The Edmonton Oilers made a player move today, and its impact on the organization has several implications. Huge (6.06, 216) Finn goaltender Niko Hovinen was plucked off waivers and then assigned to the OKC Barons. Hovinen was a Minnesota Wild draft pick in 2006 (5th round, one slot ahead of Oilers selection Bryan Pitton) who had a couple of terrific seasons in Finland’s SM-Liiga (he played for the Pelicans–Lathi, he’s in blue above–and posted SP’s of .914, .921 and .920) before signing with the Philadelphia Flyers in May of 2011.
That September, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren framed the signing this way:
- Holmgren: “It’s pretty common for goalies, especially a real big kid like Hovinen, to take a little longer to mature, both physically and mentally. There’s a learning curve they all go through, and some players need more time than others. It’s pretty much one step at a time for most of these guys.”
In the past, Hovinen gave great credit to Pelicans goalie coach Pasi Nurminen for progress, and one expects Oilers goaltending consultant Frédéric Chabot will spend plenty of time with him. Since joining the Oilers in July 2009, the Oilers have acquired:
- Tyler Bunz, 2010 entry draft
- Samu Perhonen, 2011 entry draft
- Frans Tuohimaa, 2011 entry draft
And on the pro level, they’ve added the following since Chabot arrived:
- Yann Danis, free agent signing July 4, 2011
Olivier Roy, OKC Barons (Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)
The Oilers organizational depth chart might look like this today:
- Devan Dubnyk
- Yann Danis
- Nikolai Khabibulin
- Olivier Roy
- Niko Hovinen
- Tyler Bunz
- Frans Tuohimaa (SM-Liiga, Finland’s top pro league)
- Samu Perhonen (Finland-2)
- Nikolai Khabibulin is some way from returning, and or the Oilers aren’t confident in his ability to stay healthy. If the club activates NK and sends Danis down, they risk waivers on the only real candidate for backup duty (aside from Nikolai Khabibulin).
- Tyler Bunz hasn’t played yet at the AHL level; his .878SP in the ECHL suggests that may be a good idea. Today’s move makes it possible for the Oilers to send Bunz back to Lodi.
- I always wonder about who impacts the goalie choices for an NHL organization. Since Chabot arrived, the Oilers have drafted three goalies–one from the WHL and two from Finland–and based on Chabot’s background his ability to acquire a good scouting report on Hovinen and then make a recommendation about him would seem to be a given.
- I like this kind of pickup–very low risk, and a very nice possible return–and am pleased the organization is addressing need. On the heels of the Fistric acquisition I believe that we should expect the organization to be more active and aggressive than they were before MacT arrived in a management capacity. Whether that was Steve Tambellini’s plan all along, whether in means Kevin Lowe is more likely to acquire now that the rebuild has turned a corner, I do not know. I can say there’s a change in the weather.