Towering defender whose development hasn’t gone as planned and is struggling to make an impact offensively.
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October 2020 – On April 30th, the Oilers opted to resign the young Finnish defender to a two-year entry-level contract. Niemeläinen’s development definitely has not gone according to plan and has not shown a whole lot of development to his overall game since being drafted in 2016. He has played two games for Ässät this season and has recorded 25 penalty minutes. He has an intriguing combination of size and mobility but at this point, it is hard to predict that he will play in the NHL in the future. Jameson Ewasiuk
March 2020 – It has now been four seasons since Edmonton drafted Niemeläinen in the third round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and this is his third season being back in Finland. Overall, the big Finnish defender’s play appears to be about the same as it has been the past couple of seasons. This season he has recorded six points in 52 games compared to the five points in 50 games from last year. The biggest difference in his third season in Liiga (his first with Ässät) is that he is leading his team in minutes played at just under 20 compared to the just under 14 minutes a game he played with HPK the past two years. Now with that being said, his play has not progressed as much as his time on the ice would suggest. Niemeläinen’s shot differentials are still quite similar to years past and below the team average similar to the amount of the past two seasons. The big Finn possesses good mobility for his size and a solid defensive game but he has not shown a lot of progression in any one area and has not developed much offense either. At this point, it is hard to say whether or not Edmonton will sign Niemeläinen but if they do, it would be unrealistic to expect him to push for an NHL spot anytime soon if at all. Jameson Ewasiuk
March 2019 – It’s hard to say what the future holds for the big Finnish defender. Since leaving Saginaw of the OHL in 2017, Niemeläinen has played in 91 Liiga games and amassed just eight points. The offence has never been his calling card but at some point, you have to produce to get to the NHL. His combination of size and solid mobility makes him an intriguing prospect and he is only 20 years old but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of improvement at this point. Jameson Ewasiuk
June 2018 – After a very disappointing season in the OHL in 2016/2017, Niemelainen opted to go play in his home country of Finland for HPK of Liiga. Last season with HPK, the young defender’s performance was mediocre at best as he recorded just one goal and three points in 42 games played. He just turned 20 earlier this month so there is obviously still time for him to develop and turn things around but at the moment he is not meeting expectations. Jameson Ewasiuk
March 2017 – This season has not been what Niemelainen has hoped for offensively. In 56 games, he has managed to put up only one goal and five assists. Although he is struggling offensively, Niemelainen is still a top prospect for Edmonton. His defensive awareness is continuing to grow and for 6-6 he is mobile and smart with the puck. Don’t let his point total tell the full story; Niemelainen’s future is still bright. Spencer Pomoty
July 2016 – With the 63rd pick at the 2016 NHL Draft, the Edmonton Oilers made a steal of a pick by taking Markus Niemelainen, a smooth-skating 6-6 defenseman from Saginaw. Niemelainen was thought to be a consensus top 50 pick but fell at the draft due to his lack of consistency and the fact that he was under-utilized this past season in Saginaw, where he finished with 27PTS (1G, 26A) and an underwhelming minus-23 rating.
Niemelainen brings more then just a lengthy frame – he has great mobility and hockey sense as a defenseman, along with the ability to make a solid first pass out of the zone. Niemelainen appeared twice for Finland on the international stage and was a crucial part of the gold medal winning U18 team. Niemelainen will suit up for HIFK of the Finnish elite league where he will be put to the test against men. Brayden Sully