Blue Jackets: Coaches get early look at young goaltenders

By THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH  • 
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If goaltending coach Ian Clark had one message he wanted to instill in his four young charges at the Blue Jackets’ development camp this week, it was to “challenge your speed.”

“The game moves very quickly,” Clark said. “Not only do you have to challenge the pace of your movement and your positional adjustment leading into shots, you also have to have the tremendous quickness coming out of your first save.”

Clark spent camp at the Ice Haus working with 2012 draftees Oscar Dansk (second round) and Joonas Korpisalo (third round), 2011 pick Anton Forsberg (seventh round) and 2010 pick Martin Ouellette (seventh round).

Although camp ended yesterday for skaters, Clark is spending today and Saturday offering more intensive instruction alongside Maciej Szwoch, a visiting goaltending coach from Sweden.“It gives us an opportunity to see these players, see some progression in their game both on the ice and off the ice,” Clark said.Progression is a specialty of Clark’s, who worked last season with Sergei Bobrovsky, winner of the Vezina Trophy for top goalie in the NHL. Clark has also coached NHL veterans Roberto Luogno, Cam Ward and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Having Szwoch to work with is a bonus.“He is of the same mind as I am,” Clark said. “It allows us to have that symmetry with our approach to the goaltenders.”The Blue Jackets are settled on their goaltenders for this season. Bobrovsky is the starter, and Curtis McElhinney is expected to be his backup. Mike McKenna and Jeremy Smith will be the tandem for the American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield, Mass.Dansk, Forsberg, Korpisalo and Ouellette could be several years from contributing at the NHL or AHL level. But this upcoming season is crucial for all of them, as they try to play their way onto the organization’s radar.Szwoch is the goaltending coach for Modo of the Swedish Hockey League, where Forsberg hopes to be the starting goalie this season.

“Anton has had a very interesting journey,” Szwoch said. “He was never on the spotlight from any national team.”

Last season, Forsberg had a breakout year as the starting goalie for the Swedish team Sodertalje. He had a 2.04 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in 33 games.

“Now he’s looking to take the next step in the Swedish (Hockey) League, which I’m very sure he’s going to do,” Szwoch said.

Oullette, meanwhile, will be a senior this fall at the University of Maine. He believes his time spent this week in Columbus will help him this season.

“It’s a great experience to be here around all those talented guys,” Oullette said. “I’m just going to get the most out of what (Clark) says and try and integrate it into my game.”

This week’s camp is the first time the goaltenders have been on the ice in several weeks.

“I feel like I’m getting my groove back,” Dansk said. “I really want to get down to detail with everything.”

Dansk is looking to have a bounce-back season after compiling a 4.11 goals-against average and .888 save percentage in 43 games for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League.

At 19, Korpisalo is the youngest of the four and employs the most aggressive style. He played last season in Finland’s second division and for Jokerit’s under-20 team.

Regardless of their various styles and backgrounds, however, the coaches expect one characteristic to come through in each of the goalies.

“We expect our goaltenders to be the hardest workers,” Clark said. “A camp like this gives us an opportunity, especially these young guys, to begin to instill these ideals.”

iteich@dispatch.com

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