This is Toni Rajala. The hard earned lessons of Jani Rita and Tony Salmelainen may help Rajala make an impact in the show. Word this morning from capgeek (my new favorite site) that the Oilers have signed the Finn to an entry level deal. He’ll play this season in Brandon (WHL) if his Finnish club team (Ilves) gives approval.
Rajala fell to #101 at the draft because of his lack of size, but the major scouting services had him mid-second round (Redline: 43, McKenzie: 50) and the Oilers have apparently moved quickly to protect an asset.
The scouting report reads “Rajala has been the focus of a lot of hype from a very young age. He has dominated every level he has played at in Finland and shown very well during international competitions. He had the most eyes looking his way at World U18 Championship he didn’t shy away but rather further pushed the spot light his way. Rajala needed to have a big tournament and do that he did, finishing with 19 pts in 6 games, eclipsing the previous U18 scoring record set by some kid named Ovechkin. He is said to be too small, but he is feisty and didn’t back down when challenged. He had a tremendous second half of the bronze game against Canada and was easily the best player on the ice for either team.”
The Oilers watched as Jani Rita died on the vine with 5 minutes a night playing for his SM-LIIGA squad after impressing at the various world junior tournaments. I think the club may have decided that with a player like Rajala the best way to ensure success was to have him playing in North America and with kids his own age. Unlike Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson (who played 11:13 a night in the SEL at 17), Rajala could easily get lost on a Finnish 4th line.
The contract will count against the 50 mission cap if Rajala played in 11 NHL games (same as Eberle). Not counting those two teenagers, the Oilers number stands at 45 this morning.