What Can the Predators Expect from Kevin Lankinen?
What can we expect from the new Finn in net?
While the signing of Kevin Lankinen was a little curious, I thought it might be helpful to look at what Nashville has in Lankinen for the upcoming season.
Lankinen is Finnish, measuring in at 6’ 2”. He’s 27 years old and he’ll be in his third NHL season in 2022-2023. The Blackhawks signed Lankinen as a free agent in 2018. He played for the Hawk’s minor league squad in Rockford before making the leap to the NHL, and Lankinen has played for both the Blackhawks and the Ice Hogs in the last three seasons.
Lankinen is a left-catch butterfly style goalie, and while he’s not ridiculously tall, his size is nice for professional hockey at both the AHL and NHL level. In 2019-2020 (the shortened Covid season), Lankinen went 8-10-2 in the AHL and served as a third netminder for the Hawks in the “bubble” in Edmonton during summer 2020.
Lankinen was promoted to the Blackhawks in 2020-2021, going 17-14-5 in 37 starts. He posted a very promising .909 Sv% in the Covid-shortened season. Nashville faced Lankinen a few times, and it was clear two seasons ago that Lankinen could be more successful behind a better defensive corps. We’d see flashes of potential from Lankinen, but it was hard for him to put together a complete game.
On the international stage, Lankinen has had some great success for Team Finland. Check out these highlights from Finland’s gold-medal victory over Russia in 2019.
Lankinen has very good lateral movement in the net and his coverage of the lower portion of the net is quite good. He has a tendency to bring his shoulders (and upper body) forward when he’s looking around screens, and much like Juuse Saros, it’ll be important for Lankinen to keep his upper body very tall in net.
If the Predators believe that Lankinen is a candidate to back up Saros and perhaps even reduce Saros’s workload, Lankinen will have to be able to perform after riding the bench for a few weeks. One of the biggest issues Chicago saw with Lankinen after Marc-Andre Fleury was traded to the Minnesota Wild in the spring was Lankinen’s inability to get into a rhythm as a “starter.” Nashville is gambling on Lankinen’s ability to rebound and again, perhaps reduce the workload of his fellow Finn.
Lankinen’s glove isn’t his biggest asset, but he knows how to use it well. Check out this save from 2021 on Aaron Ekblad.
In the clip above, I’m also impressed with Lankinen’s full stretch from right to left in order to respond to Ekblad’s one-timer. He’s got some agility and quickness - he doesn’t have to rely on size to make saves. In my opinion, Lankinen is a goalie that Nashville can work with and develop while also ensuring Saros can rest a little.
In terms of a deal, Lankinen is only signed for one season.
The #Preds have signed goaltender Kevin Lankinen to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.https://t.co/Vn9WW6K17u— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) July 14, 2022
Again, this is a little curious to me because Connor Ingram has proven himself in the AHL. Ingram also proved himself in relief in the playoffs against a wildly powerful Avalanche squad. My questions are largely the same questions most have about Lankinen’s signing - why not Ingram? However, none of us are part of the Predators front office and none of us know what Predators management is planning. I’m not sure why Ingram isn’t being promoted to NHL backup, but in terms of NHL experience, Lankinen does have more games under his belt.
Maybe Nashville is stocking up on Finns?
In all seriousness, I think Lankinen could provide Saros a few more nights off than David Rittich was able to last season. Lankinen could be trusted on the second game of back-to-backs. While viewing clips for this article, I found that Lankinen is rarely out of position. His glove work can use some fine-tuning, and I think I’d like to see him seal his pads on the goal posts with more consistency. All said, in terms of a backup goaltender, Lankinen is more ”NHL backup ready” than Connor Ingram. The signing makes sense if Nashville is hoping to marinate Ingram in Milwaukee for another season or perhaps use Ingram as part of a trade package.