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Makinieimi Healthy, Excited for ‘Good Opportunity’ in Sharks Organization

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Getting notified that you’ve been traded, regardless of the circumstances, always comes as a bit of a surprise for a professional athlete, especially when it happens for the first time in one’s career. That was the case this summer for San Jose Sharks goaltending prospect Eetu Makiniemi, who was perhaps the most intriguing piece of a package received from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defenseman Brent Burns.

“I was a little bit shocked, for sure,” Makiniemi admitted. “You never know what’s going to happen. I was actually having dinner with my Finnish agent, and we got a call from my American agent telling us what happened. So yeah, we were both a little bit shocked there. But after a couple days of thinking about it, I realized it was a really good opportunity for me.”

A good opportunity indeed, for Makiniemi, who found himself in a bit of a logjam when it came to goaltenders in the Hurricanes system. Now, with the San Jose Sharks, it’s a wide-open race for the organization’s No. 1 goaltending prospect.

Though it is very early into the 2022-23 season, Makiniemi has been mostly solid thus far. Through five games (four starts), he has posted a 2.85 Goals Against Average, along with a .903 Save % and a 2-1-1 record.

That said, there are still areas of his game that are in need of fine-tuning, proven by the fact he was pulled in Tuesday night’s outing versus the Calgary Wranglers after allowing three goals on 15 shots, two of which came from shots near the goal line. Ironically enough, he mentioned days beforehand that he needed to improve on pucks being fired his way from bad angles.

“I still need to improve my post-to-post movements,” Makiniemi said. “I think that’s a really big thing for me. In the NHL, it seems that many goals happen behind the net, so I definitely need to get better at that.”

Despite the rough outing on Tuesday, Makiniemi is still off to a solid start with his new organization. That comes as a bit of a relief to the young Finnish netminder, whose 2021-22 season ended prematurely due to injury.

It was rather unfortunate, as he was off to a great start with the Charlotte Checkers with a 2.06 GAA paired with a .922 SV% in 14 outings. The good news, however, is that the procedure seemed to go well, as he is back to feeling like his normal self.

“It was a tough time for me,” Makiniemi said. “I had problems with my lower back and needed surgery, but now I’m 100 percent and ready to go, so hopefully going to get in as many games as I can (this season).”

The San Jose Sharks will hope for that as well, as they would love for him to become the latest in a long line of successful Finnish goalies they have had in their system over the years, from Miikka Kiprusoff to Antti Niemi. In fact, they happen to have one right now in Kaapo Kahkonen, who Makiniemi has an outside chance to back up next season if he continues to impress for the remainder of 2022-23. The 23-year-old had never met his fellow countryman, but was able to quickly form a relationship with him during training camp.

“I didn’t know him personally, but of course, Finland is a small country, so I knew who he was,” explained Makiniemi. “We went for dinner together and exchanged plenty of words throughout camp. He’s a really nice guy.”

With only a few short months having passed since the Sharks dealt future Hall of Famer Burns, it is far too early to say who came out on top. That said, if Makiniemi is able to continue on his upward trajectory, he could be an upset win for general manager Mike Grier.

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