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(Article)Botchford: In battle for Canucks backup, the winner still loses


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If you’re still trying to figure out who Joacim Eriksson is, you start with his blond, shaggy flow.

He looks much like “Sunshine,” the backup quarterback from the movie Remember the Titans.

Sunshine didn’t think he was ready when got tapped for the big game. Eriksson can relate.

“At my first (NHL) training camp, I felt too young,” Eriksson said. “I feel much better now.”

Eriksson is now 23 years old, and he has spent the past three seasons mostly splitting goaltending duties for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League team, hoping for a chance to play in North America.

Philadelphia had drafted him five years ago. A few years later, they gave up on him. But what do the Flyers know about goaltending, anyway?

Eriksson did win the starting job last season in Sweden in the playoffs, carrying Skelleftea to a title. It changed everything.

The run (Eriksson was 21-9 with a .931 save percentage) revived interest from the NHL. It’s what led Eriksson to the Vancouver Canucks as a free agent this off-season.

Sure, he’d like to back up Roberto Luongo this year. He’s never played in North America. And he wouldn’t mind being a No. 1 goalie for an entire season.

“I’d like to play as much as possible,” Eriksson said. “It’s going to be easier for me if I play more.”

It does seem a cruel twist of fate. Both current candidates to back up Luongo need desperately to play games. Here they are, competing for a job where the winner won’t get many at all.

Lack is obviously the betting favourite. However, he hasn’t played in nine months after micro-fracture hip surgery and still needs to be medically cleared. The Canucks are gambling it will work out with Lack.

But at some point, he is going to have to play. Maybe he gets two to three of the Canucks’ six pre-season tilts. Then what? He starts Oct. 20 in Columbus and then Nov. 10 in Anaheim? Then a game or two in December? Is that enough for a still-developing 25-year-old who hasn’t played since November?

It’s not inconceivable the best place for the two goalies, to start the season, is in the AHL. It would leave the Canucks trying to get a netminder off of the waiver wire this fall to play fill-in. If it hadn’t sunk in that Cory Schneider is gone, don’t worry, it will soon.

At least, the Canucks have an idea what they have in Lack. He spent parts of three seasons in the AHL.

Eriksson remains an unknown. That’s why he’s playing three of the four Young Stars games here in Penticton. He got off to a shaky start Thursday against the San Jose Sharks’ prospects. He was beat on the short side just after Bo Horvat scored for the Canucks on their first shot of the game.

Eriksson did, however, make amends. His calm save on a tipped shot with 1:52 left as the skaters in front of him were running on fumes helped seal the Canucks 3-2 win. By the end, Eriksson made 38 saves. Not a bad start at all.

There may have been other teams interested in him before he agreed to terms (a two-way deal) with the Canucks, but none willing to sign him to a one-way contract.

He was drafted in the seventh round by the Philadelphia Flyers back in 2008. He spent the next year in Sweden behind both Jacob Markstrom and Anders Lindback in the Brynas IF Gavle development system. Not a lot of room there.

He bolted for a team in the Swedish second division to get playing time. He did well and a year later found his way to the Swedish Elite League, where he was the backup and only played 17 games.

That’s when the Flyers gave up on him, letting him walk away as a free agent in 2011. Eriksson nearly gave up on himself then, too.

“Sometimes, I doubted myself,” Eriksson said. “It was a cool thing to be drafted in the NHL. I was very excited. I wanted to be in the NHL. But I wasn’t too good. So, they didn’t want to sign me.

“But I have more confidence than I did before. I worked hard with a mental coach.

“I would talk to him a few times a week. I would talk to him after games. I learned to focus on the right things.”

Eriksson said he got his payoff on that post-season run last season.

“That was the best I’ve ever played,” Eriksson said. “My level, was, you could say, never too high and never too low. I think that was the reason.

“I thought then I was (ready) for North America. It was an easy decision.

“I was disappointed things (didn’t work) with Philadelphia. But now I’m back (in North America with Vancouver).

“And it’s unbelievable.”


This organization,has done very well in goaltending

I think both,are future NHL goalies

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