A forgotten prospect known to Lightning fans as Riku Helenius only had a 6:52 NHL career when he came in to replace Tampa’s then starting netminder, Mike Smith. Helenuis only made two saves that night against the the Philadelphia Flyers. One of the saves has highlight reel written all over it.
The Finnish native was a highly regarded goalie that was drafted by the Lightning in the 1st round in 2006. Lightning brass has not forgotten about Riku though. Steve Yzerman was seen talking to Helenius and his agent, Josh Grossman, at the World Championships this year. Riku has voiced his opinion about making the transition back to the North American game.
Helenius signed an entry deal with Tampa on July 1, 2007. The following season, Riku would start his professional career. His 2008 season was a roller coaster ride from playing in the ECHL to the AHL. Helenuis had a sub-par year posting a 2.72 GAA and a 9.18 save percentage. Yet again, his 2009-2010 season was filled with ups and downs. After a short time playing for the Lightning AHL affiliate, he was loaned to Sweden to finish his season. The young netminer would appear in 27 games posting a 2.75 goals against average and a 8.96 save percentage.
Wanting to leave injuries and the peak and valley performance in the tail lights, he left for his native country Finland to play for JYP of the SM-Liga. He was JYP’s bread and butter in net posting a 1.36 goals against average and a 9.36 save percentage. His playoff numbers were solid with a 9.47 save percentage and a 1.73 goals against. He won the Yrpo Ylonen Award given to the best goalie in the SM-Liga.
Getting Helenius back will not be an easy task. It will be more like a marathon. For one, the NHL does not have a transfer agreement with Finland. Riku has 1 more year on his contract with the JYP. The Lightning still hold his NHL rights. It has been rumored that he wants a 1 way contract which the Lightning. If he does come back, it would be on a 2 way contract. This does not fix the goalie problems in Tampa. The Lightning are still missing the starter . They have been hoping Riku can excel in the minors but its unknown if he would bring the same skill set to the NHL. The Lightning already have 3 quality netminders in the system. Does the Lighnting really need Helenius?