Smart, smooth-skating, two-way defenseman. Will have more value for his actual team than for your fantasy hockey club.
Click to Expand
November 2019 – Vaakanainen began and has spent the majority of this season playing for Providence, where he has managed just two assists through 15 games. Both of his points came in the same game, and while the young blueliner is known more for his defensive prowess, it would be nice to see him at least match last season’s AHL pace of nearly a half-point-per-game. Vaakanainen did receive a mid-November call-up to Boston, but this stint will likely come to an end once the team’s injured defensemen return to action. Chris Mazza
March 2019 – Vaakanainen is currently out with an upper body injury that is apparently unrelated to the concussion he suffered earlier this year. It is unknown how long the young defenseman will be out for, but this is a tough blow nonetheless. He was heating up recently, scoring all four of his first career AHL goals over his previous four games. Providence will hope that Vaakanainen can return soon as they continue their push for a playoff spot. Chris Mazza
February 2019 – Since returning from the WJC, Vaakanainen has managed six points in 11 games with the Providence Bruins. Now that Boston’s defense has returned to full health, Vaakanainen has been afforded the opportunity to have consistent playing time with just one team. While an NHL call-up is certainly possible during the remainder of this season, the Bruins would be wise to let the young Finn play out the year in the AHL. After all, this remains Vaakanainen’s first year playing on North American ice. Chris Mazza
January 2019 – Vaakanainen managed four points (all assists) through seven games while serving as an alternate captain for gold medal-winning Finland at the WJC. The tournament served as the young defenseman’s platform to return from injury, and he did not disappoint. He logged significant ice time for the Finns, showing poise and good puck movement each game. With Boston getting back many of their injured defensemen, Vaakanainen should return to Providence for the remainder of the season as he works to improve his pro game on North American ice. Chris Mazza
October 2018 – Vaakanainen was called up to the Bruins as an injury replacement for a weakened blueline (Oct. 20). He has been praised by both the AHL and NHL coaching staff for his defensive abilities, and as such may have been the logical choice as a low-risk, short-term injury replacement. The young Finn has made a seamless transition to the AHL, demonstrating the key elements of his defensive game that made him a first-round pick in 2017. Viewed by some as a lost cause offensively, he has fired an impressive 14 shots on goal in just six games, and should continue to work on adding an offensive element to his game once he returns to Providence. Chris Mazza
July 2018 – Urho increased his offensive production this year in the Liiga for SaiPa. He also led his club in plus-minus rating with plus-8. On June 13 he signed his three-year ELC with the Bruins. Boston’s staff are high on his defensive instincts and great skating ability. He needs to continue to develop his shot and offensive side of the game. He will spend next year playing for the Bruins farm club in Providence. Sid Osmond
June 2017 – Playing last season for Jyvaskyla of SM Liiga, Vaakanainen established himself as an elite stay-at-home defender with an NHL stride. He’s got the great hockey sense and plays to his strengths, his skating, his poise with the puck, and his defensive prowess. Vaakanainen was considered by many to be the most complete defensive defenseman coming into the draft. Vaakanainen excels on the penalty kill, the ability to shut down the rush play, and is generally not a liability with the puck. Vaakanainen hasn’t shown elite offensive skill at this point in his career, scoring only two goals and nine assists in 55 total games played last season. There are questions about whether Vaakanainen will be an offensive liability in the near term. Urho has a hard but inaccurate shot from the point but possesses good passing and decent on-ice vision.
Despite the knocks to his offensive game, the prevailing thought here is that the Bruins have acquired a solid defenseman with plenty of upside. Vaakanainen is a pick that makes a lot of sense for the Bruins who already have two great, young offensive defenders in Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy. Mike Drover
June 2017 – Vaakanainen was in a holding pattern in 2015-16, but it wasn’t his fault. Thrown into the fire against men for 25 games in the Liiga, the 16-year-old played about 15 minutes per game but his game didn’t evolve because the level of competition was so much higher than he was used to. He totaled a goal and five assists in those 25 games and was minus-8. Against players his own age, he put up 13 points in 18 games and was plus-10. Vaakanainen spent most of this past season in the Liiga, registering six points in 41 games and plus-5. In 14 games of invaluable playoff experience with JYP, he had three assists. Speaking of invaluable experience, he enhanced his international resume with his first goal at the WJC.
Vaakanainen is a mature-beyond-his-years stay-at-home defender whose worth cannot be measured in goals and assists, although he does make a good first pass out of his zone and he’s a good passer generally. As much as the Bruins are eager to rebuild their back end, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they left the young Finn in Scandinavia for at least one more season. Mark Allan