Friday, April 1, 2011
Jukka-Petteri Niinalaaman, The Next Leaf Saviour
The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Jukka-Petteri Niinalaaman, undrafted star of the Finnish Elite League. The 26 year old played for Ilves Tampere and scored an amazing 92 goals and 122 points in 60 games this season. Niinalaaman will be introduced to the media tomorrow and may be in the line up for at least one of Toronto ’s last four remaining games. The 6’5”, 240 pounder is blessed with blazing speed and a lightning quick release of the puck. His work ethic is second to none and his game is a feisty one as evidenced by his 12 fighting majors. The left winger is slated to skate with Phil Kessel next year and is expected to have an immediate impact. Niinalaaman’s breakout season came after a trying season in 2009/10. He suffered a concussion in the second game of the year and while recovering he ruptured an eardrum in an ice-fishing accident. Upon returning to the line-up Niinalaaman struggled to find his form. Then in February of last year, he was banished to semi-seclusion in northern Norway after the unfortunate Hakan Markkinson incident. Niinalaaman's shot on net accidentally struck teammate Markkinson resulting in the amputation of his left baby-toe. However once the playoffs began, Niinalaaman had returned to the lineup and erupted for 21 goals in 12 games. He quickly drew the attention of NHL front offices. Throughout the 2010/11 year, Niinalaaman was scouted and scrutinized by all 30 NHL squads. He finally agreed to Toronto ’s offer of $13 million over 4 years and figures to be a star for years to come.