I haven’t written much about Iiro Pakarinen because I don’t know a lot about him, really – YouTube clips, assorted scouting reports, plus the fact that Edmonton felt strongly enough about him to sign the winger to a two-year entry-level deal.
There are some interesting points, though, and in considering the roster I wonder if he isn’t well-set to mount a challenge for an NHL job in 2014-15.
The Interesting Points
There are a few:
- He’s a volume shooter. We noted this when Edmonton signed him; he was shooting more than four times per game in Finland, which indicates both a welcome willingness to unleash the puck and enough time at the right end of the rink with possession to run up some big shot totals.
- Apparently he’s quite physical. Hockey’s Future describes him as a “sand paper player” and says he “prefers the physical elements of the game” and that his “abrasiveness has gained him both attention and notoriety from scouts.”
- He’s reasonably big. Lowetide noted the other day that the NHL lists him at 6’1”, 205 pounds, while in that initial piece we noted that the SM-Liiga’s official site had him at 6’1”, 195 pounds. Either way, he’s 6’-plus and in the 200-pound range, which isn’t massive but isn’t small, either – particularly if Hockey’s Future has his style down accurately.
- There are indications that he has a clue about the defensive game. The piece on his signing linked above notes a shorthanded goal last season, while Elite Prospects calls him “a hard worker and versatile player who can also play as a defenceman.”
It’s important not to overstate these snippets. We’re looking at scouting reports of uncertain reliability (both Hockey’s Future and Elite Prospects tend to vary widely in their accuracy depending on who the individual writer was) and the snippets of information provided by the stats kept by Finland’s top league. They’re indicators; they aren’t definitive or close to it.
But the picture painted is of a 23-year-old right-shooting forward with decent size who can play either wing, and who has a combination of nastiness, defensive ability and a shooter’s mindset. We know from his scoring totals that offensive skill is probably going to be a bit of an issue, but there are plenty of players with modest offensive capacity who made the show because they knew how to take care of their own end and enjoyed the physical elements of the game.
The Interesting Opportunity
Pakarinen’s skillset is particularly interesting because based on what has been said this summer and the players under contract it looks like there’s going to be a bit of a dogfight for one position in the top 12. We can list with a reasonable degree of confidence the nine players likely to inhabit the nine spots on the Oilers’ three scoring lines, and we can name the duo that will likely anchor their defensive zone specialty line. What we don’t know is who will join Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon there.
There are some obvious possibilities. Anton Lander, Luke Gazdic, Jesse Joensuu, Tyler Pitlick and Steve Pinizzotto all have things working in their favour, and all are reasonable candidates to slot in somewhere between 12-14 on the Oilers roster. None of them are ironclad, sure-thing NHL’ers, though and there just might be an opening for a training camp surprise to move past them.
In general terms, a nasty winger with some skill, some size and a defensive conscience sounds like a pretty good fit for the right wing job next to Gordon and Hendricks. Lowetide has Pakarinen down as having something like a one-in-four chance; I wouldn’t go that high but if he comes to camp and looks like the guy the snippets of information discussed above describe I could change my mind in a hurry.
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