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Pakarinen using his physical play to speak for him

Monday, 12.20.2010 / 11:04 AM / Finnish Story of the Week

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Iiro Pakarinen could be called a loud player. After going unselected in his first year of eligibility, he's hoping he makes enough noise for NHL scouts to hear him this season for the 2011 Entry Draft.

It's not from his mouth, however, where the noise originates. It's the thunderous checks and rattling boards that seem to follow him everywhere he skates.

A 6-foot-1, 198-pound right wing, Pakarinen is in his second season with KalPa Kuopio in the Finnish Elite League, where he has 5 points in 28 games. He debuted at the top level of professional hockey there last season, scoring 8 points in 38 games after 12 points in 11 games with KalPa's junior team. Just 19, it's been an adjustment playing against bigger, stronger men, but Pakarinen said he's having fun.

"That was a good experience," Pakarinen told NHL.com. "Last year I played about 40 games in SM-liiga and that was very good play. (Now) I have to play better than last year."

Helping him has been KalPa's player/owner, former NHL forward Sami Kapanen.

"He helped me a lot last year," Pakarinen said. "He showed me things on the ice and I tried to play like Sami."

Kapanen was a five-time 20-goal scorer in 12 NHL seasons with Hartford, Carolina and Philadelphia, as well as a dogged checker who played far bigger than his 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame. 

Pakarinen certainly has no problem with the checking part. He caught the eye of scouts during a national junior camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., with his fast and physical in games against the U.S. and Sweden. He made an impact on the score sheet and on Sweden defenseman Tim Erixon in particular, hitting him hard from behind in the first game of the camp and knocking him out of the rest of the games. He also was assessed a double-minor for roughing goalie Robin Lehner.

While scouts in attendance weren't thrilled with the penalties, they did see some things they liked.

"I just want to make sure that if he's aggressive, he's aggressive the right way," said one Eastern Conference team's scout. "He looks like he has a tendency to want to take the body."

"(Scouts) don't have to wonder if he's willing to engage," said a scout from another Eastern team. "They know. I'd rather tone someone down than instill it in somebody. I thought he was a good competitor."

Regardless of what anyone thinks, don't expect Pakarinen to change his hard-charging style.

"I love that style," he said. "More hits and lots of shots -- that's my style."

It's a style that's impressed Lauri Marjamaki, who will coach Team Finland at the 2011 World Junior Championship. He made sure Pakarinen received an invitation to the team's training camp, and he'll likely have a spot on the team. He had a goal and an assist in last year's tournament as Finland finished fifth.

"Iiro is a pretty good player," Marjamaki told NHL.com. "His attitude is very good. He's a power forward for us, plays a physical game, goes straight to the net. He's our assistant captain and pretty good guy. … He's our top players for forwards."

Pakarinen believes the experience he gained in Saskatoon will help him when the 2011 World Junior Championship starts Dec. 26 in Buffalo.

"World Junior is a very hard tournament and we have to play our best in those eight games, seven games," he said. "It's a very hard tournament. We have to put our best into the tournament."

If he makes enough noise at the World Juniors, it'll be hard for scouts to turn a deaf ear to him at this year's draft.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery