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.
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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 Candidate. A 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: