The 2014 Flames Fifteen – #9: Joni Ortio



Jiminy. A lot of things can change in one year, can’t they?

Here we are, into the meat of the Flames Fifteen, at the stage of the game where we profile the prospects in Calgary’s system who actually matter, and in the prestigious Lanny McDonald number 9 spot we’re featuring a guy who couldn’t even make the cut last year.

Upon the completion of our Flames Fifteen: Version 2013 – a most comprehensive and totally readable series underscored by some very sound analysis even though we talked about Mark Jankowski too much – Hockeyus Emeritus Kent Wilson penned an assuaging ode to the poor few who just missed the cut, including this little gem on today’s profile, Flames netminder Joni Ortio:

#16 – Joni Ortio – G
The 22-year old Finnish goalie gets lost in the mix a bit these days thanks to the success of Laurent Brossoit and Jon Gillies, both of whom made our top-10 list. Although Ortio struggled in a very brief appearance for the Abbotford Heat in 2011-12, he went back to his native land soon after and established himself as a capable starter for Markus Granlund’s HIFK of the SM-liiga. Ortio started 54 of his team’s 65 regular season games last year and managed a respectable .917 SV%, the 9th best save rate amongst goalies who played 40+ games in the league.

A former 6th round pick by the Flames, Ortio has never managed elite results anywhere, but last year was a strong enough step forward that he’s worth keeping in the organization. Ortio may hop the pond and battle for a spot on the Heat with Brossoit and Berra, but he always has the option to go back and compete in the SM-liiga if things get too crowded in NA.

Laurent Brossoit, guys.

Needless to say, that former 6th round pick who probably should have gone back overseas looked at the collective mass of doubt, spit in it’s eye, and like some renegade outlaw lurking into town under a shroud of mystery, played some pretty good hockey. (I wanted to end that analogy on a much more illustrative note, but I was never much into Westerns. It’s not my fault John Wayne sucks)

  Justin Kent Ryan BoL Byron Taylor Christian 2013 2012
Joni Ortio 11 7 9 6 8 9 N/P N/P

Last season, only 3 of us on the panel had Ortio in the top 15 at all, and two of those were in the 15th spot, and he ranked no higher than 12 (Laurent Brossoit was ranked 10th). As you can see, aside from Taylor for no discernable reason (/spit), we all have more love for the Turku native this time around, and with ample reason. I tend to be an ol’ softie when it comes to goalies, if you’re wondering why I ranked Joni all the way up in 6th spot. Also, shut up.

What was once (and still is) a deep pool of quality goaltenders and also “traded for a second rounder” Reto Berra, over the course of this past season Joni O (as we’ll now call him) was treading water near the top of it. With both Berra and Joey “Stacks” MacDonald both incomprehensibly challenging Karri Ramo for number 1 minutes with the big club, Joni, perhaps through sheer luck, found himself the tender of record on most nights on a surprisingly competent Abbotsford Heat. Playing the bulk of the minutes out of all SEVEN men who strapped on the pads in Abby, Ortio was lights out, posting a stunning .926 sv% in 37 games, good for nearly half. Seriously, the only thing higher than Ortio’s save percentage in Abbotsford were people who live in Abbotsford. On most nights Joni would perform in a quiet, dependable form, the antithesis to the flashy superhero stuff his action movie star good looks suggest he should employ.

That was more than enough to earn an AHL All Rookie Team nod, and served to quash any lasting memories of Joni’s first stint in Abbotsford two seasons earlier, where in 9 games he looked as ugly and inefficient as Alison Redford’s looming Sky Palace. This was an all too recognizable and depressing notion for Flames fans, as the unheralded goalie who shone bright for a perpetually dark Finland in the 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championships floundered in the North American ranks before returning home, and we thought perhaps another promising star in the works had been just one more cruel mirage, destined to leave us without water when we ever forever parched for thirst.

Dramatics by your humble author aside, considering we had maybe seen Ortio go the Medvedev route, watching him turn it around in a big way at the AHL level was a big ol’ win for both Joni and the organization. It allowed the Flames to trial run all their options in the netminder position. looking for the right mix of goalies who could play (basically only Karri Ramo), without setting the development arcs of the Jon Gillies of the world by throwing them to the wolves too early.

