Antti Raanta was stunned at the number of people surrounding him here in Chicago. And that was just at O’Hare International.
“The airport as more people than in my home town,” said Raanta, who hails from Rauma, Finland, population 39,000. “It’s kind of fun. The city’s unreal. You’ve seen it in movies, but you’ve never been here. I’ll go today to see more of the city and get some shopping done.”
What Raanta won’t be doing at this Blachawks prospect camp is getting used to North American ice, a smaller surface he has yet to play on in his young career. Raanta is suffering from a “minor” injury that, while nothing serious, will keep him out of drills and scrimmages this week at Johnny’s IceHouse West. Raanta didn’t want to discuss specifics of his injury, but it sounds like it’s more precautionary sidelining him this week.
“I was seeing doctors in Finland and they were thinking it would be better to come here and let (the Blackhawks’) doctors here see the injury. Of course it’s not so bad; small injury,” he told the media this afternoon. “Doctors will do the best treatment. I’d love to be on the ice but the coaches said they didn’t want to take the risk. When I’m OK, I’ll take to the ice.”
Raanta’s work on European ice was just fine last season. Playing for Assat Pori of the Finnish elite league, Raanta went 21-10-11 with a 1.85 goals-against average and .943 save percentage. Raanta, who will head home at the end of this week and then participate at a camp in Sweden at the end of August, knows he will have to adjust when he comes back here.
“Guys are coming harder to the net and the angles are different than I’m used to,” he said. “We’ll see when I get to the ice… in training camp. I’m looking forward to it.”
Raanta would love to put on a great show at training camp and vie for that backup goaltending spot. The Blackhawks signed veteran Nikolai Khabibulin to a one-year deal last week to ensure they’d have a backup to Corey Crawford. General manager Stan Bowman has said that he wants to give Raanta a chance to get used to the smaller ice surface, and if he needs extra time, he’ll get it.
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As for the Khabibulin signing, Raanta wasn’t surprised.
“It was obvious they were going to take some goalie there,” he said. “They didn’t promise me I’d be one fo the top two. I know I have a lot of work (to do) to get games in the NHL. I’m ready for that. But if I have to go to the NHL, I’m ready for that also.”
Raanta’s North American ice adjustment will have to wait. Until then he’ll enjoy Chicago, go back overseas to work on his game, and be ready for another chance this fall.
“Training camp is crucial. If that goes well, maybe I’ll get the chance. But I have to be ready to battle in Rockford, also,” he said. “I don’t think about those things now. I’m just trying to get into good shape and be ready for training camp.”