Editorials

Islanders Henrik Tikkanen molds his game off Robin Lehner

The New York Islanders logo (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The New York Islanders logo (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Getting to know New York Islanders 2020 seventh-round pick, Finnish goalie Henrik Tikkanen.

With the 214th pick at the 2020 draft, the New York Islanders selected 20-year-old goalie Henrik Tikkanen. Seventh-round picks don’t typically get attention from fans but Tikkanen stands out. Drafted out of HIFK’s junior squad, Tikkanen is hard to miss on the ice. The young man stands 6’8″ and tips the scales at 200 lbs.

Tikkanen who is skating in his first pro season is putting up good numbers on an IPK side that’s at the top of the standings in the Finnish Mestis League (second division). In seven games played so far in this short season, Tikkanen is averaging a 2.27GAA and a 0.904SV%. It’s hard to ignore a 6’8″ goalie who’s putting up solid numbers.

So I reached out to Tikkanen to ask how it felt getting drafted, what the Islanders told him after they made the pick, and if fans should expect to see him in North America soon.

Incredible Suprise

It’s every hockey player’s dream to get drafted by an NHL team. Whether that’s with the first overall pick or the 214th pick. For Tikkanen, it was not only an incredible feeling to be drafted by the Islanders, but it was a bit of a surprise as well.

"Henrik Tikkanen: It was incredible to get drafted. I didn’t expect it even though I had an interview with Islanders this summer."

Had the Islanders not drafted Tikkanen it’s likely that he would have gone undrafted. Only three picks were made after him (Vegas, Buffalo, Tampa), and neither of those last three teams selected a goalie.

Something that is always on my mind when a player gets drafted, specifically in the later rounds, is what the team tells them after they make the pick. I asked Tikkanen what the Islanders communicated to him after they drafted him. His answer didn’t really surprise me considering he was drafted by a Lou Lamoriello regime, it was honest and straight to the point.

"HT: The Islanders Finnish scout called me and also their goalie coaching staff. They congratulated me and reminded me that this is a great achievement but there is lot of work to do to get in the NHL one day."

After Tikkanen was drafted the immediate thought from some in the fanbase was that the Islanders found themselves a goalie they could put in the AHL. Seeing as how Tikkanen was 20 at the time of the draft. So I asked the Isles prospects what his goal was for the season and if we’ll be seeing him soon:

"HT: This is my first season as a pro and my target is to be a starting goalie your team can trust even in difficult situations. I want to perform so well that it is possible to take a next step already after this season. I want to move forward step by step closer to NHL."

I can see why fans thought Tikkanen would be a good fit for the AHL on paper. Going into the draft, the Islanders had three goalies signed; Semyon Varlamov, Ilya Sorokin, and Jakub Skarek. There’s a clear need for a second AHL goalie. This was of course before Corey Schneider had apparently signed with the Islanders.

But as Tikkanen says, he’ll be with IPK at least through this season, and hopefully, if he performs well enough, then he can make the move to North America in 2021-22.

Big Man Game

My last question for Tikkanen was to try and get a sense of the type of goalies he’s watching and studying. Who does he emulate his game off of? His answer did not disappoint:

"HT: I have worked my game this season to be little bit more patient at the net and I have watched lot of Robin Lehner’s game. Pekka Rinne and Ben Bishop are also goalies that I try to mold."

Saying Robin Lehner is a goalie he molds his game on will win Tikkanen a huge trove of fans on the Island. Islanders fans still hold Lehner near-and-dear to their hearts even if he hasn’t suited up for the Islanders since May 2019.

All three goalies are big men; Lehner is 6’4″, Rinne stands 6’5″, and Bishop (who’s the tallest netminder in the league) stands 6’7″. Clearly, Tikkanen is studying the right players.

From the games, I’ve watched Tikkanen is rarely hurried and is a calm presence in the net. He moves well to get into position and reads the shot well so he doesn’t have to make a desperation save in order to make up for an earlier mistake.

It’s going to be at least a year until Tikkanen makes the jump to North America, for now, we’ll see if this big man can become like some of the goalies he’s watching.

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