#32 is more than a number on a jersey to me. There’s a name to it- a hockey player with drive; a heartbeat to it.
Antti Raanta was born May 12, 1989 in Rauma, Finland. He’s 27 years old, is 6’0 and weighs 193 lbs. He started his professional hockey career in the SM-liiga, the Finnish Elite League, with Lukko Rauma and Lukko Jr. from 2008-2011. He averaged a 2.51 GAA and a .914 SV%. In 2013 Raanta won the Finnish championship with Ässät, and was awarded two SM-ligga trophies. He was awarded the Lasse Oksanen Trophy for the SM-liiga’s best player of regular season, as well as the Jari Kurri Trophy for the best player of the playoffs, when he posted a .955 save percentage. June of 2013 Raanta signed a one year, entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was sent to the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL, but was recalled in November of 2013 after Blackhawks backup, Nikolai Khabibulin, was injured. November 19, 2013, Antti Raanta made his debut and only allowed 2 goals against the Colorado Avalanche when put in for starter Corey Crawford. December 30, 2013, he earned his first career shutout against the Los Angeles Kings. He was 13-5-4 in the 2013-14 season with the Blackhawks and was named Rookie of the Month for December of 2013.
The 2014-2015 season with the Blackhawks was a battle between backups. Antti Raanta was sent down to the Rockford IceHogs to allow rookie goaltender Scott Darling to come up. Almost a month later, Raanta was called back up to the NHL as Darling was demoted. Another switch for both goaltenders, as Raanta was again sent down February 22, 2015, after a 6-2 loss against the Boston Bruins. Finally, Raanta was recalled one last time in April 2015, but wasn’t awarded any playing time. 2015 was the year the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. Raanta was given a day with the cup and a ring, however wasn’t included on the Stanley Cup because he didn’t play in the playoffs and played in the minors after the trade deadline. For a dedicated player who had worked so hard to earn his position, and keept a low goals against average and save percentage for a backup (2.45 GAA, .916 SV%) in 64 games compared to Darling’s 2.07 GAA and .931 SV% in 40 games, I would’ve wished for better treatment between the two goaltenders. Between these goaltenders, who had stats so similar to each other, was it fair to demote the other after a tough loss?
June 27, 2015, Antti Raanta became a Ranger. He signed a one-year deal for $800,000 in exchange for forward Ryan Haggerty. From his very first game as a Blueshirt I could tell he would bring something great to this team. You can see how calm and disciplined he plays when put under pressure. In Finland, 18 year old males are liable for the military. I think, possibly, what he learned in the 6 months he spent with the Finnish Army has impacted the way he carries himself in game. Compared to other goaltenders I’ve seen, he plays with a different mannerism. Former goaltender Steve Valiquette would agree with me in how composed he plays and his focus. Especially when he’s tracking, you can see him face down looking directly at the puck. He never shows how tired he his despite playing multiple back to back games, or being thrown into stressful situations as a backup. At the end of the 2016 season, Raanta agreed to terms on a two-year $1,000,000/year contract extension. Although, there is rumor he will be picked up by Las Vegas in the expansion draft. They’re going to need a strong starter and you can definitely find one with Antti Raanta. Whether he ends up a Golden Knight or he continues as a Ranger, and possibly filling in for Lundqvist when he retires far in the future, I will support such an outstanding player and a bright character. Benoit Allaire, our goaltending coach, has done an incredible job of training current and former goaltenders. I think with Allaire’s training, and his personal perseverance, Raanta will become even more of a phenomenal player. Antti is a goaltender we all should love and trust. I’m truly happy he has prospered well on the Rangers, and I hope all the best for him in his career.
Author: @MeghanMalcolm via Twitter