It is always a good idea to have a back up plan; while one back up plan often does the job, two is even better. Want to be extra safe? Have three. The Canucks are continuing to pave the way for Luongo’s exit, signing Swedish goaltender Joacim Eriksson and further solidifying their goaltending depth. Now the Canucks have three potential back-up goalies for Cory Schneider in their prospect system – Eriksson, Eddie Lack and Joe Cannata.
While Eriksson has yet to play a hockey game in North America, he has been given nothing but praise in Sweden. He spent this past season with Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League and won the Swedish Elite League championship. While his regular season stats were good (1.67 goals against average and .931 save percentage) his playoff stats were outstanding; in 10 games he posted a 1.06 GAA and a .952 SV%. Skelleftea swept Lulea in the final round, in which Eriksson had two shutouts and only allowed three goals in four games.
“This player was highly sought after,” assistant GM Laurence Gilman told the Vancouver Sun. “There were a number of teams vying for his services. We identified him early. (European scout) Lars Lindgren was very much pushing us to sign him … we tried to sign him last year, actually. I saw him play in November and he’s a very good goaltender, very athletic.”
Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the seventh round (196th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Eriksson has not signed with an NHL team until now. His butterfly style and 6-foot-2, 190-pound form will be seen either in Utica next season as a member of the Canucks’ new AHL team or with the Canucks themselves.
“His performance has improved each of the last three seasons,” Dave Gagner, director of player development for the Canucks told canucks.com. “His all-around play has matured and he’s developed into one of the most reliable goalies in Sweden.”
Eriksson however, is only one of two Swedish goaltenders in the Canucks system. The other is Eddie Lack, who had hip surgery in January and should is finishing up six months of rehabilitation. The 25 year old, who is tall at 6-foot-5, was signed by Vancouver on April 6, 2010. Since then he has played for the Canucks’ AHL team. He is expected to be competing with Eriksson for the position of back up goalie at training camp in September.
“We think that Eddie Lack and Joacim Eriksson both have the talent level to compete for the backup role,” Gilman said.
Lack had 28 wins in 53 games with the Manitoba Moose in 2010-11 and 21 wins in 46 games with the Chicago Wolves in 2011-12. While his stats are not impressive like Eriksson’s (his best AHL season was with the Moose in 2010-11 when he had a 2.26 GAA and .926 SV%), Lack has been spoken highly of by Canucks management.
“It’s going to be like that wherever you play,” Lack told the Vancouver Sun of competing against Eriksson. “You have to earn your spot and I kind of feel like I have paid my dues in the minors now and it’s time for me to step it up a little bit and show that I can play in the big leagues now…I have been here three years now and I kind of feel like this is my time to show something.”
With both Lack and Schneider injured during the latter part of the 2013 season, the Canucks’ third promising goaltending prospect, Joe Cannata, got to sit on the Canucks’ bench as the back up goalie for a few games. Cannata played in 14 games for the Chicago Wolves this past season, and in one game for them in 2011-12. What he is known for however, is his time at Merrimack College, where he was a important part of the team’s transformation and their ride to the Hockey East Finals and NCAA Tournament.
A Bruins fan growing up, the 23-year old was signed by Vancouver on March 21, 2012 to an entry-level contract. He was had been drafted by the Canucks 173rd overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
“Joe Cannata has been blessed with a wonderful disposition for a goaltender,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy told canucks.com in 2012 a little while after Cannata’s signing. “He does his job and doesn’t get rattled by his environment. He wants to win, but does his job first. If he was frustrated, he never let the coaching staff or his teammates see it.
“Joe has a beautiful butterfly and is big and blocky up top. He makes a lot of saves look easy, but it’s his disposition that really separates him. Goalies are going to give up goals; it is how he deals with it mentally that separated him at our level. He never got rattled. He’s a gamer.”
If Schneider gets injured, or does not play his best come the fall, the Canucks will have three goaltenders to choose from to put in net, and with their talent, the decision will be a hard one to make.