In all the fuss and bother, there was a tremendous season posted by a small Finnish kid we still don’t know much about. He’s a wisp and a wonder. Toni Rajala didn’t get a lot of attention before last season, mostly because there wasn’t much to recommend him. Here’s how I ranked him over the years:
RAJALA’S RANKINGS OVER THE YEARS
- Summer 2009: #8 Stu MacGregor: “We had him on a good spot on our list. He led the under-18 world championships in scoring. He’s a real competitive guy, maybe size is an issue a little bit, but he plays in the hard areas. He’s a kid with really good speed and hockey sense. I don’t know why he dropped back that far, but we’re pretty happy to get him.”
- Winter 2009: #16
- Summer 2010: #20
- Winter 2010: #25
- Summer 2011: #23
- Winter 2011: #26
- Summer 2012: NR
- Winter 2012: #26
- Summer 2013: #9
Rajala’s AHL season in 2012-13 served notice: this is an NHL calibre prospect. There may not be room in Edmonton for him, but Rajala is going to get an NHL shot somewhere unless he stalls offensively or the size bias bites him hard.
BEST POINT-PER-GAME PERFORMANCES BY OILER PROSPECTS IN THE AHL (FORWARDS)
- Omark 10-11 (1.11)
- Rajala 12-13 (.978)
- Schremp 07-08 (.974)
- Pouliot 06-07 (.939)
- Arcobello 12-13 (.919)
- Brodziak 06-07 (.903)
- Thoresen 07-08 (.897)
- Reddox 10-11 (.892)
- Omark 11-12 (.889)
OKC RE 13-14: 60, 22-38-60
- What was his RE last year? 25, 3-1-4. The NHLers were coming, remember.
- How small is he? Listed at 5.10, 163, so he’s probably 5.07, 155. About Bobby Sheehan, or Robert Nilsson.
- What are the most impressive things about his season? His SOG totals were impressive (149 SOG in 46 games) and his boxcars made a lot of noise (17-28-45) too. Rajala had an excellent season.
- And his post season? Even better! 68 SOG in 17 games, 4-12-16. He finished third in playoff shots on goal, and the two players who finished ahead of him did so in 7 more games played. Rajala was a terror in the AHL. He finished in a tie for 6th in post-season AHL scoring.
- How well did he score at evens? 46, 12-21-33 (.717). That’s a pretty good number. The Omark season above had Linus the penis going 28, 9-6-15 (.536).
- Is Rajala a better prospect than Omark? Maybe. Rajala posted his 2012-13 season at age 21, Omark was 23 in 2010-11.
- Is Rajala bigger than Omark? No.
- Does he have a chance to make it? Sure. I think the key will be the “what you leave behind” portion of the MacT mantra. Neal Livingston wrote a nice article this week about it.
- Is this just another wild goose chase? Omark was a meteor, arriving at 23 and leaving at 24. Rajala is 22 now, we’re likely to get a longer look at him and he’s likely to improve his overall game in the mean time.
- What’s his Vollman NHLE? 82, 14-22-36, the best number on last year’s Barons. Vollman’s minor league study on guys Rajala’s age stated Vollman: “Our study found that particularly high-scoring 19- to 21-year-olds are virtually guaranteed scoring success in the NHL.”
- Where does he fit as an Oiler? I don’t think he does, not this year. I have him playing 2 games with the Oilers in the RE. Next season? Maybe. Rajala isn’t 25 or anything and has shown impressively in OKC. If he repeats last season, I don’t know how they can avoid him.
- Who was the last Oiler to post close to a ppg in two seasons and still not get the call? Never happened, not that I can recall.
(Photo by Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved)