It’s natural that the 2016 NHL Entry Draft was disappointing for Soo Greyhounds goaltender Joseph Raaymakers.
After a sophomore season that saw him post a 13-10-3-1 record in 28 games, Raaymakers was passed over in June in Buffalo but he will still get an opportunity to impress an NHL organization.
Raaymakers has been invited to play with the New York Rangers at the 2016 Traverse City Tournament, set to open on Sept. 16.
The Rangers invited Raaymakers to participate as one of eight free agents on the 25-man roster.
A pair of familiar faces will be a part of the team with Raaymakers as former Greyhounds netminder Brandon Halverson, who Raaymakers backed up the past two seasons, and forward Tim Gettinger are Rangers draft picks.
“Obviously it was disappointing (not getting drafted) but it’s not the end of the world,” Raaymakers said. “I just tried to work hard over the summer and once I got the Rangers invite, it was pretty cool that they gave me an opportunity like that. I’m really looking forward to that, especially going with Timmy and seeing Halvy again.”
Greyhounds Coach Drew Bannister said Raaymakers is the type of goaltender that could earn himself a contract out of a development camp.
“There have been other circumstances where goalies have been passed over and gone to development camps and get signed and I believe he could be that guy whether it’s with the Rangers or another organization,” Bannister said. “He’s that good that he’ll fight his way into somebody’s organization.”
Raaymakers is one of a pair of Greyhounds who have already earned invites to camps as veteran forward Hayden Verbeek will join the Chicago Blackhawks rookie camp team.
“It’s a great reward for them because I know they were both disappointed in June,” Greyhounds General Manager Kyle Raftis said. “It comes to that point where now you have the opportunity. Both of those guys put in a ton of work this summer. You can do a mix of proving some guys wrong that doubted you and prove the group right that saw something in you.”
Raaymakers is also making the adjustment to a new goalie coach as Dan Stewart takes over for Colin Zulianello, who took a job in the Calgary Flames organization as the goaltending coach of the Flames American Hockey League affiliate, the Stockton Thunder.
Raaymakers said the adjustment to Stewart has been smooth.
“He said he’s not going to change the way I play, just give me suggestions on different situations and how I play them and things that I can improve,” Raaymakers said.
Entering his third season with the Greyhounds, Raaymakers is entering his first season as a starter after serving two seasons as the backup to Halverson.
“Obviously you can get better at every aspect of the game but the biggest thing for me is being consistent game in and game out,” Raaymakers said.
During the dog days of summer, Raaymakers said the final four weeks heading into the Greyhounds camp dragged on.
“It was pretty exciting,” Raaymakers said of training camp approaching. “The last four weeks you just wait and wait and you just want to get back in the swing of things. We’re still waiting for the first puck drop of the regular season so it’s pretty exciting.”
Raaymakers also spoke of the excitement of having much of the core group from last season returning.
“We only lost three guys from last year (Halverson, centre Gabe Guertler and defenceman Tyler Hore) and it’s good to have most of the guys back,” Raaymakers said. “We’ll be a team that’s tough to play against. The Western Conference is very competitive so every game is going to be tough.”