Not that things turned out great, but as a result we know a few things: Reto Berra is terrible and gone, and Joey MacDonald is old and useless and plays a style so 1990’s that his pads have a mullet. Jon Gillies is going to be awesome, and the development of Ortio allows the team to bring up Gillies when he’s ready for them, and not vice versa.

Ortio’s progression rose so far this season that he was the logical choice to be starter over the “experienced” MacDonald when both Ramo and Berra were unable to play following the Olympic break. And while the numbers don’t paint a pretty picture (an .891 in 9 games), the numbers didn’t exactly flatter ANY goalie in Calgary this year (only Ramo had numbers that looked anywhere near league average. THANKS, LADI SMID). Still, Ortio showed the tools you want in a big league goaltender, and certainly you never felt like the team’s chances of winning were dashed whenever he was in the net. And again, I cannot stress this enough, he is not Reto Berra. Always one for the plus column.

Of course, this is sample size city. Ortio has nine games on NHL experience, and while he was real swell at times, he has yet to show enough at this level to determine whether he has any staying power. It’s one thing to be a solid option for a good AHL team, it’s quite another to replicate that success on a let’s say less than stellar NHL club that is unsure of just how much power it may or may not possess. Certainly Ortio doesn’t showcase a ton of glaring weaknesses in his game from a technical level, and he seems to have gotten over whatever it was mentally that left him unprepared once, but when we boil it down, he’s 9 games on NHL ice and 37 more in the AHL. One satisfactory season, as we’ve seen, does not a career keeper make. (Right, JIM CAREY?)

That’s not much information to go on when evaluating his worth, and with the revolution we’ve seen in the passing years on statistical analysis determining the value of players, the world lacks a distressing amount of tools to get an appreciable read on how good goaltenders are. With the information we have, we know Henrik Lundqvist is great, Jonathan Quick is overrated, and after that we have no damn clue. I personally believe he has the ability to be a league average goaltender at minimum, and fortunately the Flames do not need him to be much more than that at this time.


The Flames find themselves at a crossroads this season when it comes to Ortio (and the position in general). Is he capable enough to be a backup to Karri Ramo? Is Karri Ramo even going to be a starter? Will the Flames land a (insert James Reimer type of goalie here) in the offseason, bumping each Finnish incumbent one spot down the padded totem pole? Ortio is only 23 (kinda like TJ Brodie, I’m amazed at how long this guy has been around the team and is still only 23. This is a very good sign), and goalies are so hard to predict. In most cases, the young ones never really reach their peak development until their late 20’s, so how much do you want to keep him in upstate New York, getting quality minutes for the Baby Flames, relative to him playing one in every five in Calgary? Where does Jon Gillies fall into the mix? Hell, even Olivier Roy hasn’t been awful, what happens to him?

As always, with this team and it’s goalies, there are far more questions than answers. But Ortio has been good enough that he deserves to stay in the mix and murk the living hell out of the clairty of the discussion. It’s safe to say he’ll be either the starter in the AHL or the backup in Calgary, depending on where the Flames feel they are in their rebuild and how competitive they intend on being this season. Either way, Ortio’s destiny rests in his own hands, as it’s going to be his play that determines where he ends up more than that of his colleagues in the Calgary crease.

  • amaninvan

    James Reimer? Please no! We don’t need another overrated sub-par goaltender (didn’t we learn anything from Joey Mac?) I personally am comfortable with a Ramo/Ortio tandem to start the season. Ortio showed enough last season to suggest he will be fine, if not spectacular. I say give him the ball (puck) and see how he handles it.

    I like our recent depth at this position. Gone are they days when we had a backup in Karlsson, and our best prospects were Leland Irving and Danny Taylor. I’m excited to have a quality player like Ortio, with Roy coming down the pipe. IMO the future is Gillies.

    • MichaelD

      Why no to Reimer? he’s only 26, and right in this article it says “peak development until their late 20’s”.

      Now I’m not saying he is gonna to be a superstar, or even a starter. But Burke has already said Ortio will be in the minors, and Ramo needs a backup. Oh and he’s a ex-leaf.

      EDIT: sorry, soon to be ex-leaf

  • Lordmork

    Bonus points for negative references to the Sky Palace. Also, I quite like Ortio.

