If you were surprised to hear Oskari Laaksonen's name called during the third round of the NHL Draft in Chicago last month, you weren't alone. When Laaksonen received the text from his agent, he didn't even believe it was real.
"I was like, 'Oh my God, oh my God.' I ran to my mother. It was a special moment for me," Laaksonen recalled from development camp at HarborCenter on Sunday.
The public and the media didn't know much about Laaksonen at the time of his selection, mostly because there wasn't all that much information available. He wasn't listed on any pre-Draft rankings, not even the on list produced by NHL Central Scouting Services.
In fact, he was listed as weighing only 130 pounds on most sites, forcing him to have to field questions about his weight online (he actually weighs 152 and stands just a tad below six feet tall).
"I was like, oh God, I have to correct that one," he said, smiling. "Obviously it's the biggest problem right now, the size and the strength, but I think it's coming."
So for those wh don't know him, Laaksonen comes off as humble kid with a sense of humor who's just excited to be in Buffalo. Take, for example, his response when asked about goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen:
"He's great. He's a fun guy. He's so fun to be around. He's hugeee, man. I've scored on him one time. In the under 18 league I scored with a slap shot, but there was like 100 people in the net so I think that's why I scored."
Or his account of watching Rasmus Ristolainen score the golden goal for Finland at the 2013 World Junior Championship:
"We were in a sports bar in Ottawa I think and everyone's just like 'Ohhhh, let's go!' It was so fun."
On the ice, Laaksonen is a defenseman who prides himself on his skating ability and his offensive instinct. Those were the qualities that Jason Botterill listed following the Draft as reasons for Buffalo's interest, particularly now that Phil Housley is coach.
Laaksonen said that Buffalo flew him in following the NHL Scouting Combine in June with a group of other prospects (Jacob Bryson, another under-the-radar puck moving defenseman who the Sabres would take in the fourth round, was among them), so he knew the Sabres were interested.
Still, Laaksonen wasn't 100 percent confident he'd be drafted at all, and if he was he thought it'd be in one of the last three rounds.
"I didn't stress about it," he said. "I know my talents and I knew that I'd get my chance."
Now that he's been noticed, his goal is simply to continue to improve. He thought he played his best games in the postseason last year with Ilves U-20 in Finland. This year, he aims to either crack the professional team or earn top minutes as the No. 1 defenseman if he returns to junior.
And, for two more days, he'll enjoy the reality of attending development camp as a third-round draft pick in the NHL.
"It's amazing," he said. "So fun."