Eetu Tuulola certainly wasn’t about to miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.
With his family back home in Hameenlinna, Finland, the 18-year-old travelled overseas all by his lonesome to attend the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo with hopes of hearing his name called.
The Calgary Flames selected the hulking 6-foot-3, 227-pound right winger with their sixth round, 156th overall, pick.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Tuulola, a member of Finland’s U18 gold medal winning team. “I just sat there waiting for someone to call my name and Calgary said it, so I’m so happy for that. It’s a good team, good organization.”
Flames director of scouting, Tod Button, envisions the “linebacker on skates” wreaking havoc down the right side of NHL rinks in the near future.
“He likes to score and he’s got some work to do on his skating, but he rumbles up and down the wing and he goes to the net,” Button said. “We’re a bit weak on the right side developmentally, so he’s got a chance. He’s got some work to do on his skating, but he’s a hungry, hungry kid that goes to the net and scores goals.”
Tuulola also has the bloodlines.
His father Mark – an all-around defenceman – only retired following the 2013-14 campaign after suiting up for 22 professional seasons with various clubs across Europe.
While his father was an all-star blueliner and a recipient of SM-liiga’s top defenceman award, which ironically carries the namesake of former Flame Pekka Rautakallio, his youngest son developed into a power forward.
“I’m big and strong and I like to score goals,” Tuulola said. “I play like Milan Lucic. I like to play physical. I’m strong in corner battles and in battles in front of the net.”
But he surely doesn’t have the same type of mean streak as the veteran NHL forward.
“Yes,” Tuulola grinned, “I think so.”
Looking ahead to next season, Tuulola is keeping his options open.
“Probably in Hameenlinna and HBK,” was his response when asked about where he would be playing in 2016-17. “Or if I play good enough in development camp and can continue, maybe I can play in the AHL. Maybe the NHL. Everything is possible in this life.”