How Lankinen is trying to will dream of becoming Hawks' starter originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Kevin Lankinen is one of the three goalies the Blackhawks' brass are closely monitoring at training camp. He's hoping to edge out the competition in fellow netminders Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia to live out his dream of becoming the Hawks' starting goaltender.
Lankinen, 25, is yet to make his NHL debut, but went 8-10-2 and had a 3.03 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage with Chicago's American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs last season, earning an AHL All-Star nomination for the first time in his career.
The Helsinki, Finland native got a two-year contract extension in April from the Blackhawks, with an $800,000 cap hit and average annual value, that runs through the 2021-22 season.
Lankinen also led Finland to a gold medal at the 2019 IIHF World Championship, registering a 7-1-0 record with a 1.50 goals-against average and .942 save percentage at the tournament.
The gold medal-winning goalie was along for the ride in the bubble with the Hawks and watched the 2020 postseason closely.
"I saw the best players live every single day, so you kind of see some patterns [with] the forward(s), [what] they do, but also how the best goalies in the world play every single night. It opened my eyes a little bit," Lankinen said on a Zoom call with Blackhawks media Friday after Day 4 of training camp.
Kevin determined it was his skating that needed to improve if he wanted to take the net in the NHL.
"I'm just working on my mobility with my skates," he said. "I'm trying to be more up on my skates instead of out-of-line sliding. I try to beat the pass with my feet, try to be more upright a little bit. I try to rely on that quickness in my feet and get set before the shot comes."
Lankinen wasn't shy when describing what he's hoping to get out of this year's camp.
"My goal is to be the No. 1 goalie [for] the Chicago Blackhawks," he stated. "That's been my dream throughout my whole career and that's what I've been working for and that's why I'm here. I want to be the No. 1 goalie [for] the Chicago Blackhawks."
Kevin has felt his confidence and performance heighten as camp has gone on.
"It's getting better every single today," he said. "Even today with the scrimmage, I felt comfortable, I felt confident, just because you have that traffic, you see the puck a little bit better as the days go by. We're on a pretty good schedule here for the puck drop."
We'll see if it's Lankinen, or another one of the goaltenders competing at camp, in net for the Hawks on Jan. 13 when they open the 56-game 2020-21 season against the Lightning in Tampa Bay.
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