According to TSN the Winnipeg Jets signed University of Denver goaltender Juho Olkinuora to a free agent contract yesterday. Olkinuora's unlikely rise from walk-on Free Agent to signing a professional contract within 20 months is the stuff of legends.
In January 2012, Coach George Gwozdecky told the Denver Post that finding Olkinuora was one of the greatest recruiting finds in his career.
"To pick up a goaltender of the quality that Jussi Olkinuora has given us is maybe the best recruiting, and evaluation, and identification, there was throughout all of last year and over a quite a few years," DU coach George Gwozdecky said. "That was an incredible find by Steve Miller and Derek Lalonde. Jussi has been tremendous for us."
Olkinuora's USHL statistics in Sioux Falls were unremarkable, but he had secured the starting goaltender job by the time the playoffs rolled around. Despite that, Olkinuora did not receive much interest from other colleges after the 2010-11 season. He returned home to Finland to look a spot in the Finnish professional league.
When the University of Denver found out in the summer of 2011 that Sam Brittain's knee injury was far more serious than originally thought and would miss at least the first half of the 2011-12 season, DU coaches frantically hit the phones. Compounding the problem, DU's other goaltender Adam Murray had a history of groin injuries, the Pioneers were in a bind.
And perhaps the biggest issue. DU had no scholarship money to offer Olkinoura. Olkinoura would have to apply for student loans to cover his tuition and housing bills.
Last season, Olkinuora had beaten out Adam Murray for most of the starts and was splitting time with Brittain after he returned from the knee injury.
This season after the team instituted a three way goaltender competition, Olkinuora was clearly the leader of the pack and received almost all of the prime starts throughout the season.