The Pittsburgh Penguins turned a lot of heads last year when they used their first two picks in the 2020 NHL Draft to select two goaltenders. However, with one year of hindsight, picking Joel Blomqvist at 52nd overall and Calle Clang 77th looks like it was a good idea.
Although the Penguins prospect pool is pretty shallow in every position, goaltending was certainly the area that needed the most help. They haven’t drafted a goalie since 2016 and arguably didn’t have a prospect who projects as a starter in the NHL. Now, they might just have two.
Blomqvist, who was actually selected ten picks after where DobberProspects had him ranked, came with a great international resume and had found success at all levels of junior hockey in Finland. He also brought impressive size at 6-foot-2, 183 pounds
Clang brought the same things to the table, standing at 6-foot-2, 176 pounds and enduring a similar development path in Sweden.
In their first pro seasons, Blomqvist and Clang progressed very well. They both found themselves on loan in the minors, but stood out on weaker teams. Six months after being drafted, they are already two of Pittsburgh’s very best prospects.
I thought I would take a look at both of their seasons and explain why the future looks bright in the Penguins crease.
Joel Blomqvist – Hermes – 6-4-6
As a member of the Kärpät system, Blomqvist played three games with the U20 team this season and two in Liiga. However, he spent the majority of the campaign in Mestis on loan with Hermes, starting 16 regular season games and nine in the playoffs.
I tracked four games of Blomqvist’s season: one in Liiga, a quarter-finals matchup in Mestis and two games of the Mestis playoff finals.
The first thing I noticed watching Blomqvist is how poised he looks in the net.
DobberProspects’ resident goaltending expert Danny Tiffany said in our final 2020 Draft Rankings that “it’s hard to find a better positional goaltender than Blomqvist.”
I couldn’t agree more.
The Finn rarely had to stretch or dive to make a save in any of the games I watched. He covered the net efficiently by sitting back in the crease and relying on excellent lateral movement to make saves.
In the Liiga game, he made this stop through traffic:
You can see he opts to move laterally using the butterfly slide, rather than remaining on his feet and t-pushing to the shooter. This is is typical of a butterfly goalie and probably the quickest route for a goalie like Blomqvist.
Here is another good example of his mobility:
After finishing in ninth place, Blomqvist’s team in Mestis, He