Sunday, June 05, 2005

Is Scandinavia the new Quebec?

In 1986, Patrick Roy took the province of Quebec by storm. The rookie lead the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup and won the Conn Smythe trophy. He became a huge star in la belle province. Many young hockey players decided they wanted to be the next Roy. For a while, it seemed that almost every young goalie to hit the NHL was from Quebec. This group included Martin Brodeur, Felix Potvin, Dan Cloutier, Patrick Lalime, Martin Biron and Roberto Luongo.

This situation appears to be changing. In 2003/04, Finland's Miikka Kiprusoff took the NHL by storm in the last half of the year. He put up a .933 saves percentage in Calgary with a Vezina nomination and lead the Flames to the Stanley Cup finals. The AHL Calder Cup is a goaltending battle between two Finnish goalies, Antero Niittymaki of Philadelphia and Kari Lehtonen of Chicago. The top AHL goalie who is not in the AHL finals is likely Sweden's Hannu Toivonen of Providence. Another Swedinsh goalie with a very good shot at rookie of the year next year (should there be a next year) is NY Rangers prospect Henrik Lundqvist, the Swedish goalie of the year.

I'm not sure why it is, but goaltending prospects of today are dominated by Scandavians. The days of Quebec dominance are over.

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