LW, TPS Turku (FIN)/Hartford (AHL)
Throughout the 2005-06 season, it was clear that speedy and skilled two-way players play a key role in today's NHL. With this trend expected to continue, the Rangers are fortunate to have a real gem in Forward Lauri Korpikoski.
The 19th overall selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Korpikoski's stock rose in the months leading up to the draft as word of his lightning quick stick, crafty playmaking ability and keen hockey sense spread rapidly. Fearing that he wouldn't be there with the 24th pick, the Rangers traded up to nab the dynamic Finn who was at the top of their draft board. It is a move that should have the Garden buzzing for years.
"Lauri is a very responsible young man who skates very well," said Rangers Vice President of Player Personnel and Assistant General Manager Don Maloney. "He is competitive, has terrific hands, is extremely quick both on and off the puck, and has a lot of offense in his game. He has the ability to be a 25 to 30 goal-a-year guy."
Asides from his great skill set, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has shown the intangibles and leadership qualities needed to excel at the NHL level. He plays with great passion and intensity, is relentless on the forecheck and has a reputation for constantly outworking opponents. Equally impressive, at only 19 years of age, he is very vocal on the bench, almost daring his teammates to match his intensity level.
A few months after the draft, Korpikoski became the youngest player to skate in the Finnish Elite League, and over the past two years he has posted a deceiving three goals and 10 assists for 13 points in 92 games. In 2005-06, he had a brilliant three-game stretch from Sept. 22- 30 in which he dominated play by netting a pair of goals along with one assist. Nominated as the best Finnish player under 20 and regarded as one of the top overall prospects in all of Finland, Korpikoski is garnering a lot of attention from the country that captured the silver medal in this year's Olympic Games in Turino.
Korpikoski scored two goals in five regular-season AHL games.
Korpikoski has been at his best on the international level. Skating for Finland at the 2004 Under-18 tournament, he tied for the tournament lead with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in six matches. In 2005, he notched two goals in six games for the Under-19 squad. Most recently, he lead Finland to a bronze medal at the 2006 (U-20) World Junior Championships, collecting six points in seven games. He ranked second on the team and tied for fifth among all players in the tournament with five assists, while his six points tied for second on the Finnish Team.
The Rangers signed Korpikoski to a professional contract on April 12 and assigned him to Hartford, and he quickly showed why the Blueshirts traded up to grab him two years ago. Exactly five minutes into his first game, Korpikoski banged home a rebound on the power play. In five regular-season games, he recorded two goals and one assist for three points. During the Wolf Pack's playoff run, the gritty left winger added another goal off a pass from fellow Finn Jarkko Immonen.
While he has improved upon his once slender 6-foot, 180-pound frame, Korpikoski is still looking to bulk up during the off-season. And while he got a taste of it at the end of the 2005-06 campaign in Hartford, he is working hard to acclimate himself to the North American pro game and is on track to make a big impact in the years to come.
"Lauri is one guy who could surprise a lot of people in September," said Maloney.~ Ricky Henne
| LAURI KORPIKOSKI - 2005-06 STATISTICS |
|LW ||TPS Turku (FIN) ||51 ||3 ||4 ||7 ||16 ||- ||- ||- |
| ||Hartford (AHL regular season) ||5 ||2 ||1 ||3 ||0 ||1 ||0 ||0 |
| ||Hartford (AHL playoffs) ||11 ||1 ||0 ||1 ||2 ||1 ||0 ||0 |
| ||2006 World Junior Championships ||7 ||1 ||5 ||6 ||4 ||2 ||1 ||0 |