The Avs took goaltender Justus Annunen with their first pick on Saturday, 64th overall. It’s a highly specialized position and really needs an expert view, which is not me. Luckily our good friend Geremy (@TheGoalieGiant on twitter) is an expert and here’s his pre-draft scouting report on the big Finn.
Team: Kärpät U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
DOB: March 11, 2000
Height: 6’ 4”
Weight: 207 lbs
It’s been a very good and consistent year for Justus Annunen who is gaining recognition as one of the top goalie prospects in the draft as well as being a top Finnish goalie prospect. For me the hype started at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and it’s been slowly building to the point where he’s earned himself the 4th spot in these rankings. Throughout the year in league play and tournament play he’s gotten better to the point where he’s established himself as a goalie to watch. His league play in particular has been impressive enough that it earned Annunen the Jorma Valtonen Award for top goalie, was named to the 1st All-Star team, and was given one start in the Liiga. Annunen followed up a heavily awarded regular season with a fantastic playoff run with his team ending up as the finalist while Annunen posted a 0.935 SV%, the highest among goalies who played 4 games or more.
The first you’ll notice when watching Annunen play is he has a pro-sized frame already. The second aspect of Annunen you’ll notice right after wards is he knows just how big he is and how to mold his own play style to his advantage. There’s an obvious technical slant to Annunen’s play style because it’s the best for how it fits his strengths and weaknesses. He uses a taller stance with hands out in an active position. With this type of stance he knows he doesn’t (and shouldn’t) need to be aggressive often because he’s already taking up a large portion of the net. What I like most about his crease depth is how he picks his spots when to be aggressive and when to be further back. It’s this type of recognition that fits into Annunen’s mind set which is play within his limits. Annunen knows he’s not the perfect goalie and has limits. So he plays within his box of control and rarely over extends himself in order to cover up his weaknesses as best as possible. His technical proficiency extends to his post play where he’s learned how integrate himself with the post and does well in tracking the puck behind the net.
Annunen’s biggest weakness is his physical skill set and in particular his quickness. Now he does have a solid base of footwork and edge work. He has both of them at a level high enough that they get him around the net efficiently enough right now as long as he moves within his box of control. His box of control though isn’t very big which is why he needs to be as good as he is at controlling his crease depth but there are always parts of the game where he needs to go outside of that box and that’s where he runs into trouble. He hasn’t built up his leg strength to the point where he has an explosive portion to his game leaving him highly vulnerable to royal road-type passes. Annunen also struggles at keeping his form together when making those long distance movements as he sees his upper body positioning disintegrate and it’s obvious he’s overextending himself. This shows up in his Impact Rating results in 2/3 tournaments tracked posting a below average Impact Rating on shots off passes at the Ivan Hlinka and U18 5 Nations. The one bit of quickness he does have is his reactions, especially his reactions in close making him hard to beat on those in-close chances because he’s quick and seals up very well. A smaller issue I’d like to see him shore up is when it comes to his decision making regarding the RVH. He’s a bit too comfortable in using it when he’s near his posts getting into the RVH early.
The most important aspect of Annunen’s game apart from his technical proficiency is his puck tracking. Without his puck tracking he wouldn’t be able to adjust his crease depth to accommodate his box of control. He does a very good job at knowing where the puck is at all times and does well at tracking shots into his body. There are inconsistent moments that happen on the longer range shots, especially if they are aimed at his pads or blocker. He’s able to get his body in front of the puck to save it but you’d like to see him control the puck better in those situations. It’s been a good progression though for Annunen in puck tracking that you can see in his Impact Rating through the season. At the Ivan Hlinka his IR was below average, at the U18 5 Nations it was slightly above average, and then when it came to the U18 WJC’s he was way above average. It’s very promising when you see a goalie progress the way Annunen has. When it comes to playing the puck he generally does well on his passes and clears. Where he runs into trouble is in his awareness of where the forecheckers are which will cause issues the higher Annunen plays.
Many thanks to Geremy for his insights here and for allowing us to publish them on BR.