Born August 29, 1983 (age 28) in Vantaa, Finland
Goaltender for the San Jose Sharks
All these goalies acting like brick walls so early in the season got me thinking about this guy, affectionately known as Nemo. He began playing on the junior level with Kiekko-Vantaa, where he also drove the Zamboni (oooh!). Instead of being drafted, he turned pro and played in Finland’s SM-liiga for the Pelicans, but he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008. His first year was spent in Rockford with the AHL’s IceHogs, except for a few games in February 2009 when he was called up on an injury replacement. On his first start, he got a win against the Los Angeles Kings.
The following season, he made the team right out of training camp. The Blackhawks began their storybook season in Helsinki, where he got his first shutout against the Florida Panthers in his homeland! He earned a very nice 26-7-4 record while sharing net duties with fellow MotD Cristobal Huet, and he was chosen to start in net for the Hawks for their run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. During the playoffs, he netted two shutouts, the first Hawks goalie to do so since Tony Esposito. In the end, the Hawks won the Cup, and Nemo became the first Finnish goalie to win Lord Stanley.
Unfortunately, the Cup euphoria didn’t last. Salary cap resrictions made the Blackhawks dump half the roster, and after Nemo filed for arbitration and was awarded $2.75 million, the organization decided that they couldn’t pay that and walked away from their negotiations with him. He signed a one-year deal with the San Jose Sharks, and even with a slow start, he ended with a GAA of 2.38 and save percentage of .920. He’s now signed on for another three years, and between his skills and those of Antero Niittymaki, I think the Sharks are headed for the top.