For the first time since 2012, we have a goaltending battle in Columbus, folks.
We all know that story. Sergei Bobrovsky, who held the starting position for the Blue Jackets between the pipes since halfway through the 2012-2013 season, is gone.
Okay - enough of that.
Bobrovsky is out. Elvis (Merzlikins) is in the building and has been dubbed the Blue Jackets' incoming franchise goaltender by media and fans.
There's one problem - someone forgot to tell Joonas Korpisalo that.
Korpisalo has been a serviceable Bobrovsky backup goaltender for the past four seasons. Though his numbers dipped slightly last year (as did Bobrovsky's, mind you), he has done his job well living in the shadow of one of the best goaltenders in the world.
Right now, is there an overwhelming thought that Korpisalo will be the starter for the majority of the 2019-2020 season with Merzlikins coming in? Not really. But if one thinks that the 25-year-old Korpisalo is ready to lay down and let his 25-year-old counterpart take the throne, they are likely mistaken.
A third-round pick in 2012, Korpisalo has averaged a .907 save percentage and a 2.89 goals-against average in his four seasons in Columbus. His statistics this past season were the lowest of his professional career (.897 SV% and 2.95 GAA), but even still, he was ranked 37th in the league in GAA and 45th in SV% for those that played as many games as he did (27).
Koorpisalo has been a good-not-great backup for the Blue Jackets, but who knows what being put in a staring role could do for the Fins' confidence.
So that starting role, as mentioned, is certainly up for grabs, and won't be an easy snatch for Korpisalo. There's a reason Merlikins is being touted as the next face of Columbus in net.
Merlikins - the Blue Jackets' third-round pick in 2014 - was described by Jarmo Kekalainen himself as "the best goaltender outside of the NHL right now," earlier this year. Having your bosses' early praise is a point in favor of Mr. Merlikins.
Though he hasn't touched the ice for an NHL game just yet, Merzlikins has been special in international affairs. He recorded a 2.44 GAA (seventh in the league) and a .921 SV% (fourth in the league) in 43 games for HC Lugano in the NLA.
Overall, Merlikins has a record of 105-79-7 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .920 save% in his 210 career games with HC Lugano. He has received the goaltender of the year award in his league twice.
"(Merzlikins is) the best goaltender outside of the NHL right now,"– Jarmo Kekalainen
Will this translate to North American hockey? October can't come soon enough.
Korpisalo has certainly had a head start with the club and will be ready to claim what is rightfully his, but Merzlikins will be ready to challenge the throne. Get your popcorn ready.
Projected starter at season's start: Korpisalo
Projected starter post-All-Star-break: Merzlikins
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