Connect with us

Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks’ New Starter Kevin Lankinen Getting Calder Mentions

Chicago goaltender Kevin Lankinen has had an excellent start to his NHL rookie season.

Candidly, I was convinced the Chicago Blackhawks were going to have a rough if not disastrous 2020-21 season. Before the shortened season even started, the team was dealt some heavy blows. 3rd-overall 2019 selection, Kirby Dach, was injured during the World Junior Championships. Then they learned long-time captain Jonathan Toews would also be sidelined indefinitely. Most importantly, in my own opinion, was Chicago’s situation in goal. After losing Corey Crawford during free agency, the team was looking for its next starting goaltender.

RELATED: Corey Crawford Has Offer On The Table From Chicago Blackhawks

Blakchawks Goaltending Depth

I have never been convinced Malcolm Subban was a legitimate starting goaltender in the NHL. The Blackhawks then had two other options including Collin Delia – an undrafted Californian that has played in 20 NHL games with the Blackhawks over the last several seasons. The second option was another undrafted player that I had never heard of, 25-year-old, Kevin Lankinen. That was probably because the Finnish goaltender had never played in an NHL game until this season.

Despite my low expectations for Chicago, the team has a record of four wins, four losses, and four OT losses after the first twelve games. That puts them in a fourth-place tie with the Carolina Hurricanes in the Central Division (even though Carolina has played in four less games than Chicago). By all accounts, a solid start and Lankinen has been a big stabilizing influence in the Blackhawks crease.

Unconventional Path to Chicago

Lankinen’s journey to get to this position has been unconventional, to say the least. The Helsinki native spent most of his early professional career with his hometown HIFK team of the SM-liiga – the country’s top league. In 2017-18 he held a 10-3-2 record with a goals against average 1.33 and a save percentage of .940 over 15 games. Those miniscule numbers prompted Chicago into signing him to a two-year entry level deal in May of 2018.

The rising Finn then spent his first two North American seasons developing with Chicago’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs (he also played in six games with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel in 2018-19). As noted, he did not get into an NHL start during those first two seasons after crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

The departure of Crawford created an opportunity and Lankinen has taken full advantage. The Blackhawks started with a rotation between the trio of goaltenders, but the Finn has seemingly taken over the top spot. He has now played in two thirds of Chicago’s games (8) and holds a record of 4-1-3 along with a stingy 2.32 GAA and .928 (SV%).  Impressive.

As such, people are starting to notice and although this season is still relatively early it is not impossible to think he could become a legitimate Calder candidate.  In the meantime, Lankinen is the projected to start his ninth game during tomorrows afternoon tilt versus the Dallas Stars.

NEXT: Chicago Blackhawks Should Do Patrick Kane a Favor… Trade Him Now

Kevin Lankinen Chicago Blackhawks goaltender
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

More News