📝 by Patrick Williams
Oskari Salminen has appeared in 12 of the Manitoba Moose’s first 18 video games, rating him among the many busiest goaltenders within the American Hockey League.
However that could be a downright mild workload for the 23-year-old, comparatively talking. In any case, this can be a workhorse who performed 55 of 60 video games for his Finnish membership Mikkelin Jukurit final season. Put one other method, that’s 92 p.c of his membership’s schedule in considered one of Europe’s prime circuits.
Citing the chance for extra enjoying time after showing in solely 14 video games the yr earlier than, Salminen joined Jukurit in 2021 and helped the crew to a second-place end within the league and a spot within the postseason subject for the primary time since being promoted from Finland’s second-division league earlier than the 2016-17 season. He went 29-14-11 with a 2.07 goals-against common, a .920 save share and a league-best 9 shutouts.
Salminen stated the heavy workload “wasn’t too unhealthy, as a result of once you’re doing [well], you don’t really feel all of the stress. It retains you in sort of a rhythm.”
With that success, it was time for a brand new problem. Salminen and his agent combed by means of their choices and landed on the Winnipeg Jets. Whereas Connor Hellebuyck is the undisputed number-one goaltender, Salminen noticed long-term alternative in Winnipeg. He signed a two-year, entry-level contract in Could.
That call would possibly repay for Salminen. Mikhail Berdin, a fixture with the Moose for the previous 4 seasons, returned house to Russia to be nearer to his household. Hellebuyck’s back-up, David Rittich, signed with the Jets within the offseason, however it is just a one-year deal. Arvid Holm, Salminen’s accomplice with the Moose, is the group’s solely different professional goaltender below contract for the time being.
After the Younger Stars Traditional prospects match in Penticton, B.C., after which coaching camp with the Jets — “It was actually enjoyable to be with one of the best of one of the best,” he stated — Salminen started his North American profession with the Moose and made a fast impression, shutting out the Rockford IceHogs in his debut on Oct. 16.
He may also bail his crew out. Throughout a go to to Texas final month, the offensively harmful Stars had surprised Manitoba with two targets within the closing 1:02 of regulation on the way in which to a 6-5 time beyond regulation win. However the subsequent night time, Salminen made 39 saves to earn a cut up of the two-game set. Final week, he stopped 38 photographs to assist the Moose seize some extent in a shootout loss to Central Division chief Milwaukee. Salminen is 4-0-0 with a 1.21 GAA and a .962 save share when beginning a recreation after a Moose loss, and 6-3-1 (2.52, .915) total this season.
“I really feel like I’ve adjusted,” Salminen stated of taking up the AHL, a league the place opponents can ship photographs from anyplace within the defensive zone. “It’s a lot faster. It’s up-and-down, particularly in comparison with Finland, the place there’s a lot of lure and defensive play. You must be prepared.”
Salminen has been capable of regulate to the comparatively lighter workload as properly. The Moose’s geography necessitates a demanding journey schedule throughout the far-flung Central Division and past; Manitoba kicks off a four-game journey west to Abbotsford and Calgary this weekend. Salminen and Holm with the ability to share the online successfully is a should, they usually have performed so, serving to Manitoba to a 10-5-2-1 begin by means of the primary quarter of the season.
“It’s been good,” Salminen stated of incomes sufficient work in internet. “It’s nonetheless one or two video games per week. While you get one or two video games per week, you get to maintain the rhythm, so it helps.”
Salminen and the Winnipeg group put in appreciable offseason work changing into extra conversant in one another. He skilled in Helsinki over the summer time, and his goaltending coach there rapidly acquired in contact with Moose counterpart Drew MacIntyre after the brand new contract was signed. MacIntyre, whose 17-year professional profession included 440 video games for 9 AHL groups (together with the Moose from 2006-08), helped tailor an offseason coaching plan that had Salminen good to go when it was time to go to Winnipeg for camp.
The pair have hit it off rapidly.
“I like [MacIntyre] quite a bit,” Salminen stated. “He’s a younger goalie coach, who’s actually on this stuff and likes to develop himself additionally.
“I really feel like I’m in a very good place now.”
Patrick Williams has been on the American Hockey League beat for practically twenty years for shops together with NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, The Hockey Information, SiriusXM NHL Community Radio and SLAM! Sports activities, and is at the moment the co-host of The Hockey News On The ‘A’ podcast. He was the recipient of the AHL’s James H. Ellery Memorial Award for his excellent protection of the league in 2016.