It’s a four spot jump for goaltending prospect Joel Blomqvist from last year’s rankings as the young netminder posted league leading numbers in his native Finland this past season. In a system chock full of goalie prospects at the moment, Blomqvist stands out among the read heading into a new season.
#7: Joel Blomqvist, G
2021 Ranking: #11
Age: 20 (January 10, 2002)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 183 pounds
Acquired Via: Second round draft pick (2020)
Only 20 and already a seasoned professional from his time in his native Finland, Joel Blomqvist firmly takes the reigns as the Penguins top rated goaltending prospect after being neck-and-neck with the now departed Calle Clang for the past few years.
Drafted back in 2020, Blomqvist has spent the entirety of his career playing in Finland outside of a very short stint on an amateur tryout contract with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins near the end of last season.
In Finland where Blomqvist spent the vast majority of his 2021-22 season, Blomqvist starred with Kärpät of the Finnish Liiga. He only appeared in 20 games for Kärpät, but he blossomed into a star, leading Liiga in both save percentage and goals against average.
The Finnish goaltender enjoyed a terrific campaign with Kärpät in Liiga, leading the league with a 1.32 goals-against average and a 0.940 save percentage – albeit in just 20 appearances. Development has been going as expected for Blomqvist, to the point that the Penguins felt comfortable dealing Calle Clang at the trade deadline.
He plays a very technical game, focused on tracking the puck and cutting down angles to remain big as he is relatively undersized at 6-2, 183 pounds. He is not an explosive skater like Yaroslav Askarov, but he is very precise in his lateral movement, rarely finding himself out of position. It looks like he will likely start the year in Wilkes-Barre after signing an amateur tryout in the spring. Don’t be surprised if he takes over the net by the end of the year.
Blomqvist followed up his stellar regular season with an even better performance in the Liiga playoffs. Starting in seven games with Kärpät, Blomqvist bettered his regular season numbers with a .950 save percentage and 1.10 goals against average and logged three wins in the process.
On the international front, Blomqvist is considered the best goaltending prospect in Finland and was expected to be the top goalie for his nation in the delayed 2022 World Junior Championships, so it was a but of a shock when he was not chosen for the tournament.
Turns out, the Finnish national team seemingly believed his priorities were focused more on going pro than playing on the international stage, leading them to leaving Blomqvist off the roster.
Although Finland did manage to win silver at the tournament and come inches away from winning the gold, they were plagued by goaltending issues from the start of play and had many wondering if Blomqvist could have been the deciding factor between their silver medal and winning gold in the end.
As for what lies ahead for Blomqvist and his development remains to be seen. He did participate in last month’s prospect camp in Pittsburgh but he has yet to sign an entry level deal that could make him take the journey across the pond on a more permanent basis.
“His skillset as a goalie and his movement is, I think, elite,” goaltending development coach Kain Tisi said of the 6-foot-2, 183-pound netminder. “We value that very much. He’s got a calm demeanor; nothing really rattles him. If you’ve ever had the chance to talk to him, amazing young man; great human being. He’s just got a phenomenal skillset and talent, and we’re extremely excited for him.”
With fellow prospects Filip Lindberg and Taylor Gauthier already here in North America, it may make more sense to let Blomqvist continue to prosper back in Finland another year before making the jump. That all will sort itself out in the coming weeks.
Right now, the Penguins system is flush with goalie prospects and Blomqvist is leading that pack at the moment in terms of potential. The competition isn’t nearly the same level in Finland as over here in the States, but at 20 years old, Blomqvist is showing strong pedigree that can’t be ignored.
From Corey Pronman at The Athletic:
Blomqvist was excellent this season in Liiga, putting up great numbers for a goalie of any age, never mind a teenager. He wasn’t as good with Finland’s U20 team though over the season, leading to him not starting at the world juniors. Blomqvist is a very talented goalie. He has the quickness in his lower half to get across the crease and challenge shooters with ease. He moves very quickly, but is controlled. He reads the play well and never seems out of position. Blomqvist’s only real drawback is a lack of ideal size and due to that, I see him as more of a backup than a starter in the NHL.
Wherever Blomqvist continues his development next season, it will be another big step in the process of him becoming the Penguins next major piece in goal. He leads a crowded goaltending field in the Penguins system and if he can keep posting results like he did in 2021-22, it may only be a matter of time before he see him in the crease at PPG Paints Arena.