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Colorado Avalanche Goalie Depth Chart, Part III: The new draft picks

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A look at the newest players to join Colorado’s depth chart in goal after the 2018 NHL Draft

Justus Annunen addresses the media following his selection at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft
Cat Silverman/NHL Draft 2018 (SB Nation)

THE NEW PROSPECT: JUSTUS ANNUNEN

2017-18 season: Kärpät U20 (Liiga Junior A)
.907 SV% | 26 GP (regular season)
6’4” | 214 lbs

I wasn’t particularly high on Justus Annunen heading into the draft, because he seemed to be a kid who showed flashes of really good play in tournaments and playoffs but struggled to maintain good numbers over the longer seasons.

When speaking at the draft, he affirmed that he likes to play deeper than we’re used to seeing from a lot of Finnish nationals in the NHL. Forget what you know from a depth perspective about Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, and Antti Niemi; in his own words, Annunen likes to stay closer to his goal line as a general rule.

What he shares with his fellow countrymen, though, is quick and frequent use of his hands; he’s got a sharp glove and fast upper-body movement, which has become almost a trademark of Finnish goaltending in the last decade that they’ve been making their way to North America.

Avalanche goaltending coach Jussi Parkkila likely had no small degree of say in this pick, given both his own national background and familiarity and what I know of his relationship with the team front office. He’s been described as helpful and informative, explaining things to the scouting team and showing video examples to help round out knowledge - so expect him to have been involved, at least in some way, in the scouting and evaluation of Annunen prior to the draft in Dallas.

The real test is likely to come this season, as Annunen is slated to join Kärpät’s Liiga men’s team instead of spending another full year on the U20 roster. His impressive playoff run and Ivan Hlinka performance both suggest he’s ready for higher levels of competition, but there should be an adjustment period before he’s ready to head over to North America and compete for a true spot in Colorado’s depth chart.

This past season, Olympic goaltending coach Ari Hilli was the guy in charge of the netminders for Kärpät as well - and he’s coming back this season, where he’ll continue to work with Annunen for another season at the very least.

A four-time Liiga champion with the organization as their goaltending coach, Hilli is one of the biggest names in Finnish goaltending. He’s been a goaltending coach with the Kärpät organization since 1997, save for a brief KHL stint working with Metallurg and Dinamo Minsk from 2011 to 2013, and he serves as team manager for the Liiga program right now as well.

For Annunen, he should provide a fantastic source of knowledge and development. In a phone call this past week, he told me that he’s had Annunen practicing with Kärpät’s men’s club a few times a week for the last season - and believes that although there are still areas of his game that need cleaning up (and consistency across the board), the young netminder does a fantastic job of integrating North American-based concepts like reverse-VH and puck handling as he grows his game overseas.

Hilli explained to me that he thinks the goaltending world is rapidly shrinking. “We can all... what[‘s] the word? Borrow from each other,” he told me. So he doesn’t think that, necessarily, Colorado would be the only fit for Annunen.

Still, having Parkkila waiting with open arms in North America is a reassurance; the Finnish goaltending community is very tightly-knit, and there’s a great opportunity for the team’s newest goaltender to flourish when he finally comes over.

THE (OTHER) NEW PROSPECT: SHAMIL SHMAKOV

2017-18 season: Sibirskie Snaipery Novosibirsk (MHL)
.932 SV% | 51 GP (regular season)
6’6” | 192 lbs

The Avalanche really went off the board in the seventh round of this year’s draft, taking a kid with unheralded youth experience (but an absolutely elite name) with the 202nd overall pick.

I hadn’t expected this year’s draft class to get too deep into the draft-eligibles, especially since things usually don’t start to heat up until the first player at the position is off the board. Without a really eye-catching, clear-cut number one on the list, it seemed pretty reasonable that goaltenders wouldn’t start going until the third round.

The New York Rangers taking a guy some had as their sixth-best eligible with the 39th overall pick, though, had a lot of teams scrambling - and by the seventh round, it seemed as if nearly half the picks getting selected were in net.

Which is, of course, where Shmakov came in.

Given the ties that current Avalanche goaltending coach Parkkila has to the KHL (not just to his native Finland), the best explanation for Colorado’s selection of Shmakov at the end is that they expected he’d get more attention next year as a free agent. His numbers in the MHL certainly back that up, as he finished his second season of Russian junior hockey with a .932 in 51 regular season MHL games - although the caveat is obviously that the MHL remains an incredibly inconsistent league for evaluating true talent due to major team disparity.

According to Dobber Prospects writer Will Scouch, Shmakov ‘plays like Tim Thomas’, which isn’t exactly reassuring.

What is reassuring, though, is the development system that the Novosibirsk junior and KHL club have in place. According to 2018 team leading scorer Nikita Shashkov, there’s almost always a coach from the KHL Novosibirsk team attending practice with their MHL counterpart - and the players for the junior club routinely get called up to practice with the older players, even if they don’t necessarily get to appear on the ice with them.

Sibir Novosibirsk already has three goaltenders under contract for the 2018-19 season at the KHL level; there’s 22-year-old Alexei Krasikov (who has been unreal for the Siberian club for the last two years after graduating from Snaipery) and 27-year-old Eduard Reizvikh, although he may see more time in the tier-II VHL given his playing history. There’s also Canadian veteran Danny Taylor, who played for the Ottawa Senators and their AHL club last year before signing overseas for this upcoming season.

While that minimizes the likelihood that Shmakov makes his way to the KHL next season, he’s believed to be on the radar for the Russian junior national team. Don’t expect him to pass up the nation’s top prospects, but he could be a fun long-game project to watch, especially if coaches are able to add some control to his game in the coming years.