This morning, the Edmonton Oilers took care of a little bit of business by signing prospect, Markus Niemelainen, to a two-year, entry-level contract.
The #Oilers have signed defenceman & 2016 third-round pick Markus Niemelainen to a two-year, entry-level contract.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 30, 2020
Originally selected in the 3rd round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft (63rd overall), Niemelainen has flown under the radar for a lot of Oilers fans in the four years that have passed, but he’s a prospect that the Oilers have been working on getting signed for the past month or more. Earlier this month, Ken Holland spoke to the media and explained how he wanted to get both Markus Niemelainen and Filip Berglund signed to deals before losing their rights, and after getting Berglund done earlier this week, it seemed like only a matter of time before Niemelainen would get done as well.
So what kind of player have the Oilers added to the stable? To find out, I turned to our friends at Elite Prospects for the answers:
A complete all-around defenceman that makes the game look easy. Natural size and strength compliment his smooth stride. Very mobile skater who moves up and down the ice quickly, with acute recognition of puck and body position. His maturity and poise is actualized in his high-percentage decision-making, with and without the puck, as well as his proactive stick and body play. Very stable defensively and always takes his lane, but is quick to rush the puck up the ice as he recognizes and accounts for how much time his team is spending in their own end. All-in-all, a quick-thinking defenceman that, honestly lacking nothing, has the potential to develop into a reliable two-way defenceman.
And how has Niemelainen been doing since the draft? According to Finnish Junior Hockey:
Niemelainen logged almost 20 minutes of ice-time per game this past season and was a stable, dependable presence on the Ässät blueline. At one point, it seemed that his development had stagnated, but the move to Ässät has done wonders to his overall game. He is tougher to play against in the sense that he has started to play more physically and use his size as an asset. He can lay clean, heavy checks without getting into penalty trouble. He moves well in all directions, can pivot well and uses a strong, long stride to reach good top speed. Niemeläinen won’t wow you with his puck handling or shooting ability. Admittedly, his ceiling isn’t very high due to a lack of offence, but given his recent development, I think he has the potential to eventually develop into a third-pairing NHL defenseman.
Niemelainen just wrapped up his third season in SM-Liiga’s with Assat and finished with one goal and six assists in 55 games. Niemalainen currently has one year left on his contract with Assat of the Finnish league, which suggests we’ve still got some time left before he makes his way over to this side of the pond.
NIEMELAINEN’S CAREER SO FAR