Yes, the sample size is small. Ortio, from Turku, Finland, currently boasts a 3-3-0 record with a 2.20 GAA and a .907 SV percentage. The numbers are by no means glamorous, yet they’re more than respectable considering he plays on the fourth-worst team in the league. Only the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres have provided their goaltender with less goal support than the Flames’ output of 159 goals scored through 66 games. In Ortio’s three losses, the Flames have scored zero, one and two goals, respectively.
Why can Ortio be a successful, NHL goaltender?
The 22-year-old Ortio has had prior success on a big stage. Last spring, in the 2013 IIHF World Championship, Ortio posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.98 GAA while splitting goaltending duties with Antti Raanta for Finland. Though he had yet to play an NHL game, this World Championship experience provided him the chance to face and gain confidence against teams that had current NHL players on their rosters.
Like his idol and fellow countryman, Miikka Kiprusoff, who is the Flames’ all-time leader in wins and shutouts, Ortio was coached by goaltending guru, Urpo Ylonen. Both goaltenders began their careers playing for HC TPS of the Finnish Elite League. Similar to Kiprusoff, Ortio was a late round pick (Kiprusoff was a fifth round pick, Ortio a sixth-rounder). To think Ortio will blossom into the superstar that Kiprusoff was is an outlandish expectation, especially at this point. Kiprusoff is the greatest Finnish goaltender of all time. That being said, Ortio and Kiprusoff do share similarities when comparing their early careers and how NHL scouts viewed them, as indicated by their late draft positions.
The quality of goaltending coming out of Finland is at an all-time high. Tuukka Rask, arguably the best goaltender in the NHL, Kari Lehtonen, Pekka Rinne, Antti Neimi and Niklas Backstrom are proven, first-choice goaltenders currently in the NHL. The more Ortio can interact with his fellow Finnish netminders, whether it be representing Finland at the World Championships or through text and phone conversations as he settles into the North American life and the NHL style of play, the better off Ortio will be.
Though his NHL career has only just begun, Ortio has shown signs of promise for the Flames. The foundation is in place for him to be a solid goaltender in the NHL. Whether that means he’s capable of being the Flames’ No. 1, only time will tell.