Liiga Report – November 2019

Juha Rapanen


Almost two months of play in the Liiga has gone by, and in this article, I will go through the success and results of how the most interesting Finnish NHL prospects have done.

Jesse Ylönen, RW, Pelicans

The Montreal Canadiens prospect has had a rather slow start to his season with Pelicans. Ylönen has been one of the best forwards on his team defensively and is really good at making zone entries at Liiga level. His skating is as standout as always, and he can handle the puck well on higher speed. His team is going through a rough time right now, and it seems that it’s impossible to get a win right now. That has affected on Ylönen but this is the kind of stuff these prospects will learn to deal with when they are playing pro. Pelicans was in a similar situation also a year ago, so he has already some experience to deal with this.

Ylönen has started to find his way back to the net but is still having those off games offensively. This is the biggest thing that he needs to develop as a steady scorer. We could talk all day long about his great defensive playing and work ethic but Ylönen has a ceiling and it is higher than being just a depth guy who rarely scores.

I’m still expecting for him to find that offensive spark already this season but the start for the season has been somewhat a let-down. His point totals are fine with four goals and six assists in 18 games but for a player with his skill and potential it’s just not enough. Ylönen has taken 68 shots in those 18 games but he has started to shoot less lately, and it’s not a good sign. That usually comes and goes with confidence and he needs to find it.

Aku Räty, RW, Kärpät

The Arizona Coyotes prospect started his season with the U20 juniors. After that, he got his chance to play with men and ended up stealing the spot from Tuukka Tieksola to play professional games with Kärpät, as he was immediately more mature and reliable in his two-way game. Räty is not as skilled offensively but the role available fits better for him right now.

Aku Räty has put up two goals and two assists in 11 games, and half of his points are coming from the power play. At even strength, he is not the biggest threat on offensive zone, and his coach Manner has tried to boost that with giving him more ice time on a top six role with more skilled players. He hasn’t been successful in that role, though, and as Kärpät has been getting more skilled players to their system from other pro leagues during the season, his ice time and role will likely drop down again. Räty has to find a way to stay on the third line and really try to find his scoring there at some point also.

His hard work attitude and maturity on two-way game is one of his biggest strengths, and he has to keep playing like that. One missing element from his game is his shot. Aku is not the most lethal scorer and never has been one but he has to start firing at the net more often and really try to work on getting better with it. The fun part is that Liiga coaches have microphones on during commercial breaks, and this is the stuff his coach Mikko Manner has been telling him constantly. His offensive game should get going when he can make it more well-rounded. His options are somewhat limited but with the right guy next to him he looks like a totally new player. That happened with his little brother Aatu Räty (2021 draft) centering him earlier in the season. Aku should find a way get his game going with other players too but he is a depth player who does a solid job in his own role. That is what I like to see from him right now.

Lauri Pajuniemi, RW, TPS

The New York Rangers prospect has been in a tough spot from first game on this season. His team TPS has been a total disaster in the Liiga but Pajuniemi has found a way to score goals and shine. Pajuniemi has been scoring a lot from left side half-wall with a