Photo: Finland goaltender Samu Perhonen is considered the top goaltending prospect for the 2011 NHL Draft by some scouts (courtesy of Chapin Landvogt/HF)
Heading into the IIHF U-18 WJC in Dresden and Crimmitschau, Germany, it was clear that there would be many eyes on Finnish goaltender Samu Perhonen, who is currently ranked as the top goaltending prospect in Europe for the 2011 NHL Draft. The 6’4”, 172 lbs. Perhonen spent this past season participating in a number of international tournaments for Finland and starred for the JYP Jyvaskyla junior team, putting up a 2.71 GAA and .922 save percentage.
Nonetheless, heading into a do-or-die game against the Czech Republic, Perhonen’s tournament had been less than spectacular, gaining a 5-2 victory against Norway (on only 15 shots against) and losing 5-4 to Canada despite having a 3-2 lead in the third period. After a 5-3 victory over the Czechs, a game full of excitement and intrigue, Hockey’s Future had the opportunity to catch up with Samu Perhonen for a post-game chat.
HF: Samu, you just completed a huge comeback. Knowing your team had to not only win, but to do so by two or more goals, what were thoughts when the Czechs scored to take a 3-2 lead with roughly 8 minutes left in the 3rd period?
SP: When it happened, I immediately thought ‘oh no’, especially with so little time left go in the game, but I never stopped believing in us. We have plenty of good players and I knew we could get back into it.
HF: It’s good to have that kind of belief in your teammates, who ultimately came through with 3 goals in the last 8 minutes to win the game 5-3, effectively winning and doing so with the necessary goal difference. How did you feel when that 5th goal was scored on a breakaway with only 15 seconds left in the game?
SP: It was an incredible feeling. Absolutely incredible! Still, when you know you can count on your teammates, you keep doing so and then they show the hockey world why. That made it really special.
HF: The NHL draft is of course coming up in the not all too distant future and you’re surely well aware that the stands are full of scouts. Is this something that makes you feel like you’re playing under pressure?
SP: This fact doesn’t create any pressure. I’m here to represent Finland and not myself.
HF: Are you aware that you are currently ranked as the #1 goaltending prospect for this summer’s NHL draft?
SP: Yes, I am aware of that.
HF: What would you say was your biggest step in development this past season?
SP: I was able to practice and play quite a bit this past winter. That simply made my overall game better and made me sharper as a goalie.
HF: What would you say are your biggest weaknesses at the current time?
SP: Well, I can’t say there’s any one big weakness that I have. My level of play is pretty consistent in all areas, but every aspect of my game must be improved upon. That’s a certainty.
HF: Do you know where you’ll be playing next season?
SP: I’ll most likely for JYP Jyvaskyla in the Mestis next season. There I’ll be facing professionals in Finland’s second highest men’s league.
HF: Samu, thank you very much for this interview. Here’s wishing you the best of luck in this tournament and throughout your career.