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Finnish Flashes In The Pan

09 March 2014 - 09:55 PM

One thing interesting to me at least about the Tuomo Ruutu acquisition is that he's from Finland, and while the Devils have a long history of successful European players (including countries that seldom produce NHLers like Poland and Lithuania) they have really never had a good Finnish player.   Ruutu's signed for 2 more years - the question is, does he break the franchise record for points scored by a Finnish born player?  I decided to examine the team's history with Finnish players using the very helpful hockey-reference resource - I generated this list of players.


The franchise leader in points by a Finn is Tapio Levo with 69 - Levo scored over 200 goals in the Finnish league and I know he used to be a common punchline around these parts, seems like he just couldn't play defense. 


Next is the timeless Janne Ojanen with 44.  Ojanen, like Levo, never played for another NHL franchise and went back to Finland and ended up with 283 goals in the Finnish league.  He was still playing in that league in 2009-10 despite being 41 years old.


Then it gets dire.  Veli-Pekka Kotela apparently played for Colorado - he too crushed the Finnish league, but ended up with only 14 points for the Rockies.


Next is Anssi Salmela with 13 - say what you will about Salmela, but his two goals for the Devils are both pretty memorable - the one, he got concussed by Jeff Carter in a hit that would've drawn a suspension now (and it was a short-handed goal in a big divisional game), and the second was an OT winner in 2010-11 that had the Devils the closest to the playoffs that they would get that year.  He played two years in the KHL and hasn't played anywhere this year, but I'm not sure why - hockeydb lists him on two rosters in the Swedish Hockey League, but he hasn't been in a game.


Jukka Porvari and his 12 points are next - Porvari made the trip from Colorado to New Jersey and ended up playing in Austria the same year.  When guys off your NHL team go to Austria to play hockey later that year it's not a good sign.


Reijo Ruotsalainen had only 7 points as a Devil - he was acquired by NJ in 87 via the since-mothballed waiver draft but played that year and the following one overseas.  He came back to Jersey for 31 games, got traded back to Edmonton, and won another Stanley Cup with the Oilers.  He played 26 games for the Oilers in the regular season and 43 in the playoffs.  Weird career.  For years afterwards Glen Sather would list him as available in the waiver draft for reasons only known to him.


Ilkka Pikkarainen had 4 points and is the player more Devils fans should point to when people complain about the 4th line because this guy was not an NHL player but somehow got into 31 games in 2009-10.  This year he has 6 goals in 47 games for the Pelicans of the Finnish league.


Tuomas Pihlman played parts of 3 seasons in NJ, the bulk of which was in 2005-06, scoring 2 points in 15 games.  The Devils' forward depth in the minor leagues was ghastly at the time - Pihlman played 4 seasons in the AHL and scored 39 goals.  Pihlman appears to be a 4th liner in the Finnish league now.


Timo Blomqvist had 2 points in 20 games for NJ and appears to have been some kind of depth defenseman.  He's mentioned in some really old New York Times article that you can google about NJ basically being too broke to call players up from their AHL affiliate.


Next is of course Esa Tikkanen who was acquired in 95-96 and then summarily dispatched the same year without scoring a goal.  Never quite found out what went on there but I guess he and Lou did not see eye to eye - NJ got him for a 3rd round pick and then dealt him for a 2nd which is sort of nuts.  No doubt he's the best Finnish player ever to play for NJ but that's a lot like saying the best Canadian player to play for the Coyotes franchise is Brett Hull.


And then the two pointless guys - Olli Malmivaara is the tallest player to ever play for the Devils, which I guess is an achievement of sorts, and Harri Pesonen looked okay in a 4 game callup but will probably return to Finland at the end of the year and crush that league for the next 10 seasons.  Let's hope Tuomo Ruutu can accomplish more than this sorry bunch - he'll need 68 points spread over this season and the next 2 to make it as the franchise leader, let's hope he gets there.

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