Toronto is the only place Jussi Rynnas wants to play.
When he was offered several contracts with different NHL clubs at the end of the 2009-10 season, the young goaltender chose the Maple Leafs.
Rynnas says it is due to the reputation the city holds for professional hockey.
“I just heard so many good things about this place.” he said, in the Marlies dressing room on Oct. 21 after a 4-3 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins at home. “I heard that the locker rooms are great and the hockey teams, such as their AHL team.
“At that point I was sent down and Francois Allaire was here so he was a big factor to my decision as well.”
Allaire had been the Leafs former goaltending consultant since 2009 but decided to part ways with the team in September due to reported conflicts with the coaching staff.
He also helped Ben Scrivens and James Reimer on their game when they joined Toronto’s minor system.
Rynnas is a Finnish goaltender who spent most of his hockey career in the European hockey leagues before signing as a free agent with the Leafs in April, 2010.
Born in Pori, the 6-5 net minder admits that it was a struggle climbing the ranks into the sport.
He was never drafted into the NHL and played four seasons in the SM-liiga professional hockey league in Finland for Assat, one of the clubs based in his hometown.
In Rynnas’ final year, he finished with the top save percentage of .927 and a 2.47 GAA.
When he was picked up by Toronto, he was sent to the Marlies for his development and started playing in the AHL that same year.
A 9-15 record was recorded by Rynnas in 30 games during the 2010-11 season. He improved to a 11-9 finish the following season.
The 25-year-old experienced his first taste of the NHL on Mar. 27 against the Carolina Hurricanes when Randy Carlyle pulled former Leafs starter Jonas Gustavsson after they trailed 3-0 in the second period.
Rynnas didn’t allow any more goals in the net as he made 10 saves in his first big league game of his career.
“I was just happy to finally get my chance to play,” he said. Rynnas was given the chance to participate in his full NHL game two days later versus the Philadelphia Flyers after Gustavsson injured his knee during the pre-game warmup.
However, seven goals were let in the Toronto net and he recorded his first NHL loss at 7-1.
The current lockout hinders Rynnas’ chances of potentially playing a few more games this year, but he wants to use the time to improve in order to be called up again.
“I think I have to get a little bit more speed in my legs because the game [NHL level] is so fast,” he said.
Currently, he is 1-0-1 with the Marlies this season.