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Are Sharks About to Draft More Finns?

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Credit: s.yume (CC BY 2.0)

There’s often too much emphasis placed on where a team is drafting and not enough of an emphasis on where a team isn’t drafting.

Case in point, the San Jose Sharks and Finland.

From 2009-18, the Sharks drafted zero players from Finland. This is book-ended by goaltender Harri Sateri in 2008 and defenseman Santeri Hatakka last year.

This is unusual. In this 10-year period, San Jose is one of just three franchises (not counting the relatively-new Vegas Golden Knights) that did not draft a Finn. And while the Sharks selected Hatakka last year, both the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals haven’t drafted a Finnish-born player since 2006.

2009-2018Finns Drafted
Dallas Stars9
Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators8
Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues6
Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins5
Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets4
Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings3
Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils2
Arizona Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs1
Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights, Washington Capitals0

It’s been 25 years since San Jose has drafted an impact player from Finland — they drafted two in 1995: Miikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala.

Anyway, this isn’t to suggest that the San Jose Sharks haven’t been scouting Finland. Three years ago, they hired Tomi Kallio specifically to cover Finland. Before that, other European scouts, like Sweden-based Shin Larsson, made the trek. I’m sure there have been Finnish players that they’ve liked over the years but just missed on.

But there’s something to be said about having boots on the ground — or boots on home ground — which ESPN Draft and prospects analyst Chris Peters alluded to in yesterday’s podcast at the 17:25 mark.

Scouts do bang the table for their own guy.

The teams who drafted the most Finns from 2009-18, with the exception of Carolina — Dallas, Florida, and Nashville — have had long-time Finland-based scouts.

Kari Takko has been the Stars’ Director of European Scouting for 20 years. Jari Kekäläinen has been with the Panthers since 2002, Director of European Scouting for the last three years. Janne Kekäläinen has been with the Predators since their expansion campaign.

On the flipside, the teams who did not draft Finns from 2009-18 — Philadelphia, San Jose, and Washington — don’t have scouts from Finland as entrenched as Takko and the Kekäläinens, at least at the moment.

Ilkka Sinisalo was with the Flyers from 2004-17, but in the last three years, they’ve had a Finland-based scout in only one of those years. Kallio is the Sharks’ first Finnish scout since, actually, Sinisalo in 2000. Petri Skriko, who left the Capitals in 2016, was their last Finnish scout.

Anyway, the San Jose Sharks have Kallio now. And he was a big part of selecting Hatakka last year, as he revealed in this Q&A:

Sharks Scout Tomi Kallio on Hatakka’s Progress, Ibragimov Playing in Finland

So will we see a fresh wave of Finns hitting San Jose soon? I’d expect so.

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