I might not be a goaltending expert, but if there’s one rule that I stand by when evaluating the position, it’s that anybody can stop pucks in college. I don’t know that it is about that level of hockey, but it seems that every year a goaltender in his third or fourth year posts a gaudy save percentage, excites everybody, signs with a professional team, and spins tires.
So when the Leafs signed Kasimir Kaskisuo a year and a half ago, I didn’t think a lot of it. He was an undrafted college target with starters minutes but non-elite numbers, which sounds about as exciting as cardboard on the surface. What made him interesting, though, is that he was coming from way off the relative radar to get to his spot, which in itself is a big reason why his biggest backers are hoping that this is a late-bloomer scenario.
|Age||23 (October 2, 1993)||Birthplace||Espoo, Finland|
|Vitals||6’3, 201lbs||Acquired||Via Free Agency (2016)|
Especially given Finland’s recent reputation for being a goaltending factory, it’s not very often that you see a bright prospect close out their development in North America. In Kaskisuo’s case, though, he didn’t have the expectation of upside that some of his peers did, Jokerit already had Columbus netminder Joonas Korpisalo ahead of him, and the team was starting to get its KHL migration plans in gear by the time he made the decision to play a year of American Junior to position himself to go the college route.
The bet paid off. He led the NAHL in GAA and Save Percentage, he caught the eyes of nearby Minnesota-Duluth, and quickly became their starting netminder for two years, making the NCHC all-rookie team in his first season and the honourable mention all-star team in the second.
From there, the Leafs approached him with a contract, and his pro journey began.
|16||2009-10||Jokerit U18||Jr. B SM-sarja Q||4||3.35||0.904|
|16||Jokerit U18||Jr. B SM-sarja||13||2.99||0.922|
|17||2010-11||Jokerit U18||Jr. B SM-sarja Q||4||2.24||0.937|
|17||Jokerit U18||Jr. B SM-sarja||6||3.19||0.911|
|17||Jokerit U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||6||2.51||0.92|
|18||2011-12||Jokerit U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||9||2.82||0.888|
|19||2012-13||Jokerit U20||Jr. A SM-liiga||13||2.72||0.905|
|21||2014-15||Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth||NCAA||36||2.3||0.917|
|22||2015-16||Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth||NCAA||39||1.92||0.923|
|23||Orlando Solar Bears||ECHL||32||3.45||0.899|
With Garret Sparks and Antoine Bibeau already jockeying for AHL position, Kaskisuo was sent to the ECHL for the bulk of the season. If we’re going to be honest about how it went, he wasn’t great; his 0.899 save percentage trailed Solar Bears starter Ryan Massa by a significant margin.
But there’s something to be said for being in the right place at the right time; Kaskisuo went on a month-long tear for the Marlies after getting called up and drawn into game action, putting up nine > 0.925 performances in his first 11 regular season and playoff appearances, eight and ten of which were starts and one of which went to triple overtime. Unfortunately, he didn’t fare as well in round two, performing well in games 1 and 6, but otherwise struggling as Toronto eventually fell in seven games.
I’m not going to even begin to pretend that I know how to qualitatively evaluate a goaltender. Most don’t. As such, there will be no “eye test” opinions from me on any of the four goaltenders in this series. In lieu my own information, here’s what DobberProspects had to say on Kaskisuo in April:
He has a great grasp on the game and is well suited to the speed and skilled players he is facing. The extremities are quick, but he has a tendency of over-committing and sliding out of position, once he figures out efficiency in his movements and shows he can handle a larger work load his upside could be very attractive.
The Upcoming Year
Presently, Kaskisuo seems poised to be the Marlies’ backup behind Sparks. That could change down the line, though; teams are in the interest of keeping the puck out of the net, and if he’s stopping more of them, the balance of workload will shift as such. Establishing a sense of consistency will be key; being an elite goaltender one week and a replacement level one the next won’t get you a ton of day-to-day trust.
Establishing a sense of consistency will be key; being an elite goaltender one week and a replacement level one the next won’t get you a ton of day-to-day trust. Should he find a rhythm, though, it could help him close the gap and even force a split-start situation.
Realistically speaking, Kaskisuo’s track record so far has been inconsistent enough to say that we don’t have much of an answer for what he is. It’s possible that he maxes out as a semi-reliable AHL netminder, and if that’s the case, then so be it. If he exceeds it? Even better.
Ultimately, Kaskisuo’s expectation as an undrafted college free agent was to show up and do what he could to climb. It was an everything to gain and nothing to lose situation for both parties; Toronto giving up no assets and already having others in his age range, and Kaskisuo having some sweet bonus incentives if he broke out. If he finds a groove, that’s awesome, but Toronto isn’t sweating it if he doesn’t.
To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.---
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