The Erie Otters will be delighted if Oscar Dank can duplicate what the last similarly high-profile Swedish goaltender to play in the Ontario Hockey League did.
There was little surprise that Dansk, who had stated rather unequivocally before the NHL draft that he planned to return to North American hockey, signed with the Otters. There is maybe just a little lingering surprise, given the perception that the Canadian Hockey League import draft is skewed toward more well-heeled franchises, that the Otters pulled it off during a summer when the London Knights and Windsor Spitfires were each stopper-shopping. But it's happening.
"It is extremely exciting for the Erie Otters to be able to sign one of the most elite young goaltenders in the world. He appears to be the type of goaltender that the players like to play in front of and is highly skilled. Oscar appears to be highly competitive and I'm told he has high character, which drives him to be the best he can possibly be. Obviously, we're very proud to have him as part of our organization." (Erie Otters)
What is the baseline for the Columbus Blue Jackets second-round pick, who posted a 2.82 average and .910 save percentage last season for the Brynäs J20 in his homeland? Without making a direct comparison, it is hard to avoid the obvious parallels in the circumstances between Dansk and when current Ottawa Senators farmhand Robin Lehner joined the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2009-10.
Each goalie was a second-round pick. Lehner went in the middle of Round 2 but was actually only the second goalie chosen; Dansk was the third off the board in June when the Blue Jackets chose him 31st overall. In both cases, their new team is coming off finishing dead last in the Ontario League. With Lehner playing 47 of 68 games, the Greyhounds ended up making their sole playoff appearance of the past four seasons by finishing a respectable seventh in the Western Conference. Lehner played just that one season for the Soo before the Senators fast-tracked him to the AHL.
Those Greyhounds did have the OHL's defenceman of the year, Jake Muzzin, who's now a Los Angeles Kings farmhand. They were also a 19-win team prior to Lehner's arrival, meaning they hadn't descended to the depths the Otters scrapped during their 10-victory campaign last winter. (The suffering is what makes the climb up great, people.)
Erie does have a lot going for it, between deservedly hyped playmaker Connor McDavid and budding No. 1 defenceman Adam Pelech, who laced up in the Canada-Russia challenge. A return to the post-season in the league's long-time deeper conference will not be easy, but Dansk could forgive the Otters for a lot of their shortcomings.
Ultimately, the league does benefit from having some shake-up in the standings. Dansk should make the Otters a tougher out than they were for much of last season.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.