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Blackhawks goalie prospect Antti Raanta not fazed by Khabibulin signing

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CAMP SCHEDULE

Wednesday

• 10-11 a.m.: Practice, Team A

• 11:30 a.m.: Scrimmage, Team A vs. Team B

Thursday

• 10-11 a.m.: Practice, Team B

• 11:30 a.m.: Scrimmage, Team A vs. Team B

Friday

• 10 a.m.: Scrimmage,
Team A vs. Team B

Updated: July 9, 2013 9:28PM



Like so many international visitors, Blackhawks goalie prospect Antti Raanta’s first taste of Chicago was the bustling terminal at O’Hare. And fresh off a nearly
10-hour flight from Finland, he was awed by the big city.

‘‘I’m from a 38,000-person city in Finland, so at the airport there were much more people than in my hometown,’’ Raanta joked Tuesday at Hawks prospect camp. ‘‘It was kind of fun. The whole city is unreal. You have seen it in the movies, but you have never been here. . . . This is the first time in the U.S. for me, so everything is bigger than I’m used to.’’

Well, everything but the hockey rinks, which are considerably smaller than the ones in Europe. While 15 feet of width (85 feet in the NHL vs. 100 in Europe) might not sound like much, the compressed space makes for a much more cluttered ice surface. Thanks to a ‘‘minor injury’’ —
believed to be an ankle — Raanta won’t get a chance to set foot on the smaller surface until a Swedish camp in August, then Hawks training camp in September.

But just from watching NHL highlights on TV — even the Stanley Cup Final was on too late in Finland to stay up for — and watching practice sessions Tuesday at Johnny’s IceHouse West, Raanta knows there will be a transition period for him.

‘‘The guys are coming much harder to the net, and, of course, the angles are different than I’m used to,’’ he said.

That was a big reason the Hawks decided to sign 40-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin to replace Ray Emery as Corey Crawford’s backup last week.

At 24, Raanta is likely the closest to NHL-ready of any of the prospects at camp this week. And he’s coming off a spectacular season in Finland in which he was named the most valuable player of the regular season and the most outstanding player in the playoffs. He was
21-10-11 with a 1.85 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage during the regular season and 12-4 with a 1.33 GAA and a .955 save percentage in the playoffs.

Raanta said he has a style all his own, but he said Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask — a fellow Finn — had a similar game to his.

Raanta said the Hawks were the first team to show an interest in him, way back in February when his Assat team still was struggling. That carried a lot of weight with Raanta, who said the Hawks were his top choice all along. But he said that nothing was promised and that the signing of Khabibulin didn’t bother him.

‘‘It was kind of obvious that they were going to take some goalie there,’’ he said. ‘‘They didn’t promise me that I was going to be in the first two goalies, so I knew I had to [do] a lot of work to get upstairs and get games in the NHL.’’

For now, though, his plan is to explore Chicago and do some shopping, then head back home to Finland to heal up and prepare for his first season in North America — wherever he ends up.

‘‘I’m ready for that,’’ he said of the NHL. ‘‘And if I have to go to the AHL, I’m ready for that, also. . . . I just have to take the pucks and try to be the No. 1 goalie in Rockford and in the NHL sometime.”



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