September 06 2011 07:41AM
Considering Roberto Luongo's absurdly long contract, and the plucky efforts of Cory Schneider, you'll forgive most Vancouver fans for ignoring the other netminders in their pipeline. Eddie Lack deserves your attention, if for no other reason than he could well be the next goalie to back up #1 should Schneider be dealt for
Zach Parise anyone down the line. So what does the immediate future hold for the big Swede waiting patiently in the wings?
Eddie Lack, nickednamed the Stork because of his lanky 6 foot 5 frame, and his willingness to deliver babies down chimnies - was the biggest surprise in Vancouver's training camp last year. Before camp, Lack had played three seasons with Leksands IF before moving to the Swedish Elite League to back up Rookie of the Year goalie Jacob Markstrom. It was there that he caught the attention of Vancouer scout Lars Lindgren, who convinced Gillis to quietly sign the undrafted netminder to a two-year deal.
Lack was up against Michael Houser and Tyler Weiman in training camp, but quickly stole the show with a strong performance in the prospects tourney, and a solid showing in pre-season games against the Oilers and Sharks. Beyond that there was his jovial, carefree nature which, is a quick way to get in well with a media corps that doesn't know you.
Lack credits Pekka Alcén (Brynas goalie coach) with teaching him the technical foundations of being a goalie. Lack's size and his previous training, allowed the gangly keeper to hit the ground running with Canucks goalie coach Roland Melanson. As long as "pumping tires" is fresh in our minds, check out what Manitoba Moose coach Claude Noel said about the youngster: "He reminds me a lot of [Pekka Rinne], big guy, same type of style, good feet, covers the bottom of the net and he reminds me of the same demeanor as Rinne, he’s really upbeat and enthusiastic and he's a hard worker."
When Lack landed in Manitoba it was only a matter of time before he yanked the starting job away from Weiman, and earned himself a far greater number of games than he'd experienced in Sweden.
|2009-2010||Brynas IF Gavle||SEL||14||809||-||-||-||0.911||2.67|
That's a pretty considerable difference in workload. For comparison, Schneider only once played more than 50 games (in the 2009-2010 campaign) and though he ended up with more wins, he also had a 2.51 GAA and a .919 SV%. Lack didn't have trouble adjusting to the North American professional style of play, adding five shutouts along the way and guiding the Moose to a playoff birth. Lack actually got better in the post season, posting a 1.99 GAA and a .932 SV% before the Moose tapped out in the North Division final to the Hamilton Bulldogs. He was also named to the AHL All-Rookie team, an accolade achieved by NHL netminders like J.S. Giguere and Cam Ward.
Keep in mind that the Moose's parent club was routinely calling up defenseman, making Lack's achievements even more impresive. Ryan Blight, who followed the Moose closely last season and now writes for the Winnipeg Jet's SBN site Arctic Ice Hockey, echoed this sentiment when he recalled Lack's season:
I watched Eddie Lack a lot last year, and he was easily the best player on the Moose most nights. While his numbers were very impressive, it was his demeanor in the net that really caught my eye. He was smooth, calm and always in great position. The revolving door of Moose defenseman (half of them were up with the Canucks) caused a fair number of defensive breakdowns, but Lack was often there to bail out the team. The Moose were hardly an offensive juggernaut last season, and Lack kept them in many games that they shouldn't have been in. In my estimation he was the most valuable player on the team.
Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild shared this insight:
What made Eddie Lack such a special goaltender last year was his smooth transition from Sweden to the AHL. The key to his overall in-game success as a rookie was his excellent positioning. His ability to square up to AHL shooter by arriving on his angles with precision and balance, especially at such a consistent level, was exceptional. He is an even-keeled and "quiet" guy in the crease, so he was tough to knock off his game or catch out of position. In the games I watched him play last season, he always seemed to get his big body behind pucks and soak up rebounds.
So what can be expected of Lack heading into the 2011-2012 season? The safe money says he returns to the AHL with the Chicago Wolves and looks to prove last years brilliant rookie campaign wasn't a fluke. Lack hasn't seen any NHL action, which, suggests it might be a bit premature to think he's ready to step in at that level. Schneider's excellent 2010-2011 performance has raised the bar for Vancouver at the backup position - so Lack will likely need an injury to either of the Canucks current goaltenders in order to see any NHL action next season. The offseason additions of Matt Climie, and the signing of Manny Legace to a PTO will keep Lack honest at camp.
No matter what happens, Lack is the latest under the radar signing that has seemingly developed quickly in the Vancouver system. Lack further solidies the one position where Vancouver is rock solid. If he can continue his maturation and technical progression, it's only a matter of time before he gets his shot on the big stage. Whether that opportunity is with Vancouver, or someone else is something we'll have to wait and see.