Canucks: More on fifth round pick Aku Koskenvuo

SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY - JULY 23: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman opens the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at the NHL Network studios on July 23, 2021 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY - JULY 23: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman opens the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at the NHL Network studios on July 23, 2021 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks continue to add to their goaltending prospect pool.

The team entered the 2021 NHL Entry Draft with only one pick in the first four rounds, which they used to select forward Danila Klimovich 41st overall.

As we all know, General Manager Jim Benning traded away the ninth overall pick to land Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from the Arizona Coyotes. Their third round pick was given to the Dallas Stars in exchange for centre Jason Dickinson, while their fourth round pick was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the Madison Bowey transaction.

In other words, the pressure was on to draft well in the later rounds, but it appears that they’ve already made a big splash with goaltender Aku Koskenvuo.

Koskenvuo played 13 games for HIFK U20 in the U20 SM-Sarja league, where he posted an .893 SV% and 2.92 GAA. The 18-year-old also represented Finland on the international stage at the U18 World Junior Championships that same season, securing the number one goalie position in convincing fashion leading up to the tournament. Unfortunately, he continued his mediocre play between the pipes for Finland, going 3-3-0 with one shutout, an .874 SV% and a 4.23 GAA.

Despite the underwhelming statistics, Koskenvuo still has extremely high upside when it comes to his raw talent and athleticism in net.

Koskenvuo, who was selected 137th overall in the fifth round, was ranked fourth amongst international goaltenders entering the 2021 draft, according to the NHL Central Scouting Report.

The Finnish goaltender clocks in at 6’4″ and 179 pounds, meaning that he has no issues covering most of net behind him. According to multiple scouting reports, particularly following WJC, Koskenvuo has already established a high-level sense of positioning, awareness and overall movement in the crease, while also showcasing his ability to accurately track the puck and to make impressive reactionary saves.

Of course, like all budding prospects, Koskenvuo still has a few aspects of his game that need cleaning up. According to Canuck Army editor David Quadrelli, Koskenvuo specifically struggles with maintaining strong glove and blocker positions, which affects his rebound control and GAA.

Fortunately for Koskenvuo, he could soon have the opportunity to improve these skills with one of the best goaltending coaches in the league in Ian Clark.

Clark, who recently signed a five-year extension with the Canucks this past offseason, has been known to work wonders on his netminders, and could very well be the best addition to Koskenvuo’s training and development moving forward.

It also sounds like Clark had a large say in the Canucks drafting a project goaltender this past summer.

Prior to the draft, Clark joined “The Halford and Brough Show” on Sportsnet 650, and didn’t shy away from the fact that he wanted the organization to add to their goaltending prospect pool.

"“We didn’t take a goalie last year in the draft. I’m an advocate for taking a goaltender two out of every three years, so not taking one last year would mean we would like to take one this year.”"

The last netminder selected by Vancouver was Latvian native Arturs Silovs, who was chosen 156th overall in 2019. Prior to Silovs, the Canucks were able to land Matthew Thiessen in 2018 and Michael DiPietro in 2017.

Their most notable selection, of course, came in 2014 when they drafted current starter Thatcher Demko in the second round, 36th overall. Like many players before him, Demko has benefitted tremendously from working with Clark, and even went so far as to publicly plead the Canucks organization to resign Clark near the end of the 2020-21 season.

Given their long list of prospects between the pipes, Koskenvuo will definitely have to wait his turn in Vancouver’s development process. Fortunately for the organization, it appears that Koskenvuo will still be able to frequently play at an elite level next season, having already committed to Harvard University, and should become more accustomed to North American hockey while there.

It also sounds like Koskenvuo is ready to put in the commitment off the ice as well.

The fifth round pick joined “The People’s Show” on Sportsnet 650 right after being selected, and was able to shed some light on his current workout regime, especially given last year’s COVID-19 landscape.

“If I couldn’t practice with the team, I’d try to do as much as possible by myself,” Koskenvuo explained. He also mentioned that he’s been focusing much more on his overall physical abilities, while trying to “hit the gym” as much as he could if he wasn’t training.

It’ll be a while before fans can see Koskenvuo in action, whether in the AHL or NHL, but the 18-year-old Finn definitely have intriguing potential, and could end up being an absolute steal for the Canucks in the coming years.

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What are your thoughts on Koskenvuo? Should he be at the front of the pack when it comes to Vancouver’s goaltending prospect list? Make sure to drop a comment below!