Image via Matthew Henderson
"Swedish goalies, unite!"
It’s a little-known fact that one of the reasons Mike Gillis was hired as Canucks GM is his Swedish-goalie power ring. It’s useful in finding big Swedish dudes who want to stop pucks for a living and are highly regarded across the board.
I kid of course (about the ring part). The rest is true. Joacim Eriksson is big, and he’s highly regarded.
How highly regarded? Click past the jump to find out.
Originally drafted by the Flyers an eight-round pick all the way back in ’08, Eriksson never came to terms with the Broad Streeters and instead stayed in Sweden, looking for wild game. He spent two years as Jacob Markstrom’s backup, something that could have been his whole story, the highlight of his career – "hey, remember those two years where I didn’t play but the guy in front went to the NHL? Those were sweet."
Thankfully, well for his sake anyway, Eriksson has a little more ambition than that. He moved on from a very successful junior career with Brynas to Leksand, in the 2nd-tier Swedish Allsvenskan. That gave him a regular job in a senior men’s league. And that’s where he truly began to flourish.
The following season he made the move from Skelltefea of the Elitserien, which proved to be a smart career choice. He has now registered back-to-back sub-2.00 GAA and, more importantly, a save percentage well above .930. Skelltefea also won the whole kit and kaboodle this year, on the back of Eriksson’s dominance in net.
So, what do we know? He’s Swedish, he’s had success at home and there have been a bevy of successful Swedish goalies in the past decade. Certainly he could be great.
But will he?
Six teams were said to be in the hunt for him this summer, after his championship turn. The ‘why Vancouver?’ part leads only to speculation, but the facts are that: 1. Eddie Lack is coming off of hip surgery and 2. The Canucks only have one other goalie – Roberto Luongo – ready to play in the NHL.
From the Canucks’ perspective the math was pretty straightforward: Lu is going to be the guy, Lack is probably number 2, so take a flyer on your number 3. You can never have too many chips in your hand. Bring in Eriksson to be the number 3; maybe he steals Lack’s job, maybe he’s ready in a year, maybe he lets you make a goalie move somewhere down the line.
When Eriksson signed with the Canucks back in June, Drance noted that there was a chance that Eriksson could make the jump straight to backup status. Of course, we also thought Cory Schneider was going to be the goalie back then. It’s still very possible that Eriksson earns a spot out of camp as the team’s backup, but for that to happen, he would have to seriously outplay the incumbent, Eddie Lack. We’ll get more into this when Lack gets profiled next week, so hang tight.
Speaking to the Vancouver Sun after the signing, Laurence Gilman revealed that the team has had Eriksson on their radar for more than a year; they tried to sign him last year, in fact.
One final point point: there’ve not been many Swedish goalies who have made the jump directly from Sweden to the NHL. Henrik Lundqvist did, but of course he is also at the top of the heap. Is Eriksson a Lundqvist-calibre goalie? No one is saying he is, but no one really seems to know quite what Eriksson’s ceiling might be. The only thing that has drawn consensus is he’s good enough to play in the big leagues; the question now is "when". It could be this year, or we could have to wait another year.
Why did the Flyers let him go, if he’s that close to make the jump? It’s the Flyers, who knows.