July 12th, 2024

Tigers select pair of Finnish defencemen in CHL Import Draft

By James Tubb on July 3, 2024.

PHOTO COURTESY SAVON SANOMAT The Medicine Hat Tigers drafted two Finnish defencemen in Wednesday’s CHL Import draft, Niilopekka Muhonen (pictured) and Veeti Väisänen.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com

The Medicine Hat Tigers Finnish-ed their off-season work with the selection of two defencemen in the CHL Import draft.

The Tigers drafted two Finnish defenceman with their selections in the CHL’s draft, selecting Niilopekka Muhonen with the 47th pick and Veeti Väisänen at 107th.

Head coach and general manager Willie Desjardins says they weren’t focused on just Finland but were looking for the best players available.

“Finland has a great program, lots of lots of good, highend players,” Desjardins said. “We we’re looking for the best player, we weren’t exactly looking for defencemen, that’s not how we started. But Väisänen was the highest end guy left when we took our second pick otherwise we probably would have gone with a forward but he’s just a high end guy.”

The 18-year-old Muhonen was a fifth round, 158th overall pick by the Dallas Stars in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft.

The 6-foot-4 tall d-man played a combined 42 games at three different levels in Finland last season, spending most of the year at the U20 level, putting up four goals and 15 points.

The 6-foot-1 Väisänen was a third round, 96th overall pick by the Utah Hockey Club in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. The fellow 18-year-old played a combined 57 games in two levels in Finland, a majority in the Liiga pro league, putting up four goals and 14 points.

Both Muhonen and Väisänen won bronze with Finland at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Desjardins says they liked Muhonen’s size and the likelihood of him joining them in the fall.

“He’s a big guy, has a great stick and a big body, we wanted to add a little bit of size back there on our back end,” Desjardins said. “A lot of these guys you don’t know if they’re going to come over or not, like lots of them. Muhonen was someone I knew was going to come over, so that was a little bit of a sure pick.” Desjardins added there’s nothing 100 per cent with Import Draft players but he says they expect Muhonen to be with them in the fall. He says Väisänen’s status is a little more up in the air.

The last Finnish player drafted by the Tigers in the CHL Import Draft was forward Oskari Kuntonen in the first round, 57th overall of the 2020 draft.

With the Import Draft complete, the next step on the calendar for the Tigers is training camp at the end of August. Desjardins says they’re finished making moves with the lineup for now and is looking forward to seeing it in action.

“I’ve been good with things for a while, I’m really excited with the group and we’ll see where it goes,” Desjardins said.

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