The Colorado Avalanche have signed goaltender prospect Justus Annunen to a three-year entry-level contract starting in the 2020-21 season. The 20-year-old goaltender was drafted in the third round by the Avalanche in 2018 and has spent the last two years developing with the Karpat organization in Finland.
Annunen was Finland’s 2020 World Juniors starting goaltender, owning a .921 save percentage in six games with the national team, making it to the semi-finals before losing in the Bronze medal game against Sweden.
Not flying over just yet
Despite having signed an ELC with the Avalanche, Annunen still has one more year on his contract with Karpat as their starting goalie in the Liiga. His contract will slide if he doesn’t play nine games in the NHL next season, meaning he will still have three years left on his contract in 2021-22 when his contract expires with Karpat.
Annunen had a .929 save percentage in 36 games playing in the top men’s division, which is very impressive for a teenager (birthday March 11th). As his career trajectory has been similar to other young goaltenders jumping into the NHL at this moment — Carter Hart, Igor Shesterkin, and Ilya Samsonov to name the most notable — it would not be surprising at all if Annunen made the jump right into the NHL late next season, possibly without time in the AHL.
Comparing Annunen to those three young goalies is quite easy:
- Hart, at 20, posted a .947 sv% in the WHL, played 18 games in the AHL, and was sent right up to the Philadelphia Flyers where he has been their starting goalie for the last season and a half.
- Shesterkin put up a .953 sv% in 28 games in the KHL at the age of 22/23, played 25 lights-out games for the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack, and is now pushing Alexander Georgiev out of the New York Rangers lineup.
- Samsonov turned 23 this winter and split time between the AHL and NHL, posting a .926 sv% last year in the KHL and a .918 this year for the Washington Capitals.
On the ice, Annunen is a cool, calm, collected customer in net. Goalie expert Cat Silverman wrote about him in his Top 25 Under 25 article for 2019. Safe to say his stock from 22nd on our list is going to go up for 2020.
“The calm aspect of his game is probably his biggest asset. Trained by Finland’s Ari Hilli in the Kärpät system for the last handful of years, he’s been steadily shaped into a goaltender who can measure his depth well and rely on active hands rather than overly acrobatic recoveries.” - Mile High Hockey
Annunen also excelled in the World Juniors, chronicled by Lauren Kelly over the winter. I’ve linked to our prospect group where you can find daily updates on Annunen’s performance through the tournament.
Also, at 19, he broke the Liiga’s consecutive shutout streak.