Vellu-Pekka Kautonen became the Islanders' Chief European Scout to begin the 2006-07 season. During his travels throughout Europe, as well as North America, Kautonen has seen Jesse Joensuu
– the Islanders' 2006 second-round draft pick – more than 50 times.
Kautonen spoke to Newyorkislanders.com to share some insights on the latest addition to the Islanders' organization.When did you first see Jesse play?
"I saw Jesse play in 2003 in his first season in the Finnish Elite League. I remember reporting that he was a double-underage kid in the Elite League, which is rare. He was tall and skinny, but he made you take notice. I made a note that he could play, but he was still more than two years away from the draft." What was the discussion about Jesse when his draft year came up?
"When the initial scouting reports were put out, he was listed as a potential first-rounder. But he dropped in the draft because there was concern about his skating. Many players have found a way to play the game using the skills they have. The thing that matters most about Jesse is that he can play. There are certainly areas he can improve, but those can be worked on." What are those areas that he needs to improve?
"Everybody can improve their skating and Jesse is no exception. It has definitely improved over the past few years, but he can still work on it. His conditioning was also something that needed to get better, which it did. The good thing is that skating and conditioning are areas that can be taught. It's the skills he already has, such as his hockey sense and smarts that puts him ahead of the game. Even though Jesse has been in the Elite League for five seasons, people forget he is just 20 years old."What do you like about Jesse's play?
"Jesse has very good puck skills and hockey sense. He's a very competitive player, who puts a lot of pressure on himself to succeed. One of his main upsides is his size. At 6-4, he is a tough guy to play against.
"Over the past three years I've seen Jesse play in many games, including 12 this season. He's always been pretty solid offensively and has strived to be a point producer. One problem is that he was brought up in the Elite League at such an early age. He never took on the point-producing role until this year, when he was the team's leading scorer. It was a huge step for him. He was given the chance to play on the top two lines and showed he could produce there."Where can you see him fitting in an NHL lineup in the future?
"I always thought that he would make a great two way player on an NHL team. If his skating and endurance improves I could see him playing in an offensive role as a scorer based on what he accomplished this season. There is a lot of potential there.”Is he committed to playing in North America next season?
"Jesse wants to play in North American as soon as possible, but it's the Islanders organization that will make that decision. Considering he has already played in over 200 games in the Finnish Elite League, he's ready to take that next step. " What's he like personally?
"He's a very out-going guy. I liked the fact that he has been able to keep a positive attitude despite being on a struggling team. He's a smart kid, who challenges and is demanding towards himself. I told him he just has to play and not think so much because he expects a lot from himself. Jesse is a kid who is willing to work hard to achieve his goals."
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