Weight: 176 pounds
Date of birth: July 1, 2001
Hometown: Helsinki, Finland
OHL Draft: Round 1, 30th overall, 2018 CHL Import Draft
NHL Central Scouting Rankings: Pre-season: C Prospect. November: B Prospect. Mid-term: 18 NA goalies
Selected 30th overall at the 2018 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, Windsor Spitfires netminder Kari Piiroinen is a product of the goaltender producing nation of Finland, well known for producing high-end puck stoppers.
Prior to joining the Spitfires, Piiroinen played Junior B hockey for HIFK Under-18 in his native Finland. In 27 appearances he posted a 2.73 goals-against-average and .912 save-percentage. He was superb in the playoffs with a 1.00 goals-against-average and .957 save-percentage. He would briefly join HIFK Under-20 for 4 Junior A games.
Piiroinen (pronounced Pea-ROY-nin) represented Finland at the World Hockey Challenge Under-17.
The Spitfires brought Piiroinen in to be their goaltender of the future. At the start of the season, he was the backup to Michael DiPietro and once DiPietro was traded to the Ottawa 67’s then to Colton Incze. Still, he appeared in 27 games and posted a 4.23 goals-against-average and .875 save-percentage. He took the crease in two playoff contests during the London Knights sweep of the Spitfires in the opening round.
I think the plan was to ease Piiroinen in with DiPietro and once he got his feet wet the Spitfires would find a capable veteran backup and trade DiPietro. And that’s what happened by bringing Incze in. But it was Incze who got the majority of starts.
Piiroinen was the top 2001 goaltender in Finland when the Spitfires selected him and highly touted for the 2019 NHL Draft. But when you are deciding on where to select the netminder, you are going to have to base your thoughts around his potential and the signs of that potential rather then his accomplishments – or lack of – this season.
At 6’1” Piiroinen has some good size but really lacks some bulk to that frame. He has superb athleticism and lightning quick reflexes. He darts out to the top of the paint to challenge shooters quickly. His movement from side to side is very good and he tracks the puck east-west very well. But he has a tendency to over commit at times.
Piiroinen also has a very quick glove. Even when down in the butterfly, he gives shooters the glove side only to take it away with his trapper. He can also absorb pucks and deny second chance opportunities. He plays big in his crease even when down in the butterfly. He knows how to take away the top of the net and his glove hand helps.
That said, there are some issues to work through, most noticeably finding some sort of consistency. He doesn’t get rattled when he allows a soft goal. He can make the spectacular save and then let one in he would like back. But he has shown he can bounce back.
A lot of that comes from adding some muscle and holding his position better. The latter comes with more coaching. How to hold the post, work your angles better, directing rebounds, those type of things.
The strength part will come as he continues his offseason workout regiment and working towards his goal of one day playing in the NHL.