Assuming that Roberto Luongo does finally get traded this off-season, the Canucks will need a backup for Cory Schneider. They have a few different options for finding one: they could try to get a goaltender back in the Luongo deal, sign one of the older, veteran goaltenders in free agency, or let their goaltending prospects battle for the job.
The latter option isn’t particularly appealing, since the Canucks’ available goaltending prospects are Eddie Lack, Joe Cannata, and…nope, that’s it.
At least, that was it, as it appears that they have signed another goaltending prospect: Joacim Eriksson.
Kudos to vancitydan over at Nucks Misconduct for picking up on this: Eriksson’s NHL.com page currently shows him as a member of the Vancouver Canucks despite no official announcement from the team or the league.
His signing also hasn’t been reported anywhere in the mainstream media or, rather, there are no reports in the media on this side of the Atlantic. As Nucks Misconduct commenter Zanstorm pointed out, Swedish newspaper Norran has reported on the signing.
Via the science-magic of Google Translate, here are the key elements of their report:
It is now clear that Skellefteå AIK’s golden goalie joins brothers Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks. Joacim Eriksson has signed a contract with the Canadian NHL club. All that remains now is that the NHL must approve the transfer.
“Joacim has decided to Vancouver and we agree on a contract,” says Joacim Eriksson’s agent Joakim Persson.
“Nothing is still evident, the agreement must be approved by the NHL. I can only confirm that we agree on the contract.”
It appears that the league has yet to approve the contract, meaning nothing is official, but NHL.com spilled the beans. I suspect that it was faxed to the NHL offices right at 4:59 PM, just after everyone but the web editor had logged out of their computers and were about to head out the door. Nothing ever gets done late on a Friday.
So, who is Joacim Eriksson? Up until June 2011, he was one of the top prospects in the Philadelphia Flyers organization. The Flyers picked him in the seventh round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but failed to get him signed to a contract by the deadline set in the Swedish transfer agreement with the NHL and lost his rights.
Now, two years later, it appears that the Canucks have signed the 23-year-old goaltender to a two-year entry-level contract. Flyers blog Broad Street Hockey was not happy when the team lost Eriksson’s rights:
We say that [Eric] Wellwood is the best prospect in the organization, but until now, that title went to Eriksson.
Drafted 196th overall by the Flyers in 2008, he played this past season in Sweden’s Elitserien, the top league in that country. He expected to get more starts than he did, but being stuck behind an experienced veteran cost him some games.
But Eriksson was not far off, and he almost came over the pond last summer. He’s considered the second-best Swedish goaltending prospect behind Jacob Markstrom, the highly-touted netminder in the Florida Panthers system. Hockey’s Future ranked him above Sergei Bobrovsky in their September 2010 rankings of Flyers’ prospects. Niko Hovinen, the free-agent goalie signed by the Flyers a few weeks back, doesn’t come close to Eriksson.
Now, he’s gone. The Philadelphia Flyers just let their top prospect walk for nothing.
It’s really pretty incomprehensible. It has nothing to do with money or the desire to trade draft picks away for players they think can help the team win now. There simply is no justification for it. It’s just a complete failure.
Back then, Flyers fans were excited about the prospect of a goaltending tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Joacim Eriksson. Now Bobrovsky is excelling in Columbus and Eriksson is out of the organization and looks to be heading to Vancouver. Meanwhile, the Flyers have a tandem of Ilya Bryzgalov and Steve Mason.
Eriksson was clearly highly regarded back in 2011 and the subsequent two seasons did nothing to change that. After starting just 17 games in his rookie year in the Swedish Elite League, he took over the number one job for Skellefteå in 2011-12 and posted a sterling .935 save percentage and 1.73 goals against average, finishing second and fourth in the league in those categories.
His dominant performance in a very tough league at such a young age is remarkable and seems to indicate that he could be very successful in the NHL. For example, at the same age, Henrik Lundqvist put up very similar numbers in the Swedish Elite League: a .936 SV% and 1.79 GAA, then a .961 SV% and 1.05 GAA in the playoffs.
If the Canucks have indeed signed Eriksson, then it’s a fantastic addition to their goaltending depth, as Eriksson is potentially ready to immediately play at the NHL-level. At the very least, he could battle for the backup job with his fellow Swede, Eddie Lack.
Lack was the favourite to take over the backup role once Schneider was promoted to be the permanent number one, but he had a disappointing 2012-13 season with the Chicago Wolves that ended early thanks to a hip injury that required surgery. Lack’s first two seasons in the AHL, however, confirmed that he is a talented goaltender with NHL potential and will be tough competition for Eriksson at training camp.
After Lack on the depth chart is Joe Cannata, who had a very successful four-year stint with Merrimack College, including a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2011. Cannata certainly has potential and looked good in his 14 games in the AHL last season, but he’s not quite ready for NHL action next season. Without Eriksson or the addition of an NHL veteran, Lack would essentially have no competition for the backup job, which is not an ideal situation by any means.
If Eriksson does sign with the Canucks, we could see Schneider backed up by one of Eriksson or Lack, with the other starting in Utica with Cannata as his backup.Tags: Joacim Eriksson, Prospects