Becoming a professional hockey player takes tremendous amounts of skill, hard work, and luck.
The first two are pretty obvious as to why they're important. But luck plays a huge factor. Playing for one team instead of another where you might be further down the depth chart. Having your team make transactions that either increase or decrease the competition you have for a spot on the team. Having your team move away from your style of play. Each of these seemingly minor decisions can end up having huge ripples on the future career of young professional players.
For Jussi Rynnas, the biggest opportunity for his career has also become the biggest challenge in his success; the wasteland that was the Toronto Maple Leafs' goaltending in 2009-10.
After the sucktacular goaltending the Leafs received that season from Vesa Toskala, Jonas Gustavsson, Joey MacDonald and Jean-Sebastian Giguere, the Leafs were active in trying to procure young goaltenders to fix the problem of shoddy goaltending that had plagued the team since the lockout. The Leafs went out in the summer of 2010 and added two young free agent goaltenders to compete in the minors with James Reimer; Cornell grad Ben Scrivens, and young Finnish goalie, and #22 in our top 25, Jussi Rynnas.
While Jussi's professional career in North America hasn't been plagued with as much tragedy as that of Jonas Gustavsson's, it's been just as uneven.
After earning top goaltender awards in 2009-10 with Assat-Pori of Finland's SM-Liiga with a 2.48 GAA and .929 SV%, Rynnas signed with the Leafs and came over to vie for playing time on the Marlies with the Leafs other two young goalies, Reimer and Scrivens. Rynnas started out unspectacularly as the team's backup. After injuries forced Reimer to be called up to the NHL, Rynnas was incredible through the month of November, accumulating a .945 SV%, before breaking a finger. After returning from the injury, he simply wasn't the same goalie. Reimer's promotion in January presented an opportunity on the Marlies, which was snatched by Ben Scrivens. Rynnas finished the season with a .911 SV% and 2.71 GAA in 30 games.
This season has seen much of the same frustration for the Finn. Scrivens beat out Rynnas for the starting job with the Marlies at the start of the season. An injury forced Scrivens to be recalled to the Maple Leafs, presenting another opportunity for Rynnas to take the goaltending reins. But this time he was unable to seize the opportunity, and found himself relegated again to the backup role thanks to sterling play from another new free agent signing, Mark Owuya. Recently Rynnas has been playing strong, including posting shutouts in back-to-back starts. At the same time, through 14 games this season his save percentage sits at a pedestrian .908.
It's tough to think that Jussi Rynnas has a bright future going forward with the organization. We bag on Jonas Gustavsson a tremendous amountbecause he's failing to give the team Rynnas' statline in the NHL. Yet last year he went to the Marlies for a conditioning stint and pretty much shut out the league for a week. 44 games isn't a tremendous sample size, but then again a career .910ish goalie in the AHL isn't exactly a shoo-in to be re-signed. Throw in the fact that Rynnas is already 24 (this is his first and only appearance on the Top 25; he'll turn 25 before it's done again) and the Leafs have a goalie logjam in the AHL and Rynnas could easily find himself being the odd man out come the summer. Also his stickhandling is cover-your-eyes awful. That's a bit of a random point, but it needed to be mentioned; Rynnas is one of the worst goaltenders playing the puck I've ever seen.
Rynnas is the last person in our list to be left off of somebody's Top 25. From here on out, everybody was unanimously included in the top 25 rankings of all seven voters. Rynnas was given top 25 votes from all five who voted for him, but PPP and Chemmy did not rank him.
Here's Chemmy to explain his snub:
Jussi Rynnas, the AHL's "Jonas Gustavsson", had one great month of starts in his first year with the Marlies. Since that month he's been pedestrian and this season he sits 35th in the AHL with a .902 save percentage. He has size on his side and is young-ish (he'll turn 25 this season) but if I had to construct a depth chart for the Leafs goaltending he's behind Reimer, Gustavsson, Scrivens and Owuya and I don't think being fifth best at a position the Leafs aren't great at is worthy of being "Top 25".