In what is easily the biggest leap in years, Finn Iiro Pakarinen climbs a long way into the Top 20 this winter and lands at number five overall. Why? Range of skills added to scoring ability, and a firm belief that we’re seeing something more than a fluke or a quick fix for short term. Iiro Pakarinen looks like the real thing.
PREVIOUSLY NUMBER FIVE ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: D Doug Lynch
- December 2005: C Andrew Cogliano
- December 2006: L Jean-Francois Jacques
- December 2007: C Rob Schremp
- December 2008: D Alex Plante
- December 2009: D Theo Peckham
- December 2010: D Theo Peckham
- December 2011: D Martin Marincin
- December 2012: L Teemu Hartikainen
- December 2013: C Jujhar Khaira
My list is a decade old, and prone to the bias of a fan, but even with that limitation shows the club hasn’t developed a pack of kids who have emerged as NHL regulars. In fact, looking at 10 years worth of No. 5’s, I think it’s fair to say that Martin Marincin is already the second most successful player to be placed at that number. Whatever else we can say about the Oilers during this century, they’ve been five top quality prospects deep exactly twice (2005, 2011) during those years.
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- Kirk Luedeke: Undrafted overager has nice size, should add some bulk and get stronger. Heavy feet with a choppy stride, but decent straight-line speed. Needs to pick up the initial burst to have a shot at the NHL. Keeps his stick on the ice and goes to the net well. Opportunistic scorer throughout; managed to be in right place at right time and made his opportunities count. OK defensively; doesn’t do anything to stand out in his own end. Overview: Pakarinen had a pretty good hand in Finland’s offense during the preliminary round, but seems to be a longshot as an NHL prospect. Might have done enough to get drafted late, but not a prospect to keep a close eye on as the 106th-ranked skater by Central and not likely to be on many teams’ lists if at all.
- Hockey’s Future: Pakarinen plays like a demon in tight spots, and his stick handling ability and skating agility compares favorably to any of the top young players in Finland. Rather than focus on artistic playmaking, however, Pakarinen prefers the physical elements of the game. Offensively, he does have a hard, accurate shot which suggests he could be a dangerous sniper. While his physical style explains his pedestrian offensive numbers, that abrasiveness has gained him both attention and notoriety from scouts. As coaches and scouts will tell you, it’s easier to tone down a player who is too aggressive than it is to try and instill competitiveness.
Florida drafted him in 2011, and let him go at the same time Edmonton waved goodbye to Samu Perhonen. I think the foot speed must have been the problem, but he’s quick enough and fast enough now to play a regular shift and play the game at speed in the NHL.
PREVIOUS TOP 20 RANKING
- Summer 2014: 26
- Winter 2014: 5Elite Prospects: A large winger shooting from his right. An energetic player with good skating and a nice frame. Possesses a good sharp, wrist shot and is a solid finisher. A hard worker and versatile player who can also play as a defenceman. (Matias Strozyk, 2012)
- Lowetide, training camp: Iiro Pakarinen—Under the radar signing could end up surprising in training camp and grabbing Pitlick’s NHL job. He apparently has a good wrist shot and isn’t afraid of traffic. Complete wild card.
- Pakarinen on his first NHL goal: “I don’t even remember. I was a little bit shocked. It was so fast of a situation. I jumped on the ice and the rebound was there and I tried to shoot as hard as I can.” Source
- Do you have any idea if he’s good enough to play in the NHL this season? Nope. Skating may have improved since his draft year (Luedeke’s report is from the draft season of 2011).
- How many players eligible for the 2011 draft are in the NHL? Two Oilers (Nuge, Klef) and 50 overall. He would have been eligible for the 2009 and 2010 drafts as well—born late August of 1991—but this past season he blossomed offensively.
- Where does he rank on the RW depth chart? I have it Eberle, Yakupov, Purcell, Pitlick, Pakarinen, Pinizzotto, Miller.
- Is there a chance he jumps past all but the top three and lands an NHL job? Oh yes. I’d say 25% chance, something like that number.
- What he is most famous for? It’s in the video.
