23 years old is still very young for a goaltender. Yet, that didn’t stop many people from writing off Oscar Dansk over the last few years and that was when he was even younger. The path that has led Dansk to a new NHL opportunity with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights has not be straight, nor has it been easy. However, with rave review after rave review coming out of Knights camp, it appears that Dansk may be back on track.
Dansk was originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the first pick in the second round (#31) of the 2012 NHL draft, out of the Swedish club Brynas. With some prodding from the Jackets, Dansk then came overseas to play junior hockey with the OHL’s Erie Otters. Dansk’s first season of major junior action was a disaster; a 4.11 GAA and .888 save percentage immediately made people rethink Columbus’ decision to take him so early. Yet, Dansk bounced back in his second season in Erie. Thus, when Dansk struggled mightily in his first pro season in 2014-15 – a 3.50+ GAA and sub-.890 save percentage in both the AHL and ECHL – it would have been safe to assume that the next year he would rebound. However, the Blue Jackets had selected Joonas Korpisalo one round after Dansk in 2012 and had slowly been bringing along 2011 seventh-rounder Anton Forsberg as well and that duo had outperformed Dansk. Add in veteran Brad Thiessen, and the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters had more than enough depth in net (and it would eventually lead them to a Calder Cup title in 2015-16). Rather than permanently put Dansk in the ECHL, Columbus agreed to loan him back to Sweden to play for Rogle BK. Dansk performed well in his first season back home, but the Jackets still chose to loan him out again last season. Following a more pedestrian campaign in 2016-17, Dansk did not receive a qualifying offer from Columbus and his NHL future seemed very much in doubt.
Enter the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s newest team and an organization that needed to fill out the majority of an AHL roster almost entirely with free agent additions. Dansk got a second chance to make a name for himself in North America, inking a one-year with Vegas in early July. Dansk’s first objective is to win the starting job for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, the new affiliate of the Knights. His competition is former Dallas Stars’ prospect Maxime Lagace, who has had his own fair share of struggles early on in his career. Given the applause that Dansk has already seen in camp, that seems like a safe bet. Once Dansk is established as the next goalie in line in 2017-18, he need only wait for an opportunity to show Vegas what he has to offer. With veteran Marc-Andre Fleury coming off back-to-back seasons in which he shared the net in Pittsburgh and having suffered a concussion in each of those campaigns as well, it is possible that taking over a starter’s workload again could prove to be a tougher task than one might have considered. If Fleury misses time this season, which is surely a possibility, the Knights are set with promising young backup Calvin Pickard. And if Pickard needs a rest? Then Dansk is the man, and s career that went from a high likelihood of NHL success to a high likelihood that he may never even see NHL action will suddenly be back to where it began when he was drafted early back in 2012.