Two-way blueliner boasting above-average mobility and puck movement to go with a wicked slapshot. A good bet for second-unit PP duty.
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May 2020 – Spent most of the season in the Penguins press box. In 36 NHL games, he scored one goal and added six assists for seven total points. He is an RFA this summer. Clare McManus
February 2020 – The Finn is having trouble getting out of the press box even with Pittsburgh blueliners regularly getting hurt. After 28 NHL outings, Riikola has just a goal and six assists. When he plays, it’s been with veteran Chad Ruhwedel on a third pairing, but Riikola is getting an average of only 13:58 per game. He’s been a healthy scratch far more than he would prefer, and this is a frustrating season for his development. None of it bodes well for the soon-to-be RFA in contract negotiations. Mark Allan
October 2019 – With five starting forwards injured, Riikola became a fourth-line left winger as the Pens beat Colorado 3-2 in OT, spoiling the Avs’ unbeaten record. Epitomizing a determined, team-first attitude that has led to a four-game winning streak, Riikola padded his resumé with 11 shifts as a forward. His 6:27 of ice time included 1:41 on the power play. Riikola didn’t get a point, but he had three hits. Anything is better than being a healthy scratch for the first five games. Mark Allan
June 2019 – Based on a promising 37-game NHL début (compared to just five AHL outings), the 25-year-old Finn earned a one-year, one-way extension worth an average annual value of $850,000. A latecomer to North America, Riikola modestly compiled two goals, three assists and plus-3. Digging deeper reveals that both of his scores came on the power play, and he earned an average of 1:01 man-advantage time in his 16:41 total average ice time on a crowded Pittsburgh blueline. His first goal was a game-winner, and the NHL Penguins went 22-10-5 with him in the lineup. Not bad for an inexpensive free-agent signing. He’s an international vet after six Liiga campaigns with KalPa, three as an alternate captain. Riikola was a teammate of fellow Pittsburgh blueliner Olli Maatta on their country’s 2013 World Junior Championship team, and he also had two assists and a plus-four in eight games at the 2018 world championship. A confident, above-average skater and puck-mover with a powerful, accurate slapper (that he needs to get off more quickly), he could swell his stats with more icetime if the Penguins succeed in reducing payroll by moving one or more D-men. Maatta and Jack Johnson are hot names in the rumour mill. The affordable Riikola (a crucial consideration for Pittsburgh) lacks waiver
exemption, meaning Pittsburgh is more likely to keep him with the big club rather than risk losing him. Mark Allan