Exciting game sevens be damned, Brian Burke has shown an active hand in the undrafted free agent market once again, inking Swedish tender Mark Owuya to a two-year contract. The 21 year-old has been moving steadily through the Djurgarden system, beginning with their U18 team in 2005-2006. Owuya quickly moved onto the U20 incarnation of the Djurgarden franchise and even made his first appearance in the Swedish Elite League early in 2008. Yet the 6′ 2”, 198 lbs netminder bounced around various teams on a loan basis before entering this campaign’s preseason competing with Stefan Ridderwall for the number one slot.
Owuya’s season was overwhelmingly successful, as he posted the highest save percentage in the SEL with excellent numbers across the board. Â The fact that these numbers increased in Djurgarden’s postseason are a testament to his character, as many sources comment on his fierce work ethic and ability to step up in big games. Â Here’s a report posted a few weeks ago by Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild, an extremely reliable source (in my opinion) on the technical soundness of hockey’s goalies:
“The unconventional, aggressive, 6-foot-2 Stockholm native posted the best save percentage (.927) in the Swedish Elite League this year. At age 21, heâ€™s not technically sound at all, but he gets the job done and has the type of work ethic and attitude coaches love. He posted a 1.66 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in seven playoff games and elevated his play when it mattered most for Djurgarden. Heâ€™s being scouted by a number of NHL teams, so donâ€™t be surprised to hear rumors about the Toronto Maple Leafs going after him.”
Hockey’s Future had this to say on Owuya’s Player Profile. Â Please note however that this is an outdated report (not surprising considering HF’s track record) as it was last updated in June of 2009:
“A butterfly goalie with a technique that is not very developed nor pretty, but he has good attitude, self confidence and stops the pucks, which it all is about in the end. He has a lot of advantage being of large size (6â€™2) and is pretty good at moving side-to-side. Has problems with high shots. Agility could still be better.”
The more modern consensus amongst those that have scouted Owuya is that he is extremely raw, with a technique that has yet to be defined (as opposed to HF pidgeon-holing him as a butterfly goalie). Â As mentioned above, they all agree that Owuya has a great attitude and work ethic. Â Players in the NHL in general only ever achieve high levels of success with the proper approach and sustained effort. Â This is even more true for goalies, who must battle through the mental ups and downs that comes with hockey’s most pressure-filled position on a daily basis. Â It is thus a fairly hard and fast rule that the goalies that can best maintain their focus when the going gets tough are those that do well (one needs to look no farther than the surge of James Reimer to see this principle in action). Â One would think these factors all indicate an astute signing in Owuya, as he is young and raw enough to be shaped by Francois Allaire and has the attitude to do so successfully.
This latest move by management further increases what is now one of the franchise’s biggest strengths: goaltending depth. Â One would have to think that with the emergence of Reimer and promising flashes of play on the parts of both Rynnas and Scrivens, that the Leafs have at least one expendable, quality goalie prospect on their hands. Â Then again, Burke and co. could easily just roll with what they have as this unpredictable position would benefit from a surplus of prospects. Â But, if negotiations during the summer arise with another club that is seeking to augment that area of their cupboard, Toronto would be very willing to listen.