducey wrote:

McDavid is not eligible until the 2015 draft.

We would be THAT bad.

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#26 Romulus' Apotheosis
May 29 2013, 10:42AM
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@Jonathan Willis

An interesting follow up would be to take Euro goalies who transition to NA (ahl or nhl) with a buffer year, ie., look at the second year in NA.

That might account for a transition period to the different style of play, level of competition and mostly ice.

Dubnyk had an interesting conversation at the Worlds about how the big ice takes time to adjust to because the faceoff dots (which goalies use as visual markers for positioning) aren't where you expect them to be.

At any rate, in the new cap world Euro and College players are going to be key to icing a value roster.

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#27 The Beaker
May 29 2013, 10:47AM
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Ryan2 wrote:

If we go into the year with current blue line then it will not matter who is in net. I caught the 3rd period of the game last night and was amazed at how bad the Oilers' D looks compared to the Sharks and Kings. Until the blue line is addressed it will not matter who the Oil have in net.

I'm advocating addressing the defense. I just dont believe having 1/3 of your defense being rookies is addressing defense.

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#28 The Beaker
May 29 2013, 10:49AM
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madjam wrote:

We went nowhere with our defence last season and Whitney ( 3rd most proficient Oiler defenseman in offensive zone ) is gone making us even weaker . Not like our defence is a stong one to begin with . Can two good rookies do much worse ? I'd be more prone to puke if we try to go with whats left from last season .

So our only two options are:

1) go into the year with the exact same defense as last year 2) Only add 2 rookies to improve the defense?

Wasnt aware of that. Our goals should be WAY loftier than "doing no worse than last year".

Hell, why dont we ship out Nick Schultz too and add Marincin into the lineup next year and have 2/3 of our defense have less than 50 games experience?

Lets actually try to have a real defense instead.

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#29 Rondo
May 29 2013, 11:13AM
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@ Jonathan Willis

I was listening to the interview with Kyle Woodlief by Bob Stauffer yesterday. He asked Kyle about the top 6 players , he left out Elias Lindholm which is odd because the Oilers don’t talk about him either. Kinda begs the question.

Any reason why he did not ask seems like an obvious question given the top 6 will be gone before the Oilers pick

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#30 nunyour
May 29 2013, 11:29AM
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I wonder if the oilers have any interest in Wennberg from Sweden? Haven't heard much about him.

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#31 The Other Ron Burgundy
May 29 2013, 11:30AM
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If we're talking a million-ish for a very unproven commodity, I'd much prefer the proven guy we should be able to get for not much more than that - Khudobin. Currently makes $875 so $1.25-$1.5 seems reasonable. Yes I know he's not really proven with 21 NHL games played, but he's put up very good numbers in those games, and his time in the AHL and in the KHL during the lockout suggests those numbers may not be a fluke. Plan B- Thomas Greiss. This guy seems like a reasonable plan C through F though.

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#32 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
May 29 2013, 11:47AM
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Good work, JW.

Thanks for feeding this site with relevant info during the dog days of Oilers summer.

PS. GO WINGS!

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#33 WhattaMike
May 29 2013, 12:18PM
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Raanta is definitely intriguing as a player and the Oilers will have to make an excellent sales pitch with others teams like Minnesota interested too.

That being said, its the Oilers defensive play and Dubnyk's regular type odd bad goal a game/not great puck handling skill that concern me most.

The defence has to change cause Whitney, Peckham had horrible years. Smid/Petry and Nick schultz were too average from how they played the year before. J. Schultz is a high end rookie who is now learning, and Potter/Fistric did not do anything special or play too much.

I have said before that realistically the Oil should go for both Streit (UFA-NYI), Alzner (UFA-Wash)and see what Klefbom can do.

If Klefbom plays like pretty much like Brodin did with Minnesota this year, there is one jackpot the Oil have to go with J. Schultz.

Streit - Klefbom...Alzner - J. Schultz,...Smid - Petry would be a very good type set of defencemen plus N. Schultz and Potter as extras is not too bad either.

This is not a too costly defence core either for say the next two years....with prospects like Marancin, Musil, Gernat, getting ready by then

I dont believe N.Schultz woiuld want to be an extra though. In this case the oil can look to trust Taylor Fedun as an extra.. Anyways witrh a defence core like this Dubnyk and Raanta, Smith, Khudobin, etc, would have even better save percentages/goals against averages.

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#34 voom04
May 29 2013, 03:42PM
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whattamike, that would be awesome,who would be 1st pairing though, klefbom a rook, justin seemed tired in the shortened season, mite have to break smid,petry pairing up: streit-petry?, J.S.-smid, alzner-klefbom. Harmonic wouldn`t be a bad pick-up,only 22yr old but been in the league a few yrs.

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#35 voom04
May 29 2013, 03:46PM
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really hope Tayler Fedun is back to 100% and makes the big club also

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#36 WhattaMike
May 29 2013, 05:40PM
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Voom 04.... I think Hamonic from the NYI would be a good addition too and the Oil could offer a trade of Nick Schultz for him plus maybe a 2014 3rd to 5th rounder.

This is if the Oil want/can get Streit (UFA) and Alzner (UFA) both.

Having Streit and Alzner here teaching and being with J. Schultz, Klefbom, and say...Hamonic...to go with Smid/Petry would be so effective and quite the upgrade. Then Fedun (call up) and Potter here as extras are not a bad thing.

Its the goaltending that gets the most relief with this type core defence which is definitely more so a puck possession defence like Mac T wants.

These guys would help Dubnyk bring up his percentage and down his GA average significantly. The PP and PK would be good with this defence core too.

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#37 flyin ryan
May 29 2013, 10:08PM
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What's this about Jim Matheson & a bike accident?? Follow as much as I can but have been working in the U.S. since Nov. Went to the Oiler game when they came to PHX. Sorry to sidetrack the thread....

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#38 TV6
May 30 2013, 06:41PM
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@WhattaMike

Alzner is a RFA...

As for the Finn... Go for it, the 50 player roster limit won't be an issue by July 5th with MacT at the helm.

x6

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