BUFFALO — They are second-rounders at opposite ends of the hockey spectrum. Separated by a year, Penguins 2020 second-round pick Joel Blomqvist (52nd overall) and newly acquired Dillon Hamaliuk, who was the San Jose Sharks 2019 second-rounder (55th overall), find themselves likely teammates with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season.
But on the opposite ends of the prospects’ trail.
Blomqvist, 21, is the Penguins’ top goalie prospect. After a couple of seasons in the top Finnish league, he made the commitment to come to North America in the next step of his journey. Even though the Penguins already had four goalies on NHL contracts, Blomqvist made the leap.
“I thought about it for some time. I tried to see all of the pros and cons with everything,” Blomqvist told PHN. “I was motivated to come over and play. It might be a harder challenge, but I think I might get more from it — the difficult way. You never know if you’ll get the chance again, so I thought, when I get the chance, I’ll take it.”
Coming from Finland, where the Liiga plays on larger rinks with a smaller pool of players, is an adjustment. For recent Finnish goalies in the Penguins system, from Emil Larmi to Filip Lindberg, the AHL proved to be a bad fit. Both returned to Finland after two years with the WBS Penguins (Lindberg played college hockey at UMass but returned to Finland nonetheless).