As the resident goalie guy at CanucksArmy, I have spent the last month researching the goaltenders of this draft class, and have narrowed my list down to five that I could realistically see the Vancouver Canucks drafting. These will be deep dives into each goaltender’s game, so buckle up for this five-part series.
Last year, there were reports that the Canucks had their eye on a goaltender who they would have selected in the third round, if he was available.
That goaltender was later revealed to be Finnish goaltender Joel Blomqvist, who was snatched up by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round before the Canucks had a shot at drafting him.
In an appearance on Halford and Brough on Sportsnet 650, goaltending coach Ian Clark heavily insinuated that the Canucks would try to select a goaltender in this year’s draft.
“We didn’t take a goalie last year in the draft,” said Clark. “I’m an advocate for taking a goaltender two out of every three years, so not taking one last year would mean we would like to take one this year. uncertain though as all drafts take a life of their own.”
Because the Canucks should absolutely be using their first two picks to select position players to help replenish their now bare-looking prospect cupboards, you won’t see names like Jesper Wallstedt or Sebastian Cossa in this series. There is value to be found in the later rounds, and the Canucks have the right voice at the helm to help them find those diamonds in the rough.
While the identity of the goaltender Clark and the Canucks could be interested in remains unknown, I’ve got my eye on five that they should be interested in selecting in this year’s upcoming draft.
First up: Aku Koskenvuo
Similar to Latvian-born netminder Arturs Silovs, who the Canucks drafted in 2019, Aku Koskenvuo is an extremely raw talent with a ton of upside.
I’d argue that he’s further along in his technical abilities than Silovs was when the Canucks drafted him, but nonetheless, Koskenvuo is the definition of a project goaltender.
With the right training and development — which he’d have a great chance of getting if he becomes property of the Canucks — Koskenvuo has serious potential to one day make fans and teams alike look at his draft selection and say “how on earth did he fall to that round?”
Ranked fourth among European goaltenders, Koskenvuo played in the same Finnish junior league as Joel Blomqvist, but posted far less spectacular numbers.
At the U18’s however, Koskenvuo emerged as Finland’s number one goalie and people took notice.
Here’s what Shaun Richardson of FC Hockey had to say:
For a player of his stature, he moved well both laterally and out beyond the top of his crease. Koskenvuo challenged shooters as they drove to the net from various angles and his puck tracking looked very good as he was able to follow the play through crowds and below the goal line. In one sequence Koskenvuo took away what seemed to be a guaranteed goal when he was able to track a rebound toward his blocker side and quickly move laterally to take away the open net. Engaging in reactionary saves and taking advantage of his athletic abilities is when Koskenvuo is at his best. He was quick with his pads, able to get up and down well and had a decent blocker.
At 6’4, Koskenvuo is very similar to Silovs in that they are both incredibly athletic goaltenders who have no problem sealing off the bottom of the net thanks to their long legs.
Koskenvuo’s positioning and crease movement is a goaltending coach’s dream, as he has very little wasted movement, and has good positional awareness, similar to Michael DiPietro.
The main concern with Koskenvuo is his hands. His glove and blocker are just okay, but these issues can certainly be fixed with some proper guidance.
The main issue with Koskenvuo’s hands is that he often keeps his glove to his side, rather than out in front of him, activated.
Perhaps the thing that makes Koskenvuo most intriguing as a prospect is that he’s committed to Harvard University, and will become the first Finnish-born player to play for the school.
He’s going to get great coaching there and he’s going to get accustomed to the North American style of game in a hurry, which should eventually translate to success at the professional level.
All in all, Koskenvuo is a high-upside goaltender who plays in the same league as Joel Blomqvist did and is on the right track when it comes to forging out a career at the pro level in North America.
It’s extremely possible that he’s there for the Canucks to select in the fifth round, and maybe even later than that.
Stay tuned for part 2 of 5 in the coming days!