    Taking Burke at face value that Ortio is gonna play lots in the AHL, the Flames still need a backup goaltender. Here’s hoping we can find an upgrade on Joey Mac.

  • Lordmork

    Ortio has come a long way and I hope he keeps improving, he could well be a long term Flame. Burke has clearly informed him that he will be in the AHL for most of next year. The Flames will need to find a back up for the big club and will need to decide on a back up for the jr Flames,

  • amaninvan


    Why not Reimer? Because he just isn’t very good, that’s why. He is a soft goaltender with confidence issues and a bad habit of giving up ridiculously weak goals. His lackluster play is why he lost his starting job and why the Leafs were forced to trade for Bernier. His softies are a deflating kick in the crotch that have sucked the life and competitive drive out of Toronto time and time again. He had a terrible year, his goaltending a serious contributing factor as the Leafs went on major freefall down the stretch to miss the playoffs. This is not a player that appears to be taking steps to hit his late 20’s peak. It looks more like a player fading into oblivion.

    The consensus seems to be that the Flames will need a backup next season, and it won’t be Ortio, as Burke is committed to having him log a ton of minutes on the farm next year (apparently everyone else but me heard Burke say this definitively). If so, then the team should be looking at free agency, not throwing and asset away via trade for someone as mediocre as Reimer. There will be a ton of veteran goaltenders who can be signed this summer on the cheap for a 1 year deal to bring some stability and confidence to the Calgary net and play more consistently than Reimer. Dont bring in a player that will be a lightning rod for controversy and negativity on a young impressionable team.

    I understand the logic: Reimer is young enough that you are tempted to give up an asset in the hopes that he has a good year and you can move him at the deadline and recoup your initial investment. The risk is (predictably) that he sucks, and the player you moved for him turns out to be a much better player than Reimer will ever be. That’s not a risk I think a rebuilding team should make, especially when there are replacement level back ups a plenty that cost you nothing to acquire.

    • Here are 5 names that might fit the bill as back ups to Ramo: Stalock SJS 26, Johnson BB 27, Greiss PHX 28(relationship with Trelivng?), Monyoya WPG 27, Peters Car 27. All played over 20 games last year(they know the role of a back up)all had ove .900 save %. You could also chase after some older ufa goalies who might be had for 1 year; ie JSG based upon his relationship with Burke.

      Burke said you sign UFA’s as bit parts and a back up goalie might fit this definition, avoid known headcases.

      • amaninvan

        Chad Johnson from Boston would be an interesting pick up. I highly doubt the Bruins would let him go, they themselves would then need a backup, but he definitely is an upgrade on the Reimer idea and likely could be had for much less than the Dud from Toronto. I’m not sure why Johnson hasn’t been able to find permanent work, having bounced around between a handful of teams since being drafted. Had very respectable numbers last year spelling off Rask (27G, 17-4-3, with 3 shutouts. 2.10 GAA and .925 save %) Was once a Hobey Baker finalist, and is a good kid from Calgary too!

    • I think Reimer is a fine goalie who was thrown to the wolves by just one of the worst possession teams in hockey. Again, it’s hard to evaluate, but he’s likely better than Ramo.

      That said, if he’s better, he’s probably only marginally better, and I would not want to trade any real asset to pick him up. If there’s a good price for him, than okay. My personal belief is Ramo is good to run as the number one for at least next season, and there are decent options to throw in as a backup or 1A tandem guy. Stalock is a good example. MAYBE BRODEUR?

      haha okay not Brodeur.

  • DragonFlame

    I say if you’re going to use the backup spot for a vet and not development- which I would argue can be used to develop aka Tukka Rask in Boston under TT style- the flames should gun for Ryan MILLER or Jonas HILLER both proven vets that are only 32 years I believe. Pay a bit more probably but its not costing picks and you add another proven vet to help stabilize a young forward core.

    Thats my two cents anyways.

  • DragonFlame

    Burke has already stated 2 things:

    1) Ramo is the starter this season, his job to lose.

    2) They want Ortio on the farm playing tons of minutes, not riding the pine in the NHL as a back-up.

    Re-sign Joey Mac for 1 year as the backup for all I care. What’s the big deal? By then we have a better read on Ramo and maybe Ortio comes up for the 2016 season.