Johan Holmqvist – The Next Guardian of the Nets?

By Evan Andriopoulos
Other than the dismal 99-00 season one has to look far back to when the Rangers gave their young netminders a shot at ice time in New York with the big club. Over the last couple seasons we have seen J.F.Labbe, Milan Hnilinka, Jason Labarbera, Johan Holmqvist get a shot which is negative and positive. The negative is that the must be a reason why the Mike Richters and Kirk McLeans of of the world are not playing…perhaps injury, perhaps poor performance. But this has opened the door a host of new to the NHL netminders to get that call everyone outside of the NHL dreams of… top play in the NHL.

Johan Holmqvist, a native of Tolfta, Sweden began his international journey at a young age…playing for the Swedish National Junior program against the Russian Bears, The Attacking Finns and the free wheeling Czechs. Holmqvist quickly established himself as a future NHL prospect and with the help of Christer Rockstrøm (old Rangers Scandinavian scout), the Rangers selected him with their 7th round pick in the 1997 draft. Holmqvist played well for Brynås of the Swedish Elite League earning a national title as well as 8 shutouts a 2.67 goals against in 117 matches. In his other non championship season, Johan guided Brynås to a second place finish and a participated with the National Junior Team in the 1998 World Junior Tourney.

Sweden who has produced goaltenders Pelle Lindbergh(ex.Flyers), Tommy Soderstrøm(ex.Islanders), Tommy Salo(Oilers) has been starving for a new International Hero. Holmqvist just may be it…for he knows that in his shadow fellow Rangers picks Johan Asplund and Henrik Lundqvist are about ready to make the step to the next level…with the Rangers and North American hockey.

Holmqvist is currently sharing duties with import Vitali Yeremeyev in Hartford of the AHL. Holmqvist has recorded stats of 19gp 1080mins 2.67gaa 11w 5l 2t 1so 1 0.914save%. The 6-1 190lber is only 23 and has already tasted the ice (2 games 71 mins and a 5.04gaa) of the NHL game and if all goes as scheduled he may see regular ice with the Rangers next season.

The problem most European Goalies face with the North American game are the angles of shots. They simply come from anywhere at anytime… from the boards, from center ice, from between the defenders legs… The other noteable problem is the traffic in front… 225 wingers regularly plant themselves in front of the crease looking for that tasty rebound, add the 220 defenseman of today`s NHL and there is not much view. Johan has quickly adapted to this play and will likely be ready for season 2001-02 with a little more priming in Hartford.

The future in the nets looks positive for the New York Rangers…!