The Toronto Maple Leafs have added to their goaltending depth today, signing college free agent Kasimir Kaskisuo to a two-year contract.
.@MapleLeafs have signed goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo (U of Minnesota-Duluth) to a 2-year entry level contract (effective 2016-17 & 2017-18)
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) March 28, 2016
As you could probably guess from the name, Kaskisuo is Finnish born and raised but differs from the traditional development path in the sense that he crossed into North America to continue his development. After four seasons of playing at the U18 and U20 ranks for Jokerit, the Espoo native did not join the team as they became the first Finnish team to cross paths into the Kontinental Hockey League, opting instead to join the Minnesota Wilderness of the NAHL, a Junior-A league in the United States.
With the Wilderness, Kaskisuo put up an impressive 0.944 save percentage in 32 games played, which didn’t draw the eyes of any NHL teams but interested the nearby University of Minnesota-Duluth. Playing on a team with Leafs prospects Tony Cameranesi and Dominic Toninato, Kaskisuo has been the starting goaltender for the school for the past two years, posting a combined record of 37-31-8, earning six shutouts, and posting a 0.920 save percentage in that time.
Kaskisuo’s 0.923 save percentage this season was good for 22nd in the country, while his goals against average, minutes played, and shutout totals all rank in the top ten. Last year, he was named a member of the NCHC’s All-Rookie team.
Like so many modern young goaltenders, Kaskisuo is praised for his size and athleticism. With a 6’3, 200lb frame, he has a lot of body that he’s able to place in front of the puck and displays significant athletic ability and flexibility. Many consider Kaskisuo to be a “late bloomer” of sorts though it’s more likely that spending his draft years in European Development leagues and Junior-A was a bigger hindrance to an NHL team not picking up sooner.
As for what that means to the Leafs, a lot still remains to be seen. It appears that Kaskisuo won’t be the start of the “next generation” of young goaltenders in the system, instead joining 22-year-old Garret Sparks and 21-year-old Antoine Bibeau in the current youth class. Toronto will likely have to look to the draft if they plan on adding a goaltender or two with a few years to go. Though, as long as the European and NCAA markets are flooded with previously overlooked, skilled early 20’s goaltenders, it might not be a necessity.
Kaskisuo’s contract begins in the 2016/17 season and goes through to 2017/18. That means you won’t see him playing any of the Leafs’ remaining games though an Amateur Tryout contract with the Toronto Marlies shouldn’t be ruled out. It’s just as likely, though, that with Sparks, Bibeau, and Alex Stalock all at the team’s disposal that they’ll focus on getting Kaskisuo prepared for the fall rather than rushing him into more hockey.