Back in 2003, the Calgary Flames traded for their franchise goalie. They didn't know that's what he was at the time, of course, but when they got Miikka Kiprusoff, they were set in net for the next decade.
All good things have to come to an end, though. For the time being, the Flames have found stopgaps in between their Kipper tenure, but not whoever ends up taking his spot long-term. Some temporary netminders have been older, established starters (Jonas Hiller), some have been finding their way (Karri Ramo), some have been... present (Reto Berra). But in all likelihood, none are going to be franchise guys.
The next star goalie for the Flames may have already suited up for them a few times, though. At 6'1 and 185 lbs, not to mention from Turku, Finland, Joni Ortio checks all the Miikka Kiprusoff boxes. All that's left is to become an NHL regular, then All-Star, Vezina winner, and take your team near single-handedly to the Stanley Cup Final.
... But one step at a time. We're hopeful for Ortio, and we'll see if he's a Flame next season.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Draft||2014-15 team||Vote total|
|8||Joni Ortio||04/16/91||171st overall, 2009||Adirondack Flames (AHL), Calgary Flames (NHL)||129|
From Turku, Ortio came up through the Finnish junior system playing for TPS. He was part of the national junior teams, playing the most games for a goalie in the U16s, U17s, U18s, and U20s. It was after his U18 year - in which he defeated Canada to win a bronze - the Flames discovered Ortio, who was hanging around Kiprusoff at the time. Seeing the similarities, they took a chance on the young Finn with a late-round draft pick.
Ortio was Finland's starter in the 2010 World Juniors, helping Finland to a fifth place finish. He also made his first professional appearance in the 2009-10 season, playing three games for TPS Turku in the SM-liiga (but not looking particularly great in his limited appearance; he was, however, only 18).
Ortio had a bumpy road once he turned professional. In back-to-back seasons, he tried to make the jump over to the AHL, only to return to Finland early into both seasons, unable to secure a starting position. His numbers did, however, improve with each passing season for TPS.
In the lockout 2012-13 season, Ortio didn't bother trying with the AHL at all, and instead spent his entire year playing for HIFK Helsinki. Playing 54 games for them, he was officially their starter, and their most valuable player. HIFK was a low-scoring team (one year after Mikael Granlund's departure, when Markus Granlund was the team's second highest scorer), so they needed Ortio to be on top of his game, and he was. He also played three games for Finland in the World Championships, winning all three en route to Finland's fourth place finish.
Things finally came to a head in 2013-14, when Ortio came back to North America, and stuck with the Abbotsford Heat. He and Laurent Brossoit briefly traded stints in the AHL and ECHL so both could receive playing time, a tactic that came to an end when Brossoit was traded just one month into the season. Ortio was the Heat's starter the rest of that year, posting some of the best numbers of his career and being named to the AHL's All-Rookie team. He even got to play his first nine NHL games thanks to goaltending injuries, where he got off to a decent start to his career before blowing it in the ninth game, necessitating a pull.
Ortio was one of the Flames' final cuts at training camp in 2014-15, and took back over the role of the AHL team's starter. His performance dipped in his sophomore year (and his team worsened, too), but he was selected as an AHL All-Star, and once again was recalled to the NHL. There, he started all five games for the Flames on a crucial in-division road trip and won four of them, including his first career shutout. A high ankle sprain in February left him out of meaningful games for the rest of the season.
Strengths and weaknesses
When you watch him, he really does look like a little Kipper. He has the excellent mental fortitude necessary to playing the position, and it's clear when watching him that he's dialled in on the puck, and tracks it well. His reflexes are outstanding and he's extremely quick, especially laterally, and he his rebound control is sound. When you combine that with his size, you've got a goaltender who's going to be able to cover his net well. He's also durable, as seen by his ability to handle the bulk of his team's starts - an opportunity he has received more in Finland than North America to date.
What's left for Ortio to work on is his strength and improve his durability as he continues to work towards a career at the highest level. Ortio has performed well at the NHL level, but he's burnt out at the end of both his call up stints. More consistency is needed to his game.
Future with the Flames
Right now, Ortio is the Flames' top goalie prospect. This, however, is largely in part due to his age, as he's the oldest between him, Jon Gillies, and Mason McDonald. McDonald will be entering his final year of junior, while Gillies, his first professional season. We already know Ortio can handle himself at the pro level, so that puts him a small step ahead.
Ortio does have NHL starting potential, and he could very well become the Flames' next Kipper - although hopefully it doesn't come to that, more because that would indicate an inability to find a suitable backup, rather than speaking to his prowess. If he can't fix his consistency issues, though, a starting role may not be in the cards for him - but a solid backup, or 1B, might.
That's if he stays on the Flames. Considering the full goalie lineup and the new necessity for waivers, there's no guarantee Ortio wears the same jersey Kiprusoff did at the start of 2015-16.
Expectations for 2015-16
Speaking of! This is where Ortio needs to establish himself as an NHLer, and leave absolutely no room to question it. The Flames can send him down without waivers 12 days or earlier before the season starts, which would spit directly in the face of their prized "always earned, never given" mantra.
If Ortio does end up in the AHL, he needs to have a hell of a year, and establish himself as the top goalie without question.
If he ends up in the NHL - which his contractual status is dictating he likely will - then he needs to at least establish himself as a solid backup option who won't cost his team. From there, he needs to learn to string handfuls of good games together without imploding at the end. If he can do that, then he'll have a good year.
If he can't, then Gillies will be nipping at his heels.
Earlier on the list
#25 - Ryan Culkin // #24 - Hunter Smith // #23 - Pavel Karnaukhov // #22 - Garnet Hathaway // #21 - Kenny Agostino// #20 - Mark Jankowski // #19 - Bill Arnold // #18 - Kenney Morrison // #17 - Andrew Mangiapane // T-#14 - Mason McDonald // T-#14 - Brandon Hickey // T-#14 - Rasmus Andersson // #13 - Tyler Wotherspoon // #12 - Oliver Kylington // #11 - Morgan Klimchuk // #10 - Markus Granlund // #9 - Drew Shore