The greatest Oilers team God ever made contained foundation pieces from Finland. If you cast your memory back to the 1980s, Finnish men like Matti Hagman, Risto Siltanen, Jari Kurri, Esa Tikkanen were building blocks to glory, and later Reijo Ruotsalainen arrived to join the party. In later years, Janne Niinimaa, Jussi Markkanen and others continued the tradition. The Oilers have never played in a Stanley Cup Final without a Finnish player to represent his country.
The Oilers slowed their Finnish drafting earlier this decade, and then stopped it completely. From 2012 through 2015, during four draft weekends and 29 picks, no Finlander playing in Finlandia was chosen by the town who counts several as hockey heroes.
And then, just as a spring thaw is signaled by a ray of sunshine and a beautiful songbird, the Oilers returned to Finland with flourish. Two new men from Finland were chosen, and each of them has something to bring to an organization badly in need of their substantial skills.
PLAYERS/PLAYERS FROM FINLAND DRAFTED BY YEAR
- 2016 NHL draft—211 total players, 12 from Finland
- 2015 NHL draft—211 total players, 11 from Finland
- 2014 NHL draft—210 total players, 7 from Finland
- 2013 NHL draft—211 total players, 9 from Finland
- 2012 NHL draft–211 total players, 9 from Finland
- 2011 NHL draft, 211 total players, 10 from Finland
- 2010 NHL draft 210 total players, 7 from Finland
- 2009 NHL draft, 211 total players, 7 from Finland
- 2008 NHL draft, 211 total players, 6 from Finland
- FINAL TALLY: 1,897 total players, 78 from Finland
- PERCENTAGE: 4.1%
TOTAL PLAYERS/FINLAND PLAYERS DRAFTED BY THE OILERS
- 2016 NHL draft—9 total players, 2 from Finland
- 2015 NHL draft—6 total players, 0 from Finland
- 2014 NHL draft—6 total players, 0 from Finland
- 2013 NHL draft—10 total players, 0 from Finland
- 2012 NHL draft–7 total players, 0 from Finland
- 2011 NHL draft–9 total players, 2 from Finland
- 2010 NHL draft–11 total players, 0 from Finland
- 2009 NHL draft–7 total players, 1 from Finland
- 2008 NHL draft–5 total players, 1 from Finland
- FINAL TALLY: 70 total players, 6 from Finland
- PERCENTAGE: 8.57%
The NHL drafted 36 players from Finland from 2012-15, none of them chosen by the Oilers. In 2016 the Oilers chose two of 12 players. I should mention that Finland has produced far more NHL prospects than these numbers imply, mostly because Finnish teenagers are cast all over the globe, from Sweden to the USA and in Canada in all three CHL leagues.
FINNISH FINLAND PLAYERS SINCE 2008
- 2008—Teemu Hartikainen (52 NHL games)
- 2009—Toni Rajala
- 2011—Samu Perhonen, Frans Tuohimaa
- 2016—Jesse Puljujarvi, Aapeli Rasanen
The five picks from 2008-11 produced just one NHL player, and Teemu Hartikainen played in fewer than 100 NHL games (generally viewed as the required level of ‘success’ for a draft pick). Of course expectations will be much higher for Jesse Puljujarvi, the highest Finnish draft selection in Oilers history, and the sixth highest in team history. The previous high was Jani Rita, No. 13 overall in 1999.
FINLAND’S BEST, 2017
- LD Miro Heiskanen, HIFK (Sm-Liiga). Puck-mover, excellent vision and speed.
- LD Uro Vaakanainen, JYP (Sm-Liiga). Fast two-way blue with a good shot.
- R Emil Oksanen, Espoo (Mestis). Skilled winger, great shot, he can scoot.
- LD Robin Salo, Sport Vaasa (Sm-Liiga). Two-way defender, mature.
- R Aatu Luusuaniemi, Karpat (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Winger with skill, excellent boxcars, zero buzz.
- G Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, HPK (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Impressive size and good results.
- RD Juho Korhonen, Karpat (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Small and very skilled puck mover. Great passes.
- LC Jesse Koskenkorva, Karpat (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Responsible two-way forward with speed, some offense.
- G Veini Vehvilainen, Jyp (Sm-Liiga). A .912SP, he has a solid resume and is draft re-entry.
- F Joona Luoto, Tappara (Sm-Liiga). Big winger who can win battles, has some offensive ability.
- RD Martin Bodak, Tappara (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Mobile two-way D who is a good passer.
- L-C Aarne Talvitie, Blues (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Impressive boxcars and not much else is known.
- C Santeri Aalto, Tappara (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Good size and speed, challenged offensively.
- W Juha Jaaska, HIFK (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Has the complete range, but not enough offense to be a high pick.
- LD Otto Leskinen, Kalpa (Sm-Liiga). Mobile puck mover posted big numbers in junior.
- R Lauri Pajuniemi, TPS (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Has some promising boxcars.
- RD Otto Latvala, HPK (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Huge 6.05 defender defense first, not a burner.
- LD Antti Palojarvi, Luuko (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Mobile defender, good passing. Aggressive.
OILERS PICKS AT THE 2017 DRAFT
- First Round: No. 21 overall
- Third Round: No. 78 overall (FROM ST. LOUIS—this is payment for Nail Yakupov)
- Third Round: No. 83 overall
- Fourth Round: No. 114 overall
- Fifth Round: No. 128 overall (FROM Vancouver—this is payment for Phil Larsen)
- Fifth Round: No. 145 overall
- Sixth Round: No. 176 overall
- Seventh Round: No. 207 overall
OILERS NEEDS BASED ON CURRENT DEPTH CHART
- Left Wing: The trade of Taylor Hall means the NHL team has no LW younger than 28 (Lucic, Maroon, Pouliot, Hendricks) on the everyday roster. Tyler Benson is an excellent prospect but can the Oilers count on him? Jujhar Khaira may offer an option for bottom 6F, and Drake Caggiula’s story is unfolding. Oilers need help here, and that help need to be a sure thing.
- Right Wing: Jesse Puljujarvi was a big get from last year’s draft, but this position needs more help at the draft in June. Anton Slepyshev could be a Godsend if he can grab a job on one of the skill lines and keep it.
- Right Defense: Aggressive procurement of Matt Benning, Ethan Bear and Ryan Mantha make this position a little stronger from what we were looking at this time next season. More needed, but the club is getting there.
- Goal: The trick here is to shore up the position without spending any high picks. Laurent Brossoit is in the NHL now, with Nick Ellis trending very well in his first year pro. Dylan Wells has been an excellent draft bet so far. We could see a goalie added fairly early in this year’s draft, lots of strong candidates.
- Left Defense: At the big league level, the Oilers have youngsters Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse. Griffin Reinhart may or may not force himself into the lineup, but he better hurry because Caleb Jones and or Ziyat Paigin could be pushing soon. Edmonton can afford to pass on a LHD unless the value is extreme.
- Center: If you include Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, this is one of the deepest positions in the entire NHL.
OILERS TARGETS BASED ON THEIR OWN PAST
- Miro Heiskanen, Emil Oskanen, Robin Salo
MY PREFERRED TARGETS
- Miro Heiskanen, Emil Oksanen, Aatu Luusuaniemi, Veini Vehvilainen.