We heard a lot of excitement from the scouts about Nashville's second round pick this summer, Miikka Salomaki
. How has his season gone in Finland?Paul Fenton:
He has had a strong season. The only possible downside was his injury in the World Junior Championships which caused him to miss around a month and a half. He just returned two weeks ago, but before the injury he was one of the top scorers on his men’s league team in Finland, running the power play already. He could be one of the most solid offensive two-way players that we have had as a forward in a long time. I don’t know if it’s next year (in the NHL) for him; by no means do we want to rush him being just 19-years old. We find with our Europeans that they usually want to stay the extra year at home just for the maturity factor. There is no rush for him. If he told us that he was ready we would bring him over and have him try but for the most part I think he would benefit from staying another year in Finland.
NP.com: Because of his style of play, is Salomaki a guy who could impact the NHL roster earlier in his career than some of the other forward prospects in the system?
Fenton: Well, I guess yes and no. You want to put him in a position to succeed and you want to put him in a position where he is going to be best portrayed to do what he can do. He can make plays. He is a solid hard-nosed player. So I think from a coach’s standpoint, they would say he could play in the bottom half of their lineup because he is responsible and tough to play against. From a management standpoint, we are saying we want him to be mature enough to where he does contribute and come into our lineup he is ready to do everything that we want him to do.
NP.com: The other second round pick last summer, goalie Magnus Hellberg, how has his season gone?
Fenton: He has had a slow year he has primarily played backup this year. He would certainly like to be getting more games but the starting goalie for his team has had a tremendous year. So, this has been a good year for him to hone his skills and practice and to just develop. Again he is a young kid; 20-years old. There is no rush. As we’ve seen with the likes of Pekka Rinne, Chris Mason, Dan Ellis, it takes goalies that much longer to reach their full potential. We have some other good young goalies in our system over here at the AHL and ECHL level. For us, we have the option to leave Magnus over there to play and to mature. It’s that much more beneficial in the long run for us. We’re well set in goal for the short-term so we can afford to look long-range.
NP.com: There are a couple other European-based forwards drafted the past few years; Patrick Cehlin from Sweden and Joonas Rask from Finland. How are they progressing and when might we see them come to North America?
Fenton: We think both Cehlin and Rask can make the jump to North America. We like what we've seen out of them in our Rookie Camps and our scouts like the way they're progressing in Europe. Cehlin has had a decent year, personally, but his team was horrible. They fired their coach and they have since made a change there. Cehlin seems to be getting his game on track. His time frame could be next year; he could come over next year to play for us to play in Milwaukee and start to adapt to the North American game.
And for Rask, he just signed a new contract with his team in Finland and his plan seems to be to stay another year in Finland. His team really struggled this season, so it's hard to judge his season on stats, but he's continuing to develop. He still needs to fill out some more and physically mature; when we drafted him in 2010 he was 5-10, 5-11 and under 170 pounds. Again, we’re not in a big rush with him; we have a bunch of young forwards with our big club this season and others we like rising through Milwaukee so we can remain patient and keep our eye long-term with Rask.