2006 WJC: Q&A with Tuukka Rask

By Matt MacInnis

The Toronto Maple Leafs used their first round pick in 2005, 21st overall, to select highly touted Finnish goaltender Tuukka Rask. Rask is a product of the Ilves organization in the Finnish SM-Liiga.

The Savonlinna native has explosive speed between the pipes, getting across the net with lightning movement. He gets into the butterfly position quickly and has the ability to pop back to his feet instantly. His nature speed and reflexes, as well as his ability to keep himself angled towards the shooter, give his team the ability to win almost every night, even when his team is outclassed. He was widely considered to be the goaltender most likely to steal your team wins in the 2005 draft, although there have been questions about his consistency and his stamina.

Rask was selected to represent Finland at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Vancouver, BC. After starting the first game in net for Finland, a 5-1 loss at the hands of Canada, 18-year-old Rask found himself watching from the bench for a 6-5 loss to the American team while 19-year-old Karri Ramo (TB) played instead. At this point, the goaltender who gets the next start is uncertain.

HF: How are you doing this year playing in the Finnish league?

TR: Oh, good, I am satisfied. I have played 15 games thus far; save percentage is .92-something, so I am satisfied.

HF: How would you describe your style in net?

TR: I think, hybrid, with more butterfly style. I can also play standup if it is needed.

HF: You try to play more of a positional game than a scrambling game?

TR: Yeah, yeah. I try to be calm, stay in right position.

HF: Are you going to play the next game for Finland?

TR: I don’t know, they haven’t told me. They haven’t told us yet. Tomorrow probably.

HF: How did it feel to be drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs?

TR: Of course, really excited, great organization. It couldn’t be any better.

HF: Ed Belfour appears to be in his final few seasons, meaning that the starting job is going to be wide open in Toronto soon. Do you see yourself as the immediate replacement for Belfour?

TR: Well, actually I knew that before the draft. I knew that he’s old guy and not going to play so many more years. But I don’t know, we’ll see.

HF: How closely are you currently following the Maple Leafs?

TR: Yeah, we can see those games from satellite TV.

HF: Who was your favorite team before the Leafs drafted you?

TR: I didn’t have any, I didn’t have any. No.

HF: Right now Finland is producing some of the best goaltending talent in the world. Miika Kiprusoff in the NHL and then two of the best young goalies in the NHL with Hannu Toivonen and Kari Lehtonen. Why do you think so many good goalies are coming out of Finland right now?

TR: That’s a hard question. I don’t have any answer, any good answer. I don’t know. We’re just good (laughing).

HF: Who do you believe is the best forward playing in this tournament?

TR: Best forward? There are lots of good forwards. I can’t name one. All those Canadian guys who played yesterday are good and this year these guys today (USA), they’re all good forwards.

HF: How did you start out playing as a goaltender when you were a child?

TR: This is kind of obvious choice for me because my grandfather was a goalie, so it came to me. I’ve always been a goalie.

HF: How do you think the new goaltending rules affect you?

TR: I think that that’s not so bad for a goalie. It doesn’t bother so much, you get used to that with time. I don’t know, I don’t know. We don’t have those smaller pads in Finland, that comes next year, so I don’t know about those. It could be good.

HF: So you still haven’t played with the smaller pads?

TR: No, no I haven’t.

HF: Do you have any idea where you’re going to be playing next year?

TR: No, not yet, no. Hopefully North America.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.