SUN Hockey Pool

Time for Flames prospect to cross over

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:46 PM ET

CALGARY - It would be far too heavy-handed to call the coming 2011-12 season critical for Joni Ortio.

After all, its expected to be just his first in the North American pro ranks.

Still, its extremely important for the 20-year-old goaltender from Finland.

I see it more as an opportunity to get used to the North American style of play and get adjusted to the size of the rink, said Ortio, who is one of the 37 prospects in town this week for the teams summer development camp. Its a critical year, but Im not thinking of it like that. Im going to do my best to stop the pucks.

Ortio, who the Flames selected in the sixth round, 171st overall, in the 2009 draft, will be hitting the ice for the first time Monday at 3:30 p.m. at the Don Hartman Northeast Sportsplex.

Ortio is pencilled in to spend the coming season with the AHLs Abbotsford Heat and will likely be paired with Leland Irving, another goalie the team expects will be vying for full-time NHL work in the next couple of years.

Im excited. Its a big step to move all the way here, said the netminder, who arrived Saturday evening from his home in Turku. Im sure its going to be a great year.

Ortio could use a great year after all the ups and downs of last season.

He played for eight different teams last year, including 15 outings for Turku of the SM-liiga Finlands top loop in which he posted a 3.12 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. However, he also skated in the junior ranks, the first division for Turku and was loaned to a trio of second-division teams.

In the middle, he had a very good performance for Finland in the world juniors and finished the season with a one-game showing for the Heat, a 6-0 loss to the Toronto Marlies in the season finale.

We had a tough year, he said of the SM-liiga squad in Turku. We were in a tough position all year. Our coach said in different circumstances I would have gotten in a lot more games, but when I played, in my opinion, I played good.

I would have wanted to play more than I did, but Im happy with my season, especially the world juniors in Buffalo. The year before, it didnt go as well as wed like, but

I feel I bounced back.

Even the lone game for the Heat was a huge benefit, since he spent three weeks with the AHL team practising and learning the ropes before seeing action.

It helped a lot to see whats going on and get adjusted to the style of play, he said. That game was the first in a month I played, so, in that way, it was awkward. As the game went on, I got used to it. I felt the third period was pretty good.

Although Ortio is a freshman when it comes to playing in North America, he is an old-hand at the teams prospects camp. This is his third trip to Calgary for the summer camp and is in charge of looking after Markus Granlund the teams second-round draft choice from Finland.

ICE CHIPS

The Flames have signed RW Guillaume Desbiens to a two-way contract worth US$525,000 at the NHL, according to RDS. Desbiens played 12 games for the Vancouver Canucks last season, in which he collected no points and 10 penalty minutes. He posted 11 goals, 16 assists and 104 PIMs in 53 AHL games for the Manitoba Moose.


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