At number 20 in our Winnipeg Jets Top 25 Under 25 we find our third goaltender in a row. The best method for gaining strong NHL calibre goaltenders is to accumulate as many potentials as possible and the Jets have succeeded in this. Over three off-seasons, Kevin Chevaldayoff and company have drafted four goaltenders. What has impressed me even more was Chevaldayoff also made the savvy move of signing two RFA goaltenders: Michael Hutchinson -- a promising goaltender who fell out of Boston making way for blue-chip Malcolm Subban-- and Juho Olkinuora.
Previous Rank: NR
From Europe, to North America, to Europe and back to North America
We start with Juho Olkinuora only playing for Finland's U16 program. He must have impressed at least somewhat, as Olkinuora was one of eight goaltenders to play for the Finland's U16 national team at tournaments that year, although he only was in net for one game. The following year Olkinuora moved up an age group where he split the games 50/50 with another goaltender, although Juho's Sv% and GAA was much better. Unfortunately the low levels have very little information available and not much is known about Olkinuora's time there.
In an interesting twist, Olkinuora decided to move to North America to play Midget level hockey, perhaps with next year in mind as he was nearing his draft eligibility. He finished the season with a 0.913 save percentage, which was 3rd in the entire league.
Whether due to no CHL or USHL team being interested, homesick, or just a preference in options available, Juho Olkinuora moved back to the Finland. He was signed to play back up for Frans Tuohimaa -- an Edmonton Oilers 7th round pick from the year prior -- in the the premier Finnish junior league. Olkinuora ended up outplaying Tuohimaa, posting a better save percentage and winning the number one spot part way through the year. Juho finished the season with a decent playoff run but unfortunately it wasn't enough to have him drafted.
The next season the duel for icetime between Tuohimaa and Olkinuora continued, although it was much closer this time. Still, Olkinuora finished the season playing a few more games and posting a better save percentage than his teammate. The team finished first in the league but ultimately lost in the finals. Olkinuora's save percentage was 4th in the league, falling just behind Antti Raanta, a goalie the Winnipeg Jets were in mix for signing last season.
Once again, Olkinuora turned to North America, becoming the lone European goalie in the USHL that year. He ended up playing back up to the younger Stephon Williams -- who in 2013 was drafted by New York Islanders in the 3rd round in his second eligible year -- although Juho got the NCAA scholarship he was looking for.
Juho Olkinuora came into Denver, expecting to be the third string goalie as norm for freshmen goaltenders; however, injuries arose to both goaltenders and Olkinuora took the opportunity and ran with it. He ended up successfully taking over the starter role and posted the 19th best save percentage of the 90 NCAA goalies with 10+ games played. He was then named to the WCHA All-Rookie team for his accomplishments.
Olkinuora continued the next season as the starter, playing far more games than his two older teammates. He finished with the 17th best save percentage for NCAA goalies with 10+ games played and took home nominations for WCHA All-Academic Team, WCHA Second All-Star Team and NCAA West Second All-American Team.
Olkinuora decided to leave the NCAA to go pro and signed with the Winnipeg Jets, making him the 3rd Jet that season to be in the top 20 of NCAA save percentage (the other two being Connor Hellebuyck at 1st and Jason Kasdorf at 6th). Unlike the other two Jets, Olkinuora has two seasons of success in the NCAA making his sample size slightly more indicative. Throughout these two years, Olkinuora faced 1400 shots against with an impressive 0.926 save percentage.
A random note of trivia:
Fighting in the NCAA is rare due to the full face shields but also due to stricter enforcement and penalties. Olkinuora was actually once suspended for fighting after a game had finished.
Return of the three headed monster
In the 2011-12 season, three goalies ended up competing for the IceCaps starter position, with Eddie Pasquale coming out on top. The next season Pasquale enjoyed being the undisputed starter even though he had an off year. Once again though we return to the infamous three-headed monster setup with Craig Heisinger openly stating that the roles are up for grabs between Eddie Pasquale, Juho Olkinuora and Michael Hutchinson. Wherever he ends up, the spots ECHL starter, AHL backup or AHL starter will available for Olkinuora to earn.
The Jets have built themselves a nice 5 goalie system depth, having three goaltenders with some NHL upside in the minors. The fact that two of them were not even drafted by the organization shows wise decision making, solid scouting and understanding that there are resources available outside of the traditional draft and develop avenues. Don't be surprised if one of these three goaltenders are playing backup to Pavelec next season.