By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
The Boston Bruins will have another prospect representing them in the 2019 World Junior Championships from Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. According to many sources, including Chris Peters of ESPN, defenceman Urho Vaakanainen will be joining his native Team Finland for the tournament.
This is a huge addition to Finland as they gain a big defender with some National Hockey League experience under his belt. Vaakanainen was Boston’s first-round draft selection (18th overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The six-foot-one, 185-pound Joensuu, Finland native has played the majority of his hockey career in the Liiga hockey league.
In 109 career Liiga games played, Vaakanainen has tallied 7-16-23 totals, including another four points in twenty-three postseason games. Prior to being selected by the Bruins in 2017, Urho had some success on the international stage with Finland. In the under-18 World Championships, he posted three goals and three assists for six points in five games.
The Bruins management decided to play Vaakanainen in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins to begin the 2018-19 season. After only six games where he put up two assists, Vaakanainen was recalled by Boston due to the number of injuries to the NHL Bruins’ blue line. All of a sudden, Vaakanainen went from playing out in Finland to playing on an NHL roster.
Unfortunately, the young d-man only played two games before an elbow by Mark Borowiecki nailed him in the head, giving him a concussion. At the time of the injury, Vaakanainen was averaging roughly nine minutes a game, with a 60.7% Corsi For percentage.
In response, the NHL’s Player Safety suspended Borowiecki for one game and was forced to forfeit just over $6,000 for the elbow. It was a very unlucky situation for Vaakanainen who was seemingly just finding his game. Since this occurrence back in October, Vaakanainen has been out of the lineup and has not been cleared by doctors due to that concussion until now.
With Boston continually winning games and players such as Chara and Miller making strides to returning to the lineup, it would seem selfish for the Bruins not to lend Vaakanainen to Finland for the World Juniors. Experience on the world stage is something that most players do not have the opportunity to play in so for Urho, it may be quite crucial to the development of his evolving game. Below are some prospect analysis quotes from different people.
“An intelligent, two-way defender…reads the play really well, has his head up all the time and makes quick decisions with the puck, Futureconsiderations.ca 2017″
“He has good puck moving ability and strong offensive upside. He is also a good skater and can rush the puck up ice with confidence, Hockeyprospect.com 2017″
Finland’s first game of the 2019 World Junior Championships is on Boxing Day against Sweden in Victoria, B.C.