The Toronto Maple Leafs appear to have announced the signing of 23-year-old Finnish winger Miro Aaltonen to an entry-level contract.
Aaltonen, a former 2013 sixth round pick by the Anaheim Ducks, was a standout at a young age in Liiga last season, playing on a Karpat team with top prospects Jesse Puljujarvi and Sebastian Aho.
This season, after making the switch to the KHL, Aaltonen spent the majority of the season playing with former NHL star Maxim Afinogenov as Vityaz Podolsk’s third-leading scorer.
In 2016-17, Aaltonen finished first in the KHL in under-24 scoring with 44 points (19 goals, 25 assists) in 59 games before going scoreless in a first-round loss in the playoffs — he was selected 45th overall in the 2011 KHL Draft.
Last season, with Karpat, Aaltonen was the Liiga’s sixth-leading U24 scorer, with 35 points in 58 games. Sadly, Aaltonen is probably best known for an ankle-break during his second World Juniors, in 2013.
A smaller player, Aaltonen is generously listed at 5-10 and 176 pounds. In several viewings last season, Aaltonen was crafty with the puck and a quick, efficient, productive handler. A more gifted passer than shooter, Aaltonen is one of those rare players who can find time and space in the slot to create his opportunities on quick, one-touch plays. As a result, he’s a natural shot generator. This season, his first in the KHL, Aaltonen finished 13th in the league in shots on goal with 168 (2.8 per game), with an 11.3 SH%.
Last year, Aaltonen played a great deal of centre with Karpat but he also spent a decent chunk of the season playing on the wing with centre Mika Niemi on Karpat’s second line.
Aaltonen gives the Leafs more options down the middle, where they are most thin, while also providing another young depth forward — similar to the way Nikita Soshnikov joined the organization.
He immediately becomes an outside option to make the Leafs next season. And while the Leafs are already maxed out at their 50-contract limit, his contract will likely kick in next season. Don’t expect him to be physical or bring an edge, either.