With pick 214 of 217 at the 2020 NHL draft, the New York Islanders selected 6’8″ Finnish goalie Henrik Tikkanen. The 20-year-old goalie was going to make his professional debut with IPK of the Mestis league.
The Islanders spoke to Tikkanen prior to the draft, but the big goalie was still surprised when the Isles called his name with the 214th pick.
Since his selection at the end of the 2020 draft, Tikkanen took his first steps in the pros with IPK and is now taking big steps in the SM-Liiga according to his GM.
Great future ahead for New York Islanders seventh-rounder
Injuries are an unfortunate reality in the game of hockey. When they happen the next man up has to take that chance and run with it. It’s how Devon Toews became a regular in the NHL. He got his call-up after Thomas Hickey went down with an injury, and it’s how Henrik Tikkanen earned his call-up from the Metis to SM-Liiga.
Playing for KalPa’s farm team (IPK), Tikkanen held a solid 6-4-1 record and an OK 3.26GAA and 0.878SV% this season. But when KalPa started picking up injuries in the blue paint, the Liiga side came calling with a loan and eventually turned that into a Liiga contract for the season.
"IPK is our farm team and we pick up players from there. Henrik was one of the players that we wanted close in our team so that we can see how he is going. He has been taking quite big steps during this season, and now was a good time when we had a few injured goalies. He played well and then we made the deal for the rest of the season."
There are few things that Islanders fans know about the 2020 seventh-round pick. One of those things is that Tikkanen is a big man. He stands 6’8″ (a height that would make him the tallest in the NHL by an inch) and tips the scales at 201lbs. And he’s only 20 years old.
Typically big goalies are more shot-blockers than shot-stoppers. Their large frames allow them to cover up more of the net with good positioning rather than reacting to a shot. Their one weakness is movement. Big goalies aren’t usually fast enough to be in position if the puck moves around.
That isn’t the case for Henrik it seems. I asked Laine if Henrik’s main strength was his size, he listed off a few other strengths:
"I think theres more [than just his size]. I think he has quite good hockey IQ he sees and reads the game very well. And he’s actually quite fast. I really think he’s gonna have a great future in the NHL one day.Also, how calm he is when he’s playing. When something happens he just goes to the next situation. If he makes a mistake he just keeps on going and doesn’t dwell. I think that’s also a strength. He can keep his focus on what’s coming and not in the past."
Through six-games with KalPa, Tikkanen has a solid 2-2-2 record and an impeccable 1.75GAA and 0.931SV%. It’s a surprising stat line for a young man who’s taking his first steps at the top level in Finland. Of course, Laine thought Tikkanen was a good goalie (why else bring him up) but even he’s surprised at how well the Isles prospect is doing.
"We are a little bit surprised with how he came in. Now he has a good confidence and our team is playing quite good at the moment. He has been better than expected and of course we are happy and hope that it will keep going like that."
The big question is “when is he coming over” or “what’s the plan for him”? Usually, I don’t get any answers on that, but Laine was refreshingly honest with a possible timeline for Tikkanen.
"Our team and IPK wanted him to come here in the future. The plan was first year with IPK, then takes a place with us with a year or two, and then it could be time for the NHL.It’s gonna take time [to get to the NHL]. He nees to work out a few thigns of course. More strength and things like that. And learn to play the mans game. But the future looks very good for him."
I can already hear some cynics say: “what GM isn’t going to talk up their player?” And of course, there’s some truth to that, but the way Laine talks about Henrik Tikkanen isn’t what GMs usually do. You could tell he firmly believes the Islanders seventh-round pick could play in the NHL someday.
Of course, there’s still no guarantee that he will. But a seventh-round pick isn’t expected to. The last Isles seventh-rounder to make the NHL was Chris Campoli, who was drafted in 2004. The fact that the NHL is a possibility is a great sign for the Islanders goaltending pipeline.