TORONTO- Jussi Rynnas and Mark Owuya would have battled it out for the starting job in goal with the Toronto Marlies if it wasn’t for the NHL lockout.
Instead, with full support from head coach Dallas Eakins, Ben Scrivens will resume the starting position he held last year, and wait for the lockout to end, while Owuya and Rynnas compete for the back-up spot.
“Ben Scrivens has earned and should feel entitled to that net,” said Eakins. “I want Ben to fully separate himself from those other guys. It will force them to work harder and smarter to close that gap and continue their development.”
Whoever Eakins decides to cut would likely join Toronto’s new ECHL affiliate Fort Wayne Komets.
Fortunately for them, though, Eakins isn’t going to rush his decision.
“That’s a battle that will play out,” said Eakins. “I don’t have a time line with the goalie situation. I know it’s not a good situation to carry three for a whole season, or a lengthy amount of time, but I have no problem carrying a large roster early and that includes the goalies.”
Last season Rynnas had a secure position with the Marlies, despite missing training camp with a hand injury, and was expected to compete with Scrivens for the starting position. However, injuries and inconsistency gave way to Scrivens solidifying himself as the number-one with the Marlies and third on the Leafs’ overall depth chart.
It also opened the door for Owuya to show Eakins that he too was ready for the AHL.
“(Mark) opened up our eyes,” said Eakins. “For me, he doesn’t have the body of work for us to say, ‘hey get a place, you’re here for good,’ but his numbers have been good. The one thing with Mark is he may be the hardest working player on our team. Seems to be at the rink forever and if I was one of the other goalies I’d be nervous about that.”
Rynnas, who is a native of Pori, Finland, signed with Toronto two seasons ago and has already watched James Reimer and Scrivens leave him behind on the organization’s depth chart. With Owuya now pushing him, he could have left in the off season as free agent, but that wasn’t something the 25-year-old wanted to do.
“Last two years I have had good periods but not really good seasons,” said Rynnas. “I thought in the summer, yes, I could go to Europe, but this is where I want to be. I want to be in the NHL and I want one more chance to show it.”
Rynnas’ career numbers with the Marlies are, 52GP 21-24-5 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. With an NHL opportunity nowhere to be seen in the near future, he’s okay playing another year with the Marlies, even if it’s as Scrivens’ back up.
Owuya, on the other hand, will be gunning for the starting job even though Eakins has made it clear who his choice is.
“I’ve wanted the starting position for a long time,” said Owuya. “It doesn’t matter where you play or where you go you always want to start. Jussi wants to starts, Ben wants to start. We all want to start.”
Toronto will play in two pre-season games this weekend and each keeper will see some action. With Scrivens spot already determined, Rynnas and Owuya could see more of the action, however Eakins will not have to rush his decision for October 13th opening day as the AHL doesn’t cap roster size.