When Jesper Lindgren and HPK beat out Kärpät for the Liiga championship on Saturday, I thought that might get us Lindgren on the Marlies. Instead, it’s brought the Leafs a Finnish defenceman from the losing side.
Teemu Kivihalme turns 24 in a few weeks, and is a left-shooting defender who has an interesting international history. He was born in America, and his father, Janne Kivihalme has been the assistant coach and head coach in the USHL for many years. He was a coach at the famous Minnetonka High in Minnesota. He coached Jake Gardiner, but seems to have moved on before Justin Holl showed up there. This season, Janne Kivihalme has been scouting for the Regina Pats in the WHL.
Teemu Kivihalme went to US high schools and played on teams his father coached. He then did three years at Colorado College in the NCAA, a school with large ice, so he had a leg up when he went to Finland last year and joined one of the best teams in the Liiga in Kärpät. They won the championship last year, and came oh, so close to a repeat this season.
Kivihalme was drafted in 2013 in the fifth round by Nashville, but it doesn’t seem like he ever played even a tryout on their AHL team.
As a free agent of 24, he is required to sign a one-year ELC, just like Ilya Mikheyev did. He will be waivers exempt and the contract will expire with Kivihalme holding arbitration rights as an RFA.
As a defender, he doesn’t score many goals, but he does put up points. In his most recent Liiga playoffs he had a 55% Corsi, but it must be considered that top teams in the Liiga have very, very high Corsi percentages as a matter of course. He’s fifth on his team, but the top centre had 58%. In the regular season he was at 56% and sixth on the team for regular roster players.
In the most recent playoff game, Kivihalme played the second unit left defence on a unit with Rasmus Kupari, Aleksi Hepponiemi and Ville Leskinen, one of the best lines in the Liiga, so he was obviously highly thought of and a key part of the team.
Reports from Finland said that Teemu Kivihalme was the best defenceman in SM-liiga playoffs. A bit surprised he didn't get selected to Finland's WC team.— Sami Hoffrén (@shoffren) May 7, 2019
Welcome to Toronto, Teemu. I have to say, I’ve always wanted a Teemu on the team. When we uncover more about this new Maple Leafs player, we’ll update you.