Finnish players have a place in every hockey fan’s heart. Whether it was watching Teemu Selanne speeding down the ice or Jari Kurri helping create a dynasty in Edmonton, there is no doubt the Finns have left their mark on the beautiful game. The Boston Bruins aren’t known for developing or harbouring Finnish talent; however, there have been a few talented Finns to pass through the team in years past. Here are the top three Finnish players to ever dawn the legendary black and gold.
The first inclusion on our list is anything but a household name. Matti Hagman was a center in his fairly short NHL career of just four seasons. The Helsinki native was with the Bruins for a short 90 games across two seasons, where he’d pot a modest 15 goals and 33 points. The first Finnish-born and Finnish trained player to ever play in the NHL and NHL Stanley Cup Final, Hagman was something of a trailblazer in the late 1970s. However, it seems that Hagman’s best hockey was played outside of Boston.
The Finnish center joined the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980-81 season, where he would step up his play for the next two seasons. In his two seasons with Edmonton, the Finn would pot 41 goals and 112 points in 147 games. Unfortunately, Hagman wouldn’t stick around long enough to be a part of the Oilers’ dynasty of the 1980s, as he packed his bags for his native Finland after just two seasons with Edmonton. He’d play the rest of his hockey career in Finland and Germany. Although he was never an NHL superstar, he was most definitely a trailblazer and capable of being a great player in the league.
Once again, a name that is known to few, Petri Skriko had a longer tenure in the league than the previous inclusion. Skriko was a forward who had his humble beginnings in his native Finnish league, where he would play five seasons before making his NHL debut with the Vancouver Canucks in the 1984-85 season. With the Canucks, Skriko was impressive on the scoresheet, with him having a whopping 30+ goals in four of his five first seasons in the league. The natural-born goalscorer would play a total of six full seasons with the Canucks before being traded in his seventh season to the Bruins.
His time in Boston was short-lived, but it was decent nonetheless, with the Finn compiling six goals and 20 points in 37 games with the Bruins. Although his time on the Bruins wasn’t the highlight of his career, there is no doubt the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame legend inspired many throughout his nine seasons in the NHL. Skriko would finish with 541 NHL games played with an impressive 183 goals and 405 points to show for it, a true Finnish wonder.
The best for last. There is absolutely no list like this without mentioning the best Finnish player to ever wear a Bruins jersey. Tuukka Rask has played over 555 games for the Bruins, making him the Bruins’ goalie to play the most games in their history. He’s compiled an impressive 302 wins so far, along with 51 shutouts and averages a .922 save percentage (SV%), the best all-time amongst Finnish netminders. The only player who is currently still playing in this list, Bruins fans still get to view the Finnish brick wall in his element.
The Savonlinna native seems to be aging like fine wine, as he continues to maintain a .913 SV% in 19 games played this season. A one-club man, Boston just wouldn’t feel the same with the departure of a mainstay for more than 13 years in Rask. The 2011 Stanley Cup winner will likely go down as one of the best, if not the best Finnish goalie, to ever grace the ice with the credentials and achievements to back him up. A future hall-of-famer, here’s to hoping the Bruins make another run at the Cup to solidify Rask’s legacy as the best Finn to ever tend to the crease.
Finnish talent is here to stay in the league, and fans all over should be ecstatic. With young Finn superstars such as Patrik Laine, Aleksander Barkov, and Sebastian Aho in the league, the NHL has many exciting years ahead. Who is your favourite Finnish player currently playing in the NHL?