Discover more from Hockey Wanderlüst
March 28 - Lankinen Has Arrived; 🇫🇮 &🇨🇭Leagues Go To Points Percentage
It's a great day for hockey - from Lausanne to Los Angeles - An Epic Edition
Kevin Lankinen, a Finnish National Treasure
Sudden Death Winner!
Meet “Spronger” - He’s Got Jump
Homegrown Leading Scorers
Swiss Video Joy Joy
KHL Semi-Finals Shaping Up
Name the Logo Contest
Shucks, I dropped my wallet. Oh wait, here it is …
In Case You Missed It:
Follow up: The Boston Pride became the first two-time winners of the NWHL’s Isobel Cup with a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Whitecaps Saturday night. Taylor Wenczkowski scored the game winner in the third period.
Mika Zibanejad became the first player to tally consecutive six-point games against the same opponent during a single season in NHL history. It came eight days apart as his New York Rangers routed the Philadelphia Flyers 9-0 and 8-3.
Kevin Lankinen, a Finnish National Treasure
Before the season, few people gave the Chicago Blackhawks any chance of making the playoffs. No, no, this was a team in a rebuild mode, especially when Jonathan Toews had to step away due to illness.
And yet, the Hawks are currently fourth in the Central division, a couple of games over .500, and they’ve done it thanks to heroic performances by Patrick Kane and their Finnish rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen.
Lankinen, 25, may be a rookie, but his hockey journey is almost the perfect example of how to build a successful career, step by step.
Always a talent, Lankinen has been in the Finnish development system from the get-go. He won the under-18 Finnish championship twice with Helsinki Jokerit and was named the under-20 league’s Best Goalie in 2014.
And yet, you won’t find his name on the under-18 world championship roster, or the World Junior’s rosters. He always hovered around the different junior national teams, always in the running, but never getting the nod to play in a major tournament. Often, it was the same two goalies that became the roadblocks.
Ville Husso and Juuse Saros.
And, in 2012, when he swept the awards table in the under-18 league, the goalies ahead of him, on the Jokerit under-20 team, were Joonas Korpisalo, Kasimir Kaskisuo, and Frans Tuohimaa (the Edmonton Oilers 2011 seventh round pick).
In 2014, Lankinen signed with the other Helsinki team, IFK – to back up Husso.
Damn that Finnish goalie factory.
That’s what Lankinen could’ve said, but he didn’t. He just went back to work. Maybe it helped that he knew he was so close.
Before the 2015 Worlds, the Team Finland goalie coach told Lankinen’s NHL agent that while he may not make the team, there was “something special” about the kid. He didn’t make the team – Husso and Saros were the goalie tandem – but the goalie coach knew what he was talking about.
His name? Miikka Kiprusoff, a man with 624 NHL games and a Vezina Trophy under his belt.
It’s fitting though, that when Lankinen finally got his chance to represent Finland in the 2019 World Championships, it came at a time when the team was called the worst Finland had ever iced in the tournament. Head coach Jukka Jalonen could only get two NHL’ers to play; Juho Lammikko and Henri Jokiharju. At that point, Lankinen had only played in the AHL and even six games in the ECHL – but there was no Korpisalo, no Husso, and no Saros standing in the way.
Lankinen played eight games in the tournament, including the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final, as Finland went all the way to win gold.
After the season, Lankinen got back to work, honing his craft in the American League, and last fall he switched up his training a little, working with Marko Torenius, currently with the Finnish federation and the long-time goalie coach of St. Petersburg SKA. When the puck dropped, Lankinen was ready.
He’s started 23 of the Blackhawks’ 34 games and has posted an impressive .920 save percentage, which currently ranks eleventh in the league among goalies with at least 15 starts.
While NHL players are revered and admired, national heroes are made in international competition. Swedes love Peter Forsberg for his shootout goal in 1994, Sidney Crosby’s Golden goal in 2010 will always make him special, and Finns will never forget the smiling face of one Kevin Lankinen as he hoisted the World Championship trophy.
Always smiling, always spreading the wealth among his teammates, and never taking credit for the wins makes him easy to like. And if that’s not enough, there’s his online book club.
During the 2019 Worlds, he mentioned in an interview that he liked to read, prompting the reporter to ask the obvious follow-up question.
“He mentioned that he was in the middle of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, which happens to be published by an imprint of ours,” says Timo Julkunen, CEO of WSOY, the publisher.
Days after the interview, the book was sold out in Finland, and after a new print run, the paperback hit the Top 10 list in the country.
After the tournament, Julkunen and his colleagues met with the goalie and by the time Lankinen left the offices, the Facebook group that carries his name, Lankinen’s Book Circle, was born.
With its 17,500 members, it’s now one of the most popular online book clubs in Finland. For each book sold through the club, a percentage goes to support IceHearts, an organization that uses hockey as a tool for social change.
“Kevin is a true reader, he’s the one running it. Of course, his job comes first, so there’s no strict schedule for him to post anything,” Julkunen says.
Lankinen’s most recent book posting is about A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough. It’s from January 30.
Since then, Lankinen has picked up ten Wins and made 577 saves. Life on Planet Lankinen is pretty good right now.
With Saturday’s game between Biel and Lausanne cancelled, the Swiss National League will not be able to complete its schedule as originally planned. The regular season standings will be determined by points percentage.
The Finnish Liiga standings will also be determined by points percentage, which creates an interesting situation as second-place Helsinki IFK can pass Rauma Lukko in the standings - while in quarantine. Lukko, who has already played seven more games than IFK, is scheduled to play three more games before IFK’s next game on April 6.
