The first of two goaltenders rounds out the Colorado Avalanche’s 2018 draft class with the selection of Justus Annunen at 64th overall. While the Avalanche opted for their preferred type of a European goalie with size, they went for a higher pedigree draft eligible in this draft.
The 64th overall pick was obtained from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a trade down from 58th overall, where was originally acquired in the Matt Duchene trade. With the Avalanche’s selection of Annunen he is the highest goaltender they have selected since Spencer Martin at 63rd overall in 2013. Annunen is also the highest European the organization has selected outside of the first round in nearly two decades.
Annunen was born on March 8th, 2000 in Kempele, which is the same small town in northern Finland where Pekka Rinne hails from. Already standing at 6’4 and 217 lbs at 18 years of age, Annunen takes up a lot of space in net to say the least. He is a calm and composed goalie who relies on positioning but also has good instincts and reactions to the puck. Where he needs to most refinement is in his athleticism and lower body movements. An in-depth report on the technical aspects in Annunen’s game was provided by @TheGoalieGiant for Burgundy Rainbow HERE.
Annunen enjoyed quite a successful season in winning the silver medal with the Kärpät U20 (juniors) team and then was named goaltender of the year. He had a strong season with a 2.31 GAA and .907 save percentage in the regular season but it was the playoffs where his momentum really took off. In 12 games Annunen recorded a 1.83 GAA and .935 save percentage for an excellent postseason. Annunen also recieved one start with the men’s team in Kärpät, although it didn’t go as well as he’d hoped in giving up four goals but good experience for the future nonetheless.
The pinnacle of Annunen’s season was winning the gold medal with team Finland at the Under-18 World Championship. The team did not lose a single game and Annunen recorded stats of a 2.00 GAA and .914 save percentage to go along with six wins. It was the perfect final note on a strong season and lasting impression heading into the draft. Annunen faced some premiere competition as seen below.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) April 29, 2018
Despite this success and also ranked as the 4th European goalie by NHL Central Scouting, Annunen was not invited to the combine. He was still expected to go fairly high in the draft with TSN’s Bob McKenzie ranking him at 75th. Independent scouting publications weren’t so bullish as they had Annunen typically right around 100. However it was certainly expected that Annunen would be one of the first goaltenders off the board especially after the lasting impression of his U18 performance.
At development camp Annunen showed well but also that he has a long way to go before he’s ready to take on North American professional hockey. The talent is evident but so is the rawness in his game. Good news is that Annunen will join the Avalanche for at least the rookie camp portion of training camp. He will get a chance to work with Jussi Parkkila and see some major game action splitting the net with Petr Kvaca at the Rookie Tournament.
Annunen’s immediate future is known as he was recently loaned to Hermes in the Mestis (second level Finnish) league. He is contracted to Kärpät for another two years and will likely see some occasional starts with them. Annunen will also get a chance to make the World Junior Championship roster for Finland but with two years eligibility will probably have to wait one more year before strong consideration. He has been at several U20 camps this summer in preparation for the team but hasn’t seen much action in the games played. Regardless, it should be a very busy season for Annunen.
Shot by shot performance of Annunen in action provided by Rudo3
photo credit @leijonat