The Winnipeg Jets have signed 2017 1st round draft pick Kristian Vesalainen to a three-year entry level contract with an average annual value of 1.492 million dollars.
There had been strong indications earlier this summer that Vesalainen’s time in Europe had drawn to a close, and the proof is in the pudding today with this contract.
Vesalainen, 19, split last season between HPK and Kärpät in Finland’s SM-liiga, amassing 22 goals and 21 assists in 49 regular season games. The 24th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft was part of the Kärpät squad that won the Kanada-malja, the Liiga’s version of the Stanley Cup (which, fun fact, translates to ‘Canada Bowl’). Vesalainen had eight points in 18 playoff games.
The young Finn also took part in the World Junior Hockey Championships, scoring two and assisting on four others in five games before Finland crashed out. He will be eligible to play again this year, should the Jets afford him the opportunity.
It will be interesting to see where Vesalainen fits in this year, with the top-six winger positions pretty well set in stone. He could battle it out for a spot on the third line, with possible power play time. Or he could play more minutes with the Manitoba Moose.
Personally, I’d love to see him on a third line with Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault. But I digress.