The negative effects from George Gwozdecky's firing in Denver are coming through loud and clear just days after his ousting. Since the well respected coach was let go Monday, the Pioneers have lost defenseman Scott Mayfield (New York Islanders) and now goaltender Juho Olkinuora (Winnipeg Jets) to the NHL.
Olkinuora was an un-drafted NHL free agent, and will likely finish the season with Winnipeg's AHL affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps.
TSN's Darren Dreger first reported the Olkinuora news via Twitter on Saturday.
Denver goalie, Juho Olkinuora, signs with WPG Jets. #TSN— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) April 6, 2013
A sophomore goaltender from Helsinki, Finland, Olkinuora was a late add to Denver's 2011 recruiting class. Olkinuora came in as the Pioneers' third string goaltender behind Sam Brittain and Adam Murray, but that quickly changed after injuries to both Brittain and Murray forced Olkinuora between the pipes.
Olkinuora ran with the job, posting save percentages of .924 in his rookie campaign, and .927 this past season. For his efforts, Olkinuora was named to the All-WCHA second team in 2012-13.
Winnipeg is an interesting destination for Olkinuora, as they selected two NCAA bound goaltenders in the 2012 NHL Draft. Jamie Phillips, who the Jets took in the 7th round, looks like a decent late pick from Michigan Tech, but 6-foot-4, 185-pound Connor Hellebuyck from U-Mass Lowell has turned into an elite goaltending prospect.
In addition to Phillips and Hellebuyk, the Jets also own the rights to RPI goaltender Jason Kasdorf, who they selected in the 6th round of the 2011 draft. As a Winnipeg native, some thought the Jets were throwing a bone to the local player, but Kasdorf ranked sixth overall in college hockey in save percentage (.935) this past season.
Mayfield and Olkinuora may not be Denver's only losses, either. The firing of Gwozdecky may make it easier for players like Nick Shore (L.A. Kings), Joey LaLeggia (Edmonton Oilers), David Makowski (Free Agent) and Quentin Shore (Draft eligible, WHL rights owned by Portland) to leave school.
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