Petteri Simila: The Next Jaroslav Halak?

Trevor Timmins’ draft record for the Canadiens has been something of a mixed bag. Where he has struggled to deliver a homerun with his first round selections, he has made many successful later round picks including the likes of Maxim Lapierre, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Ryan O’Byrne.

None, however, have grabbed the public’s attention like the recently departed Jaroslav Halak. When he was selected 271st overall in the ninth round of the 2003 NHL entry draft, Jaroslav Halak didn’t seem like much more than an afterthought. However, the newly appointed head of amateur scouting and player development for the Montreal Canadiens, Trevor Timmins, saw something more.

In a draft year that saw the Habs pick Andrei Kostitsyn tenth overall, followed by Cory Urquhart, Maxim Lapierre, Ryan O’Byrne, and finally Halak, Jaroslav ended up being the biggest success of the bunch. Timmins knew about Halak’s potential and took a flyer in picking him in the now-defunct ninth round.

He did so because he and his scouting staff believed that if Halak slipped through to the 2004 draft, he would end up becoming a second to third round pick. As such, he made the move to grab him in a classic low-risk late-round pick. In hindsight, Timmins looks like he made a brilliant move by picking a player who ended up being the toast of the 2010 NHL playoffs.

Fast forward six years to the 2009 NHL entry draft and Timmins was at it again, trading a 2010 pick to select Petteri Simila at 211th overall in the seventh and final round. As was the case with Halak, Timmins’ thinking was again that he was stealing a late round gem that could become a high round pick the following year. At 6’6″ and 189 lbs, Simila fits the mold of what is becoming the prototypical NHL goaltender: he’s a giant.

Like Carey Price, Simila fills up a ton of net and doesn’t leave the shooters much to look at. At 20 years of age, however, Simila is seen as a bit of a project. Simila played parts of the 2009-2010 season for the Niagara IceDogs team in the OHL. The result was a horrible 4.14 GAA and a .891 save percentage. Hardly the numbers of a star in the making, but by all accounts the IceDogs were a horribly bad team and Simila played in a diminished role, pushed aside by Mark Visentin.

Afterwards, Simila signed with the KalPa’s Junior ‘A’ team, and will play the coming season there. There will be a transition period for Simila in getting used to the play in SM-Liiga, but he should see a lot more ice time and that can only benefit his development.

While Timmins and co. feel that Simila could become an NHL goaltender in the future, only time will really tell. Simila seems to have all of the physical attributes to get the job done so who knows?  In a few years, we could be talking about this wunderkid who is playing lights out in the AHL and nipping on Price’s heels. Or, he could become an afterthought. Just another late round burnout that never quite had enough to make the big league.

How he develops depends as much on his mental make up as it does on the Habs ability to properly bring him along—ability that this organization has sadly been failing in for far too long. But, with the revelation that has been the progression of P.K. Subban, maybe, just maybe, the Canadiens are turning a corner in the player development department.

If so, we might just start seeing stop signs with the word “Simila” written on them in the not so distant future. So keep an eye out for him, because he could end up being a gamer.

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