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The winger will play for HPK in Liiga

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson /

Eetu Tuulola is heading home.

The Flames prospect has decided to return to Finland for the 2017-18 season and will suit for HPK in Liiga, the country's top league.

"I still have an active pro contract there," Tuulola explained. "And of course, I want to play with the pros, the professionals. That's why I chose to go back."

Prior to the 2016-17 campaign, Tuulola had spent his entire junior career in the HPK system. The winger suited up for the club's U16, U17, U18, and U20 squads and ended up making his Liiga debut back in 2015-16, playing 10 games with HPK's senior team.

He likely would have landed a regular spot in HPK's lineup as an 18-year-old but when the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League selected him in the first round of the 2016 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, it was an opportunity he felt he needed to explore.

Tuulola landed in Washington state in the fall of 2016 ready for his rookie season in the WHL and didn't disappoint. He managed 18 goals and 31 points in the regular season and chipped it with six goals and seven points in 10 playoff games.

The time he spent with the Silvertips has tremendously impacted his game on every level and has built up his confidence heading into his first full professional season.

"I think I had a pretty good season," he assessed. "For starters, we had a great team there. There were great players and great teammates so I have a lot of thanks for them.

"What I learned was more about the defensive side of the game first, and then offence. I think that's the (biggest) improvement in my game.

"Of course too, how to play in the corners - getting a little bit quicker out of there. And how you play more in front of the goalie and getting great chances for yourself (in tight)."

Another confidence booster is the time he will be spending in North America this summer.

He has been a standout at the Flames development camp and will get a shot to make an impression on the Finnish World Junior Championship coaches at the Summer Showcase. The annual event will feature players from the USA, Canada, Finland, and Sweden facing off in a series of games in Plymouth, Mich., and is the starting point for World Junior roster evaluations.

"I'm going to camp," he confirmed. "I don't know if I'm making the team but I hope I'm good enough to make the team."

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