Road to Sochi - Episode 8
In this episode of the Bruins Road to Sochi, we're not talking about a player who has earned his role at the Olympics by playing at a high NHL-level. This epsiode is about a goalie from a country where hockey isn't even in the top 5 of biggest sports. Lars Volden and his chance to prove doubters wrong.
When the Boston Bruins picked Oslo native Lars Volden in the 6th round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft they had just won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years thanks to phenomenal goaltending by Tim Thomas. Together with Tuukka Rask he build one of the best, if not the best goalie tendem in the league.
Despite the fact that they had a young and promising goalie in Rask, Bruins decided to draft for a goalie in the upcoming draft. Volden had a good playoff run with the Espoo Blues in the Finnish youth league the season before, stating a GAA of 2.51 and a SVS% of .910 (2nd best in the league). He also lead the Norwegian team back into the World Juniors by winning the Division A championship (.958 SV% / 1.47 GAA)
He was part of the Bruins developement camp for the first time in 2011 alongside Zane Gothberg and Michael Hutchinson. While Gothberg is still part of the Bruins organization, Volden wasn't invited to this years dev. camp. Things have changed in a big way since Volden was drafted almost three years ago. When Tim Thomas decided to take a year off after the early 2012 playoff exit, the B's drafted one of the most promising goalie prospects in recent years, beeing Malcolm Subban.
Tuukka Rask was giving the starting job, while former P-Bruins starter Anton Khudobin got the back-up role in Boston. This forced the Bruins to another goalie acquisition for their AHL affiliate in Providence, which they found in Niklas Svedberg. The young Swede immediately earned himself the starting job ahead of Michael Hutchinson, ending his rookie season with the Baz Bastien Trophy as the AHL's best goalie.
Hutchinson was another victim of the Bruins strong goalie depth and finds himself back in the ECHL this year with one of the Winnipeg Jet's affiliates, whereas Subban took his back-up role in Providence.
Volden is playing a decent rookie season in the Finnish SM-Ligaa so far, starting half as much games as Blue's starter Jani Nieminen who has almost equal stats.
Scouts describe him as "A great keeper with butterfly-style. Technically good and nice movement. Quick feet and picking glove. Calm style of play, but questions about the mental strength"
The 21-year old's next task will be taking the starting job in the Norwegian national team from Lars Haugen who has been their starter since 2010.
26-year old Haugen currently plays for Minsk in the KHL but is injured until mid-January which might give Volden even a bigger chance to get more games in Sochi. Decent World Championship performances between 2010 and 2012 (6th place in '10) were rewared with an early qualification for Sochi. The Norwegians find themselves in a group with Canada and Finland plus fellow underdog Austria.
The Olympics will be a big chance for Volden to show what he's capable of, playing against NHL level players (even if it's on the bigger ice). He's still at a young age and one great season in Europe might be enough to get a 2nd trial overseas, even if he just end's up beeing a career AHL goalie. Tim Thomas made his NHL debut with 30+ and some goalie always take more time to find their game than others.
All the best to Lars Volden on his long way to be the first NHL goalie from Norway, if it's in a Bruins jersey or not ...