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2016-17 Player Preview: Jyrki Jokipakka

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames

When Jyrki Jokipakka's name was called in the final minutes of the 2011 NHL Draft, it would be fair to dub the defenceman a complete unknown amongst North American hockey fans.

A native of Tampere, Finland, the lanky blueliner was drafted out of Ilves in the Liiga league. In 2010-11, he dressed for 48 games and picked up a modest nine points in an Ilves sweater. Decent numbers for a teenager playing in Liiga, yes, but nothing that jumped off the page when perusing stat lines.

But over the course of the following two seasons, Jokipakka established a name for himself within the hockey community.

In a combined 111 games with Ilves, he scored 14 goals and 35 points and decided on a move to North America to further his development.

He spent the 2013-14 campaign in the American Hockey League, posting five goals and 21 points in 68 games with the Texas Stars -- strong numbers for a defenceman making his debut in the AHL.

The rearguard's work with the Dallas Stars' affiliate impressed the organization's brass and coaching staff enough to earn him 51 games in the NHL in 2014-15. During his tenure in Dallas that year, he ended up with 10 assists and averaged 16:30 of ice time per game. He also played 19 games with Texas in the AHL that year.

Jokipakka's goal was to spend the entirety of the 2015-16 season in the NHL and while he accomplished that, he did have to swap jerseys at one point; he was part of the package that Dallas sent to Calgary in exchange for veteran defenceman Kris Russell.

In Dallas, he averaged 0.15 points-per-game last season with a pair of goals and six points in 40 contests. With the Flames, Jokipakka put up six points in 18 skates -- a 0.33 points-per-game average.

He also saw his minutes jump with his new team, averaging 17:54 in Calgary silks. In Dallas, he had been working with approximately 14:30 of ice time per game.

Now, Jokipakka is on the cusp of taking another big step in his career.

After skating for Finland in the World Cup of Hockey in September, the 24-year-old will be one of the blueliners gunning for a spot in Calgary's top-four rotation.

With Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie and Dougie Hamilton likely occupying spots in the top two pairings, that leaves the likes of Jokipakka, Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland angling to land the final spot in that mix.

Veteran Ladislav Smid, who was limited to 22 games last year and hasn't played since Feb. 17 due to injuries, and youngsters Tyler Wotherspoon, Brett Kulak and Oliver Kylington could be in the running as well.

The competition will be fierce, no question, but Jokipakka is comfortable heading into his first full season in Calgary and sees a bright future with the organization.

"I like it here. The guys are good and it is fun to play [here]," he stated in his year-end media address. "I got more minutes here and it was fun.

"I think I played pretty well. The situation was we didn't make playoffs but I tried to help the team win the games and we'll be better next year.

"We have a good young team. I think we will grow up next year and we'll be better."

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