Ortio plans on making Flames roster
Finnish goalie expects to make it tough to send him to minors
Joni Ortio has heard the verdict.
To the surprise of no one, he’s flat-out dismissing it.
At season’s end, Calgary Flames boss Brian Burke had declared that he wanted to see Ortio play a pile of games in 2014-15 — meaning a heavy workload for the goalie in the American Hockey League.
“I’ve got to disagree with Burkie,” Ortio said Friday from his home in Finland. “Not about the fact that I need to play a lot — he’s absolutely right about that. But my goal is to come into camp and steal a spot. It’s our business — younger guys trying to steal the old guy’s spot and his jersey.”
Slotted above him on the depth chart are Karri Ramo and freshly signed Jonas Hiller.
Unfazed is Ortio.
“I agree that I need to get the games in,” he said, “but my goal is to get those games in the NHL, not in Glens Falls.”
Ortio does admit that he’s peeked at a map to learn more about Glens Falls, N.Y., new base of the Flames’ farm club.
“It’s not a huge city, that’s come to my attention,” he said, chuckling. “But, hopefully, I don’t have to visit there that often.”
Burke, of course, had meant no disrespect by his comment. He simply wants Ortio, a plum prospect, nurtured properly — not too soon heaved out of his comfort zone.
But the Flames, apparently, figure one more winter of non-NHL activity will be sufficient seasoning.
Because for the 2015-16 campaign, Ortio’s new contract is a one-way arrangement — $600,000, no matter where he toils. That first one-way clause is no small thing.
“For sure, it is a confidence booster,” said Ortio, a restricted free agent, who signed a two-year deal Thursday. “That gives me motivation to work towards that spot in the NHL.”
Last season, the 23-year-old had excelled everywhere — with ECHL Alaska, with AHL Abbotsford, with Calgary, where he made the first nine appearances of his NHL career.
Many observers point to 2013-14 as Ortio’s breakout.
Truth be told, the pivotal stretch had arrived the year before when he worked more than 60 matches for HIFK Helsinki. A telling winter.
“That whole season in Finland was huge for me … a stepping stone.”
By the time he got to the Young Stars prospects tournament in Penticton, B.C., last fall, he was primed.
And it showed.
“I got off to a hot start,” said the 171st overall pick of the 2009 draft. “And that really helped me.”
(That dazzling display in Penticton had been in stark contrast to his 2011 debut in the Young Stars event: “Basically, if we’d played with a beach ball, I wouldn’t have been able to catch that. I mean, I got lit up.”) While his rookie-camp excellence had everyone buzzing, the Flames — with Karri Ramo and Joey MacDonald in Calgary, with Reto Berra and Laurent Brossoit in Abbotsford — dispatched Ortio to Anchorage, Alaska, to backstop the Aces.
“It’s never fun,” said Ortio, who started four times — 3-1-0, 1.01 goals-against average — for the Aces. “At one point, you’re in training camp battling for a spot in the NHL and, before you know it, you’re in the ECHL. That’s not fun, but I understood where the organization was coming from.
“When I got back up, Abby pretty much got off to a flying start — the big reason was how well the guys played in front me. Things kept rolling from that point. Getting nine games in with Calgary was huge. I’ve known for a while now that I can play in the NHL, but that was ultimate proof for myself and for everyone else that I can play at that level.”
Not unrelated to Ortio’s blossoming, the Flames, along the way, parted ways with Brossoit. Then Berra.
Suddenly — fresh contract in hand, leap up the depth chart assured — the path to the NHL seems much more direct.
“I love Calgary. I loved staying there last year. I can’t wait to get back.”
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