Top 25 Under 25 #21: Urho Vaakanainen
Where’d he come from?: Drafted #18 (1st round) - 2017 NHL draft
Has he played NHL yet?: No
Urho Vaakanainen is not a glamorous pick, nor is he a prospect that was likely to have been among the “sexy” picks in the 2017 draft. He doesn’t score a huge amount, he doesn’t destroy the opposition with bonecrunching hits, and he doesn’t joyfully drop the gloves at every opportunity. He’s not particularly big at 6’1 and 188lbs, either.
But what he is is very calm, composed and steady on the blue-line - exactly the kind of player that is needed on a team to counterbalance those flashier players.
By taking him in the draft, the Bruins have picked up a player who already has two years of pro experience at 18 and will continue to develop this season as a player with good skating, a good first pass and the ability to play in both zones. He’s not a star-filled pick, not one to set hearts racing...but he’s going to be an NHL defenseman in the next few years, and probably a very good one at that. Which, with the Bruins defense in transition between generations, is exactly what the team need.
What’s in the future?
The immediate future for Vaakanainen is a year with SaiPa Lappeenranta in the Finnish Liiga, where he’ll continue to play more and more in one of the best leagues in Europe and develop his skills. The general development path with Finnish prospects often sees them play a year or two in their homeland after being drafted, so this is a normal path to take. In the 2018/19 season, he may well elect to come to North America, but he’s got time to continue building his play and adding a little more muscle to his frame in the meantime. This is a player who’s probably a year or two away, but he’s developing in safe hands.