Undersized but talented playmaking winger. Boom or bust type prospect – either he plays on a scoring line or he doesn’t play at all.
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June 2019 – Haapala did not get a qualifying offer from the Panthers which means he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Jokke Nevalainen
September 2018 – Florida GM Dale Tallon has confirmed to a Finnish newspaper that Haapala will stay in Europe for the 2018-2019 season. His contract with the Panthers expires after this season, and it’s looking very doubtful he’ll ever make it to the NHL. Jokke Nevalainen
February 2018 – Haapala has been loaned to Tampere Tappara team in Liiga for the remainder of the 2017-2018 season. Haapala struggled to find a proper role in the AHL and faced multiple injuries as well, so going back to the team that has helped him develop so far might not be a bad idea right now. Haapala has another season on his contract with the Panthers, and he’s expected to return in time for training camp in the fall. Jokke Nevalainen
July 2017 – During the last three seasons in the Liiga, Haapala scored exactly 100 points in 123 regular season games. On top of that, in the playoffs he added 25 points in 54 games. He had a breakout season last year, averaging over a point-per-game, posting a league leading 60 points in 51 games, with 30 of those on the man advantage. This caught the attention of the Florida Panthers that signed him this summer, to a two-way, two-year deal. The contract has a $925K annual cap hit, which makes him a good target for you to take a flyer on the later rounds of your keeper drafts. The 5-9, dual-eligible winger is a good skater that likes to use his speed and skill to rush the puck up the ice. Even though he shoots a lot, he is more of a playmaker than a sniper. He sets up plays and is creative with the puck. Rarely makes mistakes on the neutral zone. His PDO (105.9) and COR%-C (52.2%) are strong, but not through the roof and a part of that is due to the fact that Tappara has been such a strong team. Last season, they won their second consecutive championship. Even though Haapala is a smaller player, he is hard to knock off the puck and he shows up to play every night. One concern is his ability to stay healthy. The 23-year old Finn’s shooting percentage suggests that he was scoring at an sustainable rate, during his time in the Liiga. Last three seasons, he shot between 12.9% and 11.6%, and the past two seasons he averaged 4.29 shots per game. He was on the ice for most of Tappara’s power plays, opposite to his deployment while his team was down a man. His point production seems highly dependent on his power play deployment. Depending on how many forwards the Panthers deploy on the man advantage this season, there are a few spots up for grabs. I project him finishing the season with around 15 goals and 45 points, as a middle-six forward. However if he gets on the first line with Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, or if he is able to carve himself a spot on the power play, bump him up to potentially 20 goals and 50 points. Niko Salminen
June 2017 – The 23-year-old Haapala was signed by the Panthers out of the Finnish Elite League as an undrafted free agent. Haapala has great speed and skill and can generate offence with his playmaking ability. Although undersized, Haapala plays a solid 200-foot game by using his speed and hockey sense to outwork opponents. The leading point scorer in Tappara this season, he was able to collect 15 goals and 45 assists in only 51 games. Having a fellow countryman and former teammate in Aleksander Barkov should aid in his transition and development with the Panthers. It will remain to be seen whether his point production will translate to the North American ice surface, however he definitely has the skill and work ethic to develop into an important player for the Panthers. Joel Gluss