With the 24th Pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Winnipeg Jets Have Selected Kristian Vesalainen From Frolunda in the SHL.
About Kristian Vesalainen
Kristian Veslainen is a big, physical winger who can use his size and his booming shot with a quick release to generate offense for his team. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the same can be said about the Jets’ first-round pick from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, second overall selection Patrik Laine. While Vesalainen probably won’t produce as well as Laine did in his rookie season, the 6-foot-3, 207-pound Vesalainen should still be a game-changer once he makes his debut in the NHL.
If playing to his full potential, Veslainen can be an effective forechecker who has impressive speed for his size. He’ll always excel more on the offensive side of the game but his defensive ability isn’t a glaring hole. He’ll need to work on his consistency from shift to shift and from game to game, but he has all the tools necessary to succeed at the next level.
— NHL (@NHL) June 24, 2017
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt:
Praised as a superstar in the making, Kristian Vesalainen debuted in the Swedish Hockey League as a 16-year-old. Remarkable, yes – but what’s even more interesting is the turn of events that took place in the 2016-17 season, when he looked to extend his booming rise. That never happened, at least not in Frölunda. Instead, the young Finn found himself left out of the lineup and was subsequently loaned to HPK in Finland. You’re right to assume that it wasn’t the experience Vesalainen wanted leading up to the NHL draft.
“It was a horrible season,” Vesalainen said to Iita-Sanomat, questioning the treatment from his coaches. “When I got back to Frölunda after my time at HPK and the World Juniors, the coaches didn’t talk to me. They weren’t interested in knowing how my time there had been or how my form was like.”
It may have been a bump in the road, but still, this big-sized power forward offers great potential. As shown in the U18 World Junior Championships 2017, Vesalainen can be a game-changing leader for his team. His combination of strength and speed makes him a dangerous weapon offensively – no matter if he’s playing against men twice his age. Even though he has been criticized for not executing enough on the scoring chances he creates, Vesalainen also has a heavy shot to improve on. You wish he would use it more convincingly.
How This Affects the Jets’ Plans
The Jets are building a solid young team in Winnipeg led by Patrik Laine, Mark Schiefele and Nikolaj Ehlers and young defenders Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey. With some good veterans on the team like captain Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little, among others, Vesalainein will have time to develop before making the jump to the NHL. Once he does make it to the next level, however, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him fill out a top-six role, either flanking Laine’s opposite wing or solidifying the team’s second line.