The 2011-12 NHL regular season is coming to close and once again the oilers are not invited to the party. Although our favourite team will not be playing in the playoffs, the Oilers do have prospects who will be playing some playoff hockey. One of the facets that I like about the Oilers is the diversity of prospects the organizations enjoys. Over the last few years fans and media talk about the Swedish connection but what about our forgotten Finns: Toni Rajala, Antti Tyrvainen, Samu Perhonen and Frans Tuohimaa.
Toni Rajala was drafted in the 4th round by the Oilers in 2009. Rajala played a few years for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL. Rajala had one year left of military conscription so he opted to return and play hockey for Ilves Tampere in 2010-11. Now with his military duty finished, Toni was now in a position this season to focus on hockey and it has shown with his play of late. As a 21 year old, Rajala is playing against men yet he leads his team in scoring with 16 goals. Unfortunately Ilves won't be making the SM Liga playoffs but don't be surprised if you see Rajala playing in Oklahoma next year.
Annti Tyrvainen was signed as a free agent this year and has not disappointed. Playing in his first year in the AHL, Tyrvainen put up 12 points in 44 games. Annti has been sidelined by injuries this season but has shown he is capable of producing offensively while playing a shutdown role. Tyrvainen is a fearless relentless agitator and has impressed with his physical game. Still young at 22 years old, Annti could be the future agitator that the Oilers need.
Frans Tuohimaa was drafted at last years draft in the 7th round. Picking players late in the draft is more of a crap-shoot but selecting Tuohimma does show some promise. Frans played in 37 games last year while leading Finland's U20 league with a .931 save percentage and an impressive 2.14 GAA. This year Frans has been promoted to the SM Liga which is unheard off for a 19 year old. Playing for Jokerit, Frans has played in 18 games posting a .898 save percentage and 2.65 GAA.
Samu Perhonen was also drafted last year. A 3rd round selection, Samu put up some impressive numbers last year playing in Finland's U20 league with a .922 save percentage and 2.71 GAA. Samu played at the World's Jr U18 last year for Finland but struggled in the tournament. Unfortunately his struggles have continued this year but hopefully he will rebound next year.
All in all a pretty good year for Oiler Finnish prospects. Tyrvainen could very well play some NHL games next year and don't rule out the chance of Rajala playing in the AHL next year. Tuohimaa has definitely moved up the goaltender depth chart and hopefully Perhonen will rebound next year.
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