The Flames had six picks in 2009. Among those selected were Tim Erixon (who is terrible, sucks, actually the worst, and should rot on the Blue Jackets’ farm team for eternity with his stupid face while beautiful glorious TJ Brodie continues playing amazing defence for the Flames and isn’t bad and incompetent at hockey and didn’t demand a trade to daddy’s team like a little bitch), Ryan Howse (who struggled with weight and bounced up and down between the AHL and ECHL before deciding he’d had enough and retiring at the age of 21), Henrik Bjorklund (who would have been great to play on a line with Rene Bourque and Mikael Backlund; alas, he’s playing in Sweden now), Spencer Bennett (ECHL), and Gaelan Patterson (ECHL).
Just one player from the Flames’ 2009 draft class remains with the organization. Selected in the sixth round, 171st overall, a 6’1", 185 lbs. goalie from Turku, Finland. It sounds like a time warped Miikka Kiprusoff, and hopefully, that’s what Joni Ortio will turn out to be.
One for six (maybe): 17%
When we looked at the 2007 and 2008 drafts, we had established NHLers to look at. You could look at the Flames’ draft class and say, "Yes, this was a good draft," or, "No, everything went terrible here." Enough time has passed to get a pretty good read on those drafts, or at least the start of one.
Maybe enough time should have passed for the 2009 draft, but it hasn’t. Not yet. There are already several graduates from that class, but all we, as Flames fans, have to look at is a single former sixth rounder.
Is that enough? Remember that a 30% success rate is ideal, but 15% is okay, too. One successful draft pick out of six meets the lesser mark. So, if Ortio turns out to be the real deal, does that mean the Flames’ 2009 draft turned out okay?
That’s still a big "if". The lower you go in the draft, the less likely you are to find an NHLer. Sure, you hear about outliers, but they’re called outliers for a reason – they don’t conform to what would be the expected experience of someone in that position. If you’re relying on finding a successful outlier, your strategy probably isn’t going to yield results.
Is it unfair to compare Ortio to Kiprusoff this early? Yep. Is it gonna happen anyway? Yep. They’re from the same town, played the same position on the same teams (TPS Turku and the Flames), have the same physical stats, play a similar style, and know each other.
(Side note: read this article from The Atlantic on Finnish goaltending if you haven’t already. In addition to being really well written, Kiprusoff gets talked about a great deal, and Ortio comes up in it as well. It’s a great read.)
After being drafted, Ortio stayed in Finland. His draft+1 season didn’t go particularly well, and he played just one game for Abbotsford in his draft+2 season (posting a .800 SV%) before going back to Finland (although he did represent the Finns at the World Juniors, and was one of the best goalies of the tournament, posting a .931 SV% before the Finns were eliminated by the eventual-champion Russians).
Ortio’s numbers improved, and he was back in North America for his draft+3 season. This time he lasted nine games and posted a .860 SV% before returning home for the season, where he suited up for 14 games for his hometown TPS with a .908 SV%.
Draft+4 season, the 2012-13 season, saw Ortio spend his entire year in Finland, putting him on the backburner as far as Flames prospects went. He continued to improve, though, starting for a middling HIFK team and posting a .917 SV% along the way. His save percentage improved to .922 over eight playoff games.
That brings us to this past season. Since being drafted, Ortio had played a handful of AHL games, mostly faring poorly, and spending four years in Finland, steadily improving. Kiprusoff’s retirement left a gaping hole in net for the Flames, and this time, Ortio stayed over.
He initially bounced up and down between the ECHL and AHL while the Flames were dealing with a logjam in net (at the start of the season, they had Ortio, along with Joey MacDonald, Karri Ramo, Reto Berra, and Laurent Brossoit). While Berra was starting for the Heat, Ortio and Brossoit alternated leagues so they could get some starting time. Ortio immediately proved himself above the ECHL, and when Berra was promoted to the Flames, he took over the starter’s role in Abbotsford.
The time in Finland clearly did him a lot of good, because Ortio thrived in his new role. He finished off with a .926 SV%, second best in the AHL. He was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team, and was one of the biggest reasons the Heat saw the success this season that they did.
Injuries also saw Ortio get called up to the NHL, where he posted a .891 SV% and 4-4 record over his first nine games (he was pulled from the ninth after giving up four goals on 13 shots). He posted save percentages above .920 in two games, his highest being a .968 SV% effort against the Senators for his first win.
He also got two assists within his first six games, which is pretty friggin’ neat.
Was 2009 a good year?
Ortio has shown some promise in regards to becoming an NHLer. His stint with the Flames showed he needed some more time, and according to Brian Burke, he’ll likely return as the AHL team’s starter so he can continue playing.
But his steady improvement over the years indicates the Flames may have found a quality NHL goaltender within the depths of the draft. If that turns out to be the case, and Calgary found an impact player, then that’s good, right?
It’s still a big if – but this draft hasn’t panned out as a total disaster yet.