The Journey: Scandinavian Super Sleepers

Brad Phillips

2018-02-10

For me, there is nothing more satisfying than picking up a free agent that makes other GM’s ask “Who?” then seeing that guy become a valuable fantasy commodity. There will always be hits and misses, lord knows I’ve had my fair share of both. Here are three guys currently playing in Finland that, two or three years from now, you might wish you would have grabbed.  

 

Joni Tuulola – CHI

Unless you’re a Chicago Blackhawks fan or follow the goings-on of the Liiga very closely, you may not be very familiar with Tuulola. But he should most definitely be on your radar. Drafted as a 19-year old by the Hawks with the last pick of the sixth round in 2015, Tuulola comes from a pretty strong hockey family. His father Marko played professionally for 25 years in Europe, mostly in Finland but had stints in Sweden and Switzerland as well, and his brother Eetu is a Calgary Flames prospect, also a sixth rounder but in 2016. In his draft year, Tuulola found success with both the U18 and U20 HPK programs and earned a promotion to the big club for a pair of games in which the then-18-year old for a defensive pairing with his 43 year old pops. But evidently this wasn’t enough to get him selected. From 2014- to 2017 he played three seasons for HPK with varying degrees of success posting point totals of 10, 14 and 8 which translate to 0.31, 0.26 and 0.15 points-per-game, respectively. He represented his home land at the 2016 WJHC where he managed one assist and a plus-five in seven games. But most notably he brought home the gold medal. It seems as though Dobber’s fourth-year breakout theory holds true on the other side of the Atlantic as Tuulola is absolutely crushing it this year. He leads Vaasan Sport in assists with 21, is first among team blue liners in scoring with 25 points and is tied for tenth in the league in defensive scoring with four goals and 21 helpers in 49 games. He’s only shooting at a 2.9% clip, but this is actually a big improvement over the past two years. All of these numbers are even more impressive when you consider that his team is firmly planted in the basement and he’s one of only a handful of players on Sport that is on the positive side of the plus-minus ledger, sporting a plus-one. One of the reason for the newfound success was a move from being a fixture on the penalty kill to playing a featured role on the power play this season.

Tuulola boasts good size and skating ability and plays an offensively-focused game from the back end but packs a bit of sandpaper as well. He’s unsigned at this point but given the way he’s played in 2017-18 there an excellent chance the Hawks will lock him up.

 

Petrus Palmu – VAN

While another 2017 Vancouver Canucks draft pick playing overseas is getting all of the buzz this year, and justifiably so, Petrus Palmu is a player that should be overlooked. Drafted in his second year of eligibility, the Canucks snatched him up in the sixth round in 2017 and it’s looking like a great value pick at this point. Palmu played three years for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack putting up totals of 42 points in 62 games in his first year and 49 points in 52 games in his second year. But he went nuclear in his third and final campaign, amassing more points than those previous two years combined. In 62 games Palmu scored 40 goals and added 58 assists, finishing fourth in the OHL in both points and points per game