Vancouver Canucks 2021 5th-round NHL Draft choice Aku Koskenvuo picked up the start Monday for Team Finland and took the loss in overtime against Switzerland as Attilio Biasca went top shelf, glove side for the winner just 41-seconds into the extra session on opening day of the World Junior Championship.
The always determined Swiss outshot the Finns 27-16 for the game.
Here’s more on the prospect netminder who we watched closely during the Canucks Development Camp in July.
How Acquired: 2021 5th-round draft pick, 137th overall.
2021-22 Stats: (GP-W-L-OTL) 27-13-10-0, 2.79 Goals Against Average, .897 Save %, 2 shut-outs (HIFK, Under-20 Finnish juniors)
Contract Status: Unsigned. Canucks hold his rights until June of 2025.
2022-23 Team: Harvard University – 1 win, 1 loss, 3.56 goals against, .875 save %
This young Finnish goaltender worked throughout the past year with his highly respected countryman Marko Torenius, the goalie coach the Canucks just happened to hire for the AHL Abbotsford Canucks in July.
“He’s also a really, really good coach,” Koskenvuo told us at the time in broken English, “and I think like my technique and stuff like that has been definitely improving with him and he has like, a lot of good stuff.”
The ‘also’ was in reference to the fact that Koskenvuo had just been talking to us about Vancouver Canucks goaltending coach Ian Clark.
“He is pretty much the best coach I have had,” Koskenvuo said. “Top notch everything, and I feel he really understands how a modern goalkeeper should play, and he’s approaching to all of us like individuals, not just trying to form all of us together. The individual (work) is great.”
At 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, Koskenvuo is just getting started as the backstop for Harvard University, a somewhat perennial power in college hockey in recent decades. The main adjustment has been moving to Boston and playing on a consistent basis on a smaller ice surface. The goalie said he likes the challenge and the action moving to the smaller sheet from the 15-foot wider Olympic rinks in Europe.
Clark liked the Finn’s attributes in general.
“Obviously, he’s got a very tall, lanky, long frame, which is always good, you know, gives a goaltender value,” Clark said.
“But again, it’s his work habits, his discipline, his attention to detail and it’s his athleticism, his natural athleticism for the goaltending position. All of these things are things that we look for.”
Bright Canucks Future
With injured Thatcher Demko still considered the stalwart of at least the near future for the the Vancouver Canucks in net, it may seem hard to fathom thoughts of future goaltenders, but Koskenvuo is only 19-years-old and should take three to five years to develop. Plenty can change by then.
Koskenvuo has the stance, the size, and the athletic ability of some of the Finnish netminding greats who this Espoo native idolized.
“When I was younger, probably (Tuukka) Rask, but then when I grew up and got a little bit taller, and you know, maybe I started to like, I think I’m like (with) the athletic attributes, Pekka Rinne, who’s a hero,” Koskenvuo said. “But both of them are big heroes to me.”
Goalies tend to slide down the NHL draft lists a bit, meaning fans and pundits shouldn’t be discouraged by Koskenvuo being taken in the 5th round in 2021. The Vancouver Canucks are very happy to have him.
Clark and the Canucks brought all of their young goalies in prior to the start of the full 2022 development camp to dig into their games and get some specialized work and instruction done over two days. Just goalies.
“The other thing I like about it is, it then frees them up to just join the broader main development camp and just be a part of the group,” Clark added. “Often when they don’t do their own work ahead, what ends up happening, you’re pulling them out here and pulling them out there and extracting them here and extracting them there and they don’t get the full value of the whole development camps. So this way they can just be a part of the group, enjoy the environment, and be a part of the quote-unquote team.”
It allowed Koskenvuo to immediately implement the instruction ‘Clarkie’ had given him.
Fast forward to the WJC where the big Finn is expected to share time in net with Jani Lampinen and Seattle Kraken prospect Niklas Kokko.
Expect Team Finland, one of the tourney favourites and three time Gold Medalists over the last nine years, to bounce back from the OT setback.