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Development camp profiles: the Finnish connection

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Starting with Eemeli Räsänen, the Leafs picked a small group of Finns for their development camp.

2017 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Development camp is serious business. It’s how players get hockey careers built, it’s how undrafted players get noticed, and it’s how teams decide who in their system they want to give contracts to. The roster starts with the draft picks, but it’s usually the extras that are more fun to research.

This year there is a set of Finns headed by Eemeli Räsänen who are a very interesting group.

For the full scoop on Räsänen himself, check out our profile on him.

Joining him at dev camp:

Linus Nyman

I was thrilled when I saw Nyman’s name on this roster. He is Räsänen’s teammate on the Kingston Frontenacs. They are the same age, came over together as rookies this year, and played in the U18 together.

It’s true that everyone invited to this camp are quasi-pros who aren’t really kids anymore, but 17 and 18 is still really young. To see the Leafs bring Räsänen’s buddy onto the dev camp roster made me feel good about how they go about things.

Nyman is more than just a guy to hang out with Räsänen, however. He was ranked 100 for North American skaters which puts him in the range of Ryan McGregor, taken by the Leafs at 172. Nyman wasn’t drafted, however, and if you’ve already guessed he’s short, then you’re done this hockey prospect watching thing before! He’s 5’10” and small in mass as well.

However, as AATJ tells us:

This past season however saw Linus make his way over to North America, joining the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. As an OHL rookie, he amassed 26 goals and 24 assists for a solid 50 points in 68 games, good for 2nd overall in goal scoring for Kingston and 3rd overall in points.

Having a look at him now will tell the Leafs if he’s worth thinking about for the Marlies when his OHL career is over or possibly next year in the draft as an overage pick.

Aleksi Mustaniemi

Mustaniemi is an interesting guy. He’s 23, a defenceman, and he grew up in the Espoo Blues club in Finland before moving to America for high school and then Division III NCAA hockey. He’s been in America for six years.

If Division III wasn’t a clue that he’s not really great, he’s not a points getter either. He may be more of defensive specialist, it’s hard to tell. If you know someone who is a fan of the Salem State Vikings (that name has to grate a little) they might be able to tell you more.

I do know one thing. He’s 6’6” tall. I am guessing that by now he knows how to make his limbs all work in concert, and can skate better than he did when he was 18. He likely has interesting tips to offer Räsänen. If nothing else, he’ll be a challenge for the other forwards.

Jerry Turkulainen

For all the details on Turkalainen, I will refer you to this excellent FanPost on the young man.

He is an interesting study in contrasts to most NHL players. He was not drafted, and he is listed at 5’7” and less than 150 lb. And he’s played in the Liiga for almost an entire season as a teenager.

That’s smaller than Mark Arcobello, if you’re keeping track, and maybe some day, Turkalainen will tear up the Swiss league, but I’m glad the Leafs are having a look at him.

Jesse Koskenkorva

Koskenkorva is only 17, won’t turn 18 until this month, and he’s a centre. He has scored well in the junior system in Finland and is just now making his way into the senior ranks on Kärpät.

Sami Tavernier

Tavernier is from France originally, but moved to Finland young enough to play some junior there. He’s been in America for a while, and he’s just put in his first college year at Merrimack in the NCAA. He’s only 20, is a winger of average size, and if you look up the Merrimack roster, a name might leap out at you. There’s two guys this year from that team. They’re a good team, so who knows, Tavernier may amount to something someday.

So, that’s the list of the Finns. It’s a fascinating look at how hockey works, how scouting works, and how hard it is to be seen by the right people to get you a job. Some of these guys will go back to Europe and never play in pro hockey here. Some might be ECHL or AHL players. They serve a function at dev camp as players to measure the more elite-level prospects against, but also to fill the Marlies and Solar Bears in the future. Or they’re just there to have a group of guys to all speak Finnish together and help the one man who really matters to the Leafs get used to hockey in North America.