The Blue Jackets have added to their goaltending depth by signing USHL Goalie, and Player of the Year, Matiss Kivlenieks. The 20 year old (21 in August) was committed to Minnestota State but his record setting year has earned him NHL interest.
In his first season in the USHL playing for the Sioux City Musketeers, Matiss went 36-7-4-2 with a 1.85 goals against average, a .932 save percentage and five shutouts. Kivlenieks led the league in those categories and was tied for the league lead in shutouts.
Those numbers also set new records for the Musketeers. His 1.85 GAA is the second lowest average in Tier 1 history after Adam Huska finished last year with a 1.82GAA. His .932 save percentage is also the second highest after David Reekie from back in the 2007-08 season. During the regular season, Matiss became the first goalie to win both the league’s player and goalie of the year since Jeff Lerg won the awards after the 04-05 season. Kivlenieks is also the first Musketeers goalie to win the award.
Matiss helped Sioux City win the USHL’s Western Conference. He played in 36 of the team’s 40 wins and was in 49 of the team’s 60 games total. In the regular season Matiss made 30 or more saves 16 times going 11-2-1-2 in those games.
In the playoffs, Sioux City finished as the Western Conference Champion before falling to the Chicago Steel in five games (series was best of five). In the playoffs, Matiss went 8-3-2 with 2 shutouts with a 2.08 GAA and .925 save percentage. When Sioux City lost games two and three of the finals it was the first time all season he lost back to back games this season.
Signing straight out of the USHL is fairly rare and Matiss is only the second player in Musketeer history to do it and the first since Ruslan Fedotenko in 1999.
Matiss played for Latvia in the World Junior Div. 1 Group A Tournament (the method by which the IIHF decides who moves up to the next year’s World Juniors). In the tournament, Matiss helped Latvia win the tournament with a 1.71GAA and a .941 save percentage. For the tournament, Matiss was named the Top Goalie by the directorate.
As for next season, I don’t want to say it’s a guarantee but it would seem that Matiss will be in Cleveland serving as the back up. But the Jackets organization could want Matiss playing more and try and find him try and find him a spot in the ECHL since the CBJ don’t have an actual affiliate.
Looking at the goaltender situation in the organization overal, Sergei Bobrovsky is followed by Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg both of whom need new contracts and Korpisalo is considered to potentially be lost in the Expansion Draft. After those two, is the only other goalie with a contract in Oscar Dansk who has been loaned to Rogle the last two seasons and I don’t think he’ll receive a new deal. The Jacket’s two remaining unsigned goalie prospects are Matiss’ countryman Elvis Merzlikins who has two more years left on his deal in Switzerland, and Peter Thome who is off to Grand Forks next year to serve as Cam Johnson’s backup after Flyers prospect Matej Tomek left the school for more playing time.
Well folks, there you have a quick update on the newest Jackets prospect.