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Ylonen aims to follow in father's footsteps with Canadiens

Forward prospect hopes to be like dad, who played 341 NHL games

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Jesse Ylonen is a product of Finland right down to his childhood idols, despite being born in the United States when his father, Juha Ylonen, was playing for the Phoenix Coyotes.

The 18-year-old Montreal Canadiens forward prospect, chosen in the second round (No. 35) of the 2018 NHL Draft, did not hesitate to name Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne as his favorite players growing up.

"Saku's game, of course, I like passes and good skating and he was a little bit more maybe a playmaker," Ylonen said. "And of course Teemu Selanne, I like how he scores goals. Every time he gets a chance he puts it to the net. He's a right-handed player as well, so I try to learn a little something from him."

Koivu, who played for the Canadiens from 1995-2009, and Selanne were teammates of Jesse's father on the Finland men's hockey team that won the bronze medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

Selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the fifth round (No. 91) of the 1991 NHL Draft, Juha Ylonen had 102 points (26 goals, 76 assists) in 341 games with the Coyotes, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was a contemporary of the elder Ylonen when Jesse was born in Scottsdale, Arizona on Oct. 3, 1999. Jesse caught Bergevin's attention during Montreal's development camp.

"He's got a great shot," Bergevin said. "He's busy, he skates very well."

Speed and stickhandling skills are Ylonen's calling cards and they were on display during the four-day camp.

"I think I'm better at the offensive game and now I have to work hard to get my defensive game better," he said. "The most important thing is getting stronger and winning those battles and to be at the right place in the defensive zone. I think I'm trying to be like a hard worker there and I think I'm a pretty good stickhandler and a passer, and I can also score goals if I get a chance."

The 6-foot-1, 173-pound forward had 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 48 games for Espoo in Mestis, Finland's No. 2 professional league, and has national team experience playing with center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was selected by Montreal with the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft.

Ylonen enjoyed playing on the tighter dimensions of the North American rink during camp.

"I like it a lot," he said. "Everything is faster and there are more scoring chances and it's a faster game, quick and a lot of turnovers, and I like it."

And as much as he admires Koivu and Selanne, he prizes his father's experience and doesn't hesitate to use it as a resource to reach his dream of playing in the NHL.

"Yeah, of course I like to get advice from him because he knows what it takes and he has played here so he knows a lot more about hockey than what I do," Ylonen said. "So it's nice to get tips from him about the game and training off ice and how it's like to live like a professional athlete."

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