|Jyri Niemi |
The slap shot is an elusive asset in the game of hockey. While many can take a slap shot, few have perfected it, particularly in combining the lethal combination of speed and accuracy.
Jyri Niemi, an Islanders third-round draft pick in 2008, and Prospects Camp attendee, possesses one of the best slap shots on the team—a blazing 97 mph. But even before the Finnish defenseman was drafted by the Islanders, he was turning heads—or should I say scattering heads in his way—with his blistering slapshot. At the CHL's Top Prospects Game, for example, Niemi won the hardest shot competition--and he was only 17 at the time.
Niemi was graded by many as one of the top offensive defensemen in this year's draft. After playing junior hockey in Finland, he traveled to North America to compete in the WHL, where he played with Saskatoon. He finished first among blueliners in the league with goals (14) and third in assists (20).
Niemi, now 18, is well aware that his slap shot can be a great asset to him in his future as a member of the Islanders.
"I really noticed that I had a good slap shot about five years ago," Niemi said. "I would work on it after practice and during the off-season, when I was younger, just trying to develop it."
When asked whose slap shot had inspired him to try and develop his own, Niemi didn't hesitate.
"When I was younger, I saw Ilya Kovalchuk play," Niemi said. "He has a great slap shot, and I decided to be like him."
While that may seem like a lofty goal, Niemi has pursued slap shot excellence for some time, and his teammates have taken notice.
"In practice, I can't really take slap shots," Niemi said. "The goalies don't like when I do it, and if I do, they usually throw a stick at me or something."
However, game situations are of course the perfect time to unleash his slap shot, and one shot in particular stood out in Niemi's memory.
"I was playing several years ago in a youth league game," Niemi recalled. "I had the puck in my own zone, and I realized that there was only a few seconds left in the game. As I skated out of the zone, I wound up and took a slap shot from my own blue line, and it went in. It was really cool."
With that combination of precision and speed, Niemi's slap shot is certainly lethal. Islander fans should look forward to watching opposing goalies' faces for a long time, because when Jyri Niemi crosses the blue line, netminders are in for a world of trouble.