With the lockout going on for who knows how long, it's nice to read about some actual hockey once and a while. That in mind, we had an opportunity to add a writer who has some great access to and insights on the Norfolk Admirals. He's written for the Admirals website, as well as other hockey media outlets. So it really makes me happy to introduce to you... Mr. Dan Marraza! Yaaaay! *Kermit Flail*
This holiday season, the Ducks' goaltending future will be on center stage in the hockey world when John Gibson leads Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia.
But as bright as the spotlight will be on Gibson, the Ducks' 2012 third-round draft pick, Frederik Andersen, will have nearly as much attention on him from Ducks management when the American Hockey League returns from its holiday hiatus on Dec. 26. The reason that Andersen will be so scrutinized by management the rest of this season is because it'll be his performance which dictates what the structure of the organization's goaltending depth chart will be heading into next season.
More specifically, how Andersen plays for the rest of this season will help determine which current Norfolk Admirals goalie-Andersen or Igor Bobkov-remains in the forefront of the organization's plans moving forward, given that Gibson's probable arrival to the Ducks' AHL affiliate next season will probably result in one of this season's Norfolk goalies being bumped down to the ECHL, Europe or another organization.
"Someone is always trying to take your job in this sport," Admirals assistant coach Mike Haviland told Anaheim Calling. "But if you're going to think about it that way, it'll hurt your game. There's always a lot of pressure in this business, so you have to focus on controlling what you can control, on and off the ice."
So far this season, the Admirals' other goalie, Igor Bobkov, has not done a good job taking control of his situation, with his 3.29 goals-against average being the worst of any AHL goalie who has played in at least ten games this season.
Although Bobkov's struggles have opened the door for Andersen's emergence as Norfolk's number-one goalie, Andersen hasn't necessarily been the Admirals' number-one by default this season-he's earned his ice time. While Andersen's 7-7-0 record and 2.48 goals-against average might seem only like a slight improvement on Bobkov's stats, his ranking sixth in the AHL with a .924 save percentage-just behind Ben Bishop and Braden Holtby's amongst the AHL's leaders. At a time when he's adjusting to a smaller ice surface in his first North American season and living far from his Denmark home for the first time in his life, keeping such a high save percentage is something that Ducks fans should be excited about.
I know, it's hard for lockout-frustrated fans to be soothed by an up-and-coming goalie who has only 14 AHL games under his belt, who most casual fans haven't even had the chance to see play in person yet.
But fans that have had the privilege of watching Andersen play would easily be able to tell an Andersen-deprived fan that the reason he's potentially such an intriguing part of the Ducks' future-besides his stats-is because of his appearance. Basically, Andersen is a mammoth, red-headed goalie with a crew cut and traditional Scandinavian facial features. He looks almost as if both Sedin Twins got morphed together into One Grand Sedin, but in goalie pads.
Actually, Andersen is so big that it might take Sedin Triplets being thrown together to equal his size.
Weighing in at 247 pounds, Andersen is the heaviest goalie in any major professional hockey league on the planet, although there supposedly is a 5-foot-10, 260-pound meatball of a goalie named Aleksi Autio in a third-tier Finnish league who outweighs the 6-foot-4 Andersen by a substantial margin.
However, in terms of goalies with reasonable futures in big-time hockey, Andersen is the biggest.
"Early on, (Andersen's weight) was a bit of a concern for me," said Haviland. "But when I saw how athletic he was in the net and how he moved, I was shocked. Everybody has a certain weight they're comfortable to play at and he's found that."
Or to explain Andersen in Layman's Terms, Admirals head coach Trent Yawney added: "The bigger you are, the more pucks that will hit you. It's physics."
Obviously, bigger doesn't always equal better because if it did, some NHL team would have put a Japanese sumo wrestler-or that aforementioned Aleksi Autio character-in its nets years ago. Clearly, goalies have to be agile, whether they weigh almost 250 pounds or not.
Andersen is by no means a gimmicky, overweight goalie. As a matter of fact, Admirals assistant coach Mike Haviland said he can notice similarities between Andersen's agility in a big man's body and one of the NHL's better goalies of the 1990s and 2000s.
"Andy could definitely take some of (Olaf) Kolzig's style," said Haviland. "Kolzig was a big, thick guy and Andy is, too. But Andy is not out of control in there-like Kolzig, who was always very systematic with how he played. Andy is big and he's square to the puck."
Considering that Andersen has only 14 AHL games under his belt while the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kolzig won 303 games and a Vezina Trophy over the course of two decades in the NHL, a direct comparison probably isn't fair. While it might not be fair to compare an up-and-coming prospect to established NHL veterans, journalists don't always have to be 100% fair, so I'm making my comparison!
However, I'm not going to compare Andersen to Olaf Kolzig; rather, I'm going to compare him to a goalie with a more relatable personal history-my attempt at being somewhat fair. To me, the main set of Andersen's stats to use for a comparison would be the 1.67 goals-against average and .943 save percentage that he led the Swedish Elite League with as a 22-year-old member of the Frolunda Indians last season.
Prior to Andersen, the last time a 22-year-old Frolunda goalie led the Swedish Elite League in goals-against average and save percentage was 2004-05, when some guy named Henrik Lundqvist turned the trick with a 1.79 goals-against average (worse than Andersen's) and .935 save percentage (worse than Andersen's).
What's more, Lundqvist's "lesser" stats came on a Frolunda team which was loaded with NHL talent from the Second NHL Lockout-Daniel Alfredsson, P.J. Axelsson and former Duck Samuel Pahlsson, to name a few-which dominated the Swedish Elite League en route to winning the league's championship that season. Meanwhile, Andersen posted his numbers on a less-talented Frolunda-where there may or may not actually be Indians- team which finished fifth out of 12 last season.
OK, I get it again: Henrik Lundqvist is "The King" and Frederik Andersen is a rookie AHL goalie with a .500 record-clearly not a king, yet.
But then again, would any Ducks fan want a "King" in goal, anyway?
Well, maybe if he turned out to be as good as Lundqvist.