The Nashville Predators have employed Ben Vanderklok for nearly seven years now. He is an integral part of the team and yet if you asked most fans who he is they would have no idea. The funny thing is that if you asked Preds fans who Mitch Korn is, most except for the most casual fan would say he was the amazing goaltender coach for the Predators and is now with Barry Trotz and the Capitals.
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Ben Vanderklok took on the unenviable position of taking Korn’s place as the goaltender coach of the Predators last season under Coach Peter Laviolette. That’s a little like taking over for Coach Scotty Bowman or Al Arbor who were known as masters among head coaches. Mitch Korn was famous around the NHL for the way he was able to develop goaltenders for the Nashville Predators.
According to Mitch Korn’s website, in 2010 the Hockey News chose Mitch as “one of the top 10 Genius’ in hockey”. Barry Trotz referred to the many goalies influenced by Mitch as the “Children of the Korn.” They include: Braden Holtby, Justin Peters, Pekka Rinne, Carter Hutton, Anders Lindback, Chris Mason, Dan Ellis,Dominik Hasek, Tomas Vokoun, Magnus Hellberg, Marek Mazanec, and Devin Dubnyk among others.
Following Korn as goaltender coach when he moved to Washington was a tall challenge indeed. Ben Vanderklok had the advantage of working with Mitch Korn for five seasons with all of the Preds goaltenders, as well as the position of goalie coach of the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League. He helped the Ice Dogs reach the playoffs for six consecutive seasons and reach the OHL Final in 2011-12.
Before last season he got to come in and try to help one of the greatest goaltenders in the world, Pekka Rinne become even better. Rinne had worked for most of his entire pro career under Korn. Vanderklok worked with Rinne by just making small changes. He told Justin Bradford of Penalty Box Radio last January:
"“I really think that he’s processing the game well,” said Vanderklok on Rinne. “He’s tracking the puck, connecting the dots well. The big thing with him that we’ve spent a lot of time on was his post play and his depth. I’m trying to get him to play deeper in situations and on recoveries, second saves and bad angles. He’s playing much deeper and playing more inside the post.”"
Whatever he did, it certainly worked, as Rinne had a 2.18 GAA and a .923 save average and for most of the season was talked about for both the Vezina and Hart Trophies for best goaltender and league MVP. After coming back from injury he dipped just a bit but has started out this season better than ever with a 1.51 GAA and .941 Save Percentage.
He works with all of the netminders in the Preds organization and the future is bright with Marek Mazanec and Juuse Saros in Milwaukee as well as Carter Hutton here in Nashville. Hutton won the last Preds game against Ottawa and looked good in his lone start.
If Ben Vanderklok can continue his fine work with Predators goaltenders, he too will soon be a household name around Nashville and even the league.
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