New York Rangers prospect Nils Lundkvist, with two points Saturday, now has 77 career Swedish Hockey League points, the most by a defenseman under the age of 21 in league history. This season, his 32 points in 51 games rank him sixth in scoring among defensemen.
Sudden Death Winner!
Lokomotiv Captain Vladimir Tkachyov scores in OT to force Game 7 against Moscow CSKA, the top-seed in the West. See Gagarin Cup brackets below in our Features section.
He Said It
“We’ll close the current season with a loss of between [$2 and 4 million]. It is uncertain whether we will have spectators next season and to what extent we’ll use federal aid.”
– SC Bern CEO Marc Lüthi to Berner Zeitung
Spronger’s Got Jump
Daniel Sprong from Amsterdam is the third* Netherlands-born player to make it to the NHL, and at 24 and with ample ice time, he should have the opportunity to be the most prolific.
In Amsterdam, speed skates are much more popular than hockey skates. Recognizing their son’s talent and the limited opportunities in the Netherlands, “Spronger’s” parents moved the family to Quebec when he was seven.
“The Dutch hockey isn’t very strong and I was playing with a much higher age group to challenge myself. We came to Canada to do hockey camps and people would say I had a special talent, so we decided to try it out for a year and see how it was, as an adventure. We never left. It’s a pretty crazy story but it worked out,” Sprong told Hockey Wanderlüst.
“When you think of the Netherlands you don’t think of hockey and, yeah, it’s probably best to move at a young age and work on your development and skills … but at the end of the day, talent only takes you so far. You also have to have discipline and work ethic to take you there.”
Between 2013 and 2017, Sprong played for the Charlottetown Islanders on Prince Edward Island in the QMJHL. He loved the experience and remains close to the people there, referring to his billet household as his second family.
“Canada’s been my home a long time but you never forget where you’re from, and I’ll always have that Dutch pride in me. Even at the Olympics, or soccer, I’m always cheering for the Dutch national team just as I still follow Ajax in Champions League. I’m very proud of where I’m from,” says Sprong who became Canadian citizen in 2017.
So far, he’s opted not to suit up for the Netherlands in international tournaments.
Sprong was Pittsburgh’s 2nd-round pick, 46th overall, in 2016. Cutting into the Cup champion’s forward line-up was difficult to say the least and he was dealt to Anaheim in December of 2018. Fourteen months later to Washington.
“Coming to Washington was a really good opportunity for me, a lot of great players on this team and we play an offensive system. This team is very good offensively and I just try to play my game, it’s been clicking very well here, I feel very good here and it’s a great locker room to be a part of.”
“I didn’t picture that it (being in the NHL) would be such a big thing back home because hockey isn’t very big, but I’m very proud to be a Dutch player in this league and hopefully it gets back home that they can do it as well, and pushes kids to make their dreams come true. If their dream is to come to the NHL, then it is possible,” he says.
* The first Dutch-born player was the late Ed Kea, a defenceman born in Weesp, who played 583 NHL games (Atlanta and St. Louis) in the late 1970s and early '80s. The Keas emigrated to Collingwood, Ontario, when Ed was four. Ed Beers, born in Zwaag, led the NCAA hockey in scoring in 1982 at Denver and tallied 210 points in 250 NHL games with Calgary and St. Louis.
Know The Wanderlüsters
Since leaving the NHL in 2012, Ken Yaffe has worked with Yaffe Sports Ventures to bring innovation to sports through technology, while advising a range of media and consumer product companies on sports marketing strategies.
Risto Pakarinen has covered nine world championships and the 2010 Olympics for the IIHF. He’s authored or co-authored several books on hockey (and he debuted his first novel in 2019).
Rob Simpson spent three seasons (2005-2008) as the Boston Bruins rink-side reporter for NESN and also co-produced and hosted the TV show “Rubber Biscuit”, before moving on to MSG and the NHL Network in New York.
1. Homegrown Leading Scorers
Through March 27
Andrei Sergeyev - (KHL) is one of five players leading the Gagarin Cup playoffs in scoring with 10 points, but he’s the only defencemen.
Jakub Kotala - (Czech Extraliga) is ranked first on the scoring board, which the league bases on scoring percentage. In just 4 games, Jakub has 7 points.
Petri Kontiola - (Liiga) The Seinäjoki, Finland native was a 7th round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004 and played 12 NHL games in 2007-08.
Marcel Haščák - (Slovak Extraliga) Playing for his hometown team in Poprad, the right wing leads with 69 points in 48 games.
Sven Andrighetto - (Swiss National League) The 3rd-round pick of Montreal in 2013 played 216 NHL games between the Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche.
2. The Other National (Hockey) League
The battle between the two giants of Swiss hockey is always good entertainment.
3. KHL Semi-Finals Setting Up!
CSKA and Lokomotiv will determine their series in a Game-7 tomorrow. Semi-finalist SKA St. Petersburg has breezed through thus far in the West.
Playoff undefeated Ak Bars awaits the winner of Avangard Omsk vs Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the East. Game 6 on Sunday.
4. Name the LOGO: (from Thursday)
KHL fans will recognize this one. Yekaterinburg Automobilist. There’s been a team there since 1962, sometimes named after the region Sverdlovsk, rather than the city. The logo/moniker has changed a number of times as well; it’s been Automobilist four times, most recently since 2006. Pavel Datsyuk, Alexei Yashin and Vladimir Malakhov are a few of the notable players who grew up in and around Yekaterinburg, just east of the Ural Mountains. Automobilist was eliminated in the first round of this year’s Gagarin Cup playoffs by Avangard, Omsk.
5. The Quiz: (answer Thursday)
What two current Montreal Canadiens each played in the World Junior Championship three consecutive years?
See you on Thursday.
Enjoy the hockey action !