Last April, we wrote a story about a young Russian goaltender who had signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. We didn't expect him to become anything more than a minor league player last season, but he wound up starting on opening night in October. His name was Sergei Bobrovsky.
A year later, the Flyers have signed another goaltender from overseas, although he's one that's slightly better known on this side of the continent. His name is Niko Hovinen, and the Flyers announced today that the 23-year-old netminder has signed an entry-level deal with the club.
Here's what The Goalie Guild, a fantastic goaltender scouting site, had to say about Hovinen back in 2009 when listing 50 goalie prospects "to ponder."
Hovinen is kind of like the leaning tower of Pizza. He's an absolute giant at 6-foot-7 inches, but does not have very good balance or stability in the net. He gets pushed around a lot and doesn't have a stable presence in the net. Although he's extremely large in the butterfly, recovering from that and then being able to stay square to shooters for rebounds is where he really seems to struggle. It's also noted that he has issues with durability and stamina.
Not exactly a glowing review, but it's nice to know he's a big body in goal. Oh, and of course, this review is two years old. Also on that list of 50 goalies: Nic Riopel, Joacim Eriksson, Anders Lindback, Corey Crawford, Anton Khudobin, to name a few.
Hovinen was drafted in 2006 by the Minnesota Wild, in the fifth round, 132nd overall. He never played in North America and the Wild lost his rights, but he did play a few years with Jokerit in Finland's top league, so he has some solid experience. He actually replaced Tim Thomas with Jokerit when the Bruins decided to up their quota of Drew Carey look-alikes.
Bottom line: he's a prospect, and with some expected flux at the goaltending position up-and-down the system this offseason, he fills in another slot on the depth chart. And if he impresses? Well, can't count anything out, apparently.