Earlier this week, the first goaltender to wash ashore in the Flyers' 2011 Goalie Watch was that of Niko Hovinen, a name likely unknown to hockey fans in the Delaware Valley. In a sign of the media times we live in, Hovinen's signing to an entry-level contract was picked up by most if not all local mainstream outlets, many blogs, and quite a few national and international sites. Just a few years ago, most people who now know the name Niko Hovinen outside of Europe would never have heard it at this stage of his Flyers career.
Naturally, the question that first comes to mind is, so is this guy ever going to be a Flyer? No clue. I'm one of the masses that had never heard of him.
Here's a brief summary of what we do know about Hovinen, as well as a link to someone who has more deep-rooted opinions.
(1) He's freakin' huge. Most sites are listing him at 6'7. It's unknown whether this is a necessarily a major advantage, as there are no plans for the height of the crossbars to be raised that I know of. Obviously it means he has longer legs and theoretically more range with his glove and blocker though, which would be a plus. But quickness and great size are not often correlative attributes. Again, I've never seen him play, so…
(2) He was already drafted and left to stay in Finland. The Wild selected Hovinen in 2006. He's said to have developed his game over the last two seasons there though, putting him back on the North American radar.
(3) If he does make it to the big club, we'll have trouble picking just one musical reference for him. Today we went with the German singer/model/actress with whom I share a birthday (pictured with her crew). On our first ever Hovinen post got a quick Hova comment, so that could stick if we ever do see this guy in North America. Maybe Big Pappi?
(4) His path to the NHL might not be easy. This may sound obvious, but hey, Sergei Bobrovsky went from relative obscurity to rookie sensation (early on anyway) in the blink of an eye, so anything's possible. But Hovinen has a lot of game to gain, as well as a string of goalies already in the Flyers system and hoping for a crack at the big gig.
(5) Here's a link to The Goalie Guild's Nine Thoughts on Niko Hovinen. Solid mix of facts and opinions from someone who's been tracking him longer than a week.
(6) This may be the most we ever post about Hovinen. See item 4. However, if he does one day make it, his will be an interesting story to cover.