This is the second article of a new series that will take a look at NHL prospects playing in the Finnish Liiga. The first article featuring updates and notes on four players can be found here.
Urho Vaakanainen, Boston Bruins’ first round pick from the 2017 draft, has seen increased ice-time and responsibility in the Liiga this season. He averaged 14 minutes and 57 seconds per game with JYP last season. However, so far this season has been averaging 22 minutes and 15 seconds per game. On the downside, Vaakanainen has been playing fairly inconsistently and has yet to truly bring an offensive element at the Liiga level. He has collected three assists on the season, one of them being a really nice pass against Ilves on November 4, in a game where Vaakanainen recorded two assists. An extremely smooth skater with an effortless stride, his potential still remains high.
Eetu Tuulola is one of the seven NHL drafted prospects on HPK, a team that hasn’t been able to live up to the expectations this season. Tuulola has still managed to score six goals and that includes two multi-goal games in October, first against Ilves and later in the month against Lukko. Tuulola is a power forward who plays a heavy, high-intensity game with some snarl and likes to finish his checks. He has been playing with a consistent effort. While he has yet to register any assists, he can distribute the puck and process the game at a solid level. The Calgary Flames 6th round pick has certainly been a bright spot on the struggling HPK team. His odds of making it to the World Juniors are good – Tuulola could thrive in the North American rink thanks to his style of play.
TPS winger Petrus Palmu has already showcased a lot of talent in the Liiga after having three strong years in the OHL with the Owen Sound Attack. He’s got an intriguing blend of speed and skill. Palmu possesses the ability to score highly skilled goals in various ways. He has put up 14 points (7G, 7A) in 27 games, including three goals and five assists in September. While clearly undersized, Palmu plays bigger than his size and his compete level has been very solid in my viewings, although the point production hasn’t quite been there recently. He is a very skilled prospect that I could see emerging as an NHL player in the future.
2018 NHL Draft eligible KooKoo defenseman Santeri Salmela has made strides in his game while being a stable part of his team’s defense in the Liiga. He has the defensive reliability and skating ability required to be a highly effective shutdown defenseman for years to come. Salmela also makes a good first pass out of the zone and his reads are solid. Even though he doesn’t have a ton of offense in his game, he’s starting to solidify his spot as a Top 15 draft eligible Finnish prospect in my books.