Iiro Pakarinen in the NHL, 14-15
- 5×5 points per 60: 1.86 (5th among forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: nil
- Qual Comp: easiest among forwards
- Qual Team: 10th best among forwards
- Corsi for 5×5 %: 50%
- Corsi for 5×5 % REL: -5.9
- Zone Start: 93.8 (second biggest push)
- Zone Finish: 42.9
- Shots on goal/percentage: 9 shots/11.1%
- Boxcars: 5GP, 1-0-1
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING NOW
- Dallas Eakins in training camp: “He seems to be getting under a fair number of our guys’ skin. We like to see that, we like that compete. He’s come as advertised by one of our scouts and I think he’s had a good couple of days.”
- Todd Nelson: “He’s probably been our most complete player and most consistent player throughout the eight games that we’ve played. I think it’s just a matter of time [before he gets an NHL shot], because he plays both ends very well, he has a great shot, he’s a big strong guy and he skates very well. He’s pretty complete for this level… He plays both [left and right wing]. It doesn’t matter if it’s left or right side he feels comfortable in both positions. The one thing about Pakarinen that the coaching staff here has been impressed with is his maturity and how he carries himself for a young guy. He’s a consummate professional, he works hard in the gym and works hard in practice. I think just the way that he carries himself is pretty impressive.” Source
- Pakarinen on his NHL debut: “The coach told me to be ready to go and now I’m here it’s great. We have played good as a team in Oklahoma and I have played pretty good as well. I think I have played to my own strengths, being aggressive, shooting the puck, scoring a few goals. There’s a big difference between European hockey and North American hockey and in these seven games I improved a lot of the things I need in the NHL. I think I’m ready to play now in the NHL.” Source
We’ve followed the 2009+ prospects (Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton, etc) for years, and projected them into the bottom 6F group in the future. A young man like Iiro Pakarinen, drafted in 2011 but eligible in 2009 and 2010, developed in a faraway place and was not signed by a losing organization. He signs with Edmonton on the advice of Matti Virmanen, wows the gathered crowd at camp, goes to OKC and learns his ABCs, and we are here. The race for that open winger spot?
It may be over. My placing Pakarinen here suggests same.
2011 NHL Draft
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, No. 1 overall. Splendid young player and may be adding another gear in year four after his draft. Graduated.
- Oscar Klefbom, No. 19 overall. A big piece of Edmonton’s future on the blue line, Top 4D with an emphasis on defense. No.3 on the winter 20.
- David Musil, No. 31 overall. Playing solid D in OKC, working on foot speed. Inside the winter 20.
- Samu Perhonen, No. 63 overall. Big goalie hasn’t progressed. Back in Finland. Not in organization.
- Travis Ewanyk, No. 74 overall. Tough as nails checking C doesn’t bring offense. Candidate for winter 20.
- Dillon Simpson, No. 92 overall. Turned pro this season, impressing in OKC. Inside the winter 20.
- Tobias Rieder, No. 114 overall. No longer in organization. Scouting home run, he’s in the NHL.
- Martin Gernat, No. 122 overall. A solid young prospect maturing in the AHL. Inside the winter 20.
- Frans Tuohimaa, No. 182 overall. Prospect has shown some interesting progress. Candidate for winter 20.
The Oilers’ scouts drafted three players who have found the NHL, and the pro scouts found another in Pakarinen. I mentioned in the last edition of this series a paradigm shift in the Oilers procurement department—more size/skill and more MacT—and I think we’re also seeing more Virmanen whose name has been attached to Anton Belov and (now) Pakarinen.
THE COVER PHOTO IS BACK!
I want to express my sincere thanks to Robert Andruchow (Owner, Designer) and Bryan Ly (web developer) of Big Pixel Creative. After my ‘cover photo’ issue awhile ago, Robert extended an offer to help with the problem and with Bryan identified and fixed it. This blog is my baby, I’m very protective of it and honestly have been very sad about the cover photo problem (I spend a lot of time on the photo’s here) so doing this post felt SO good this afternoon.
Robert, Bryan, sincere thanks. You rock! And it goes without saying if you’re in the market for online creative genius, check out Big Pixel creative.
As always, thanks to Danny Chapman (who is working on a new design/look that will include mobile app capabilities and we might see that in the new year) for answering frantic and insane emails 24/7/365. None of these men asked for a public acknowledgement, but I would be even more of a cad than I am if I didn’t pass along news of their great work and the return of the cover photo.