Boston Bruins finally get consistency from Urho Vaakanainen - Sports1
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Boston Bruins finally get consistency from Urho Vaakanainen

Drafting in the NHL is no mean feat. It’s one thing to identify raw tools and abilities and translate them into NHL-level theory; however, it’s quite another to actually see how those tools and abilities translate as the game gets faster and harder. One of the hardest parts of the process is being patient and seeing if a player turns out to be the player they expected on draft night.

Urho Vaakanainen is the perfect example of “patience is a virtue” this season with the Boston Bruins. (Amy Owen /hockey writer)

Patience seems to have finally paid off in Urho Vaakanainen’s case Boston BruinsWhen they drafted the Finnish guard with the 18th overall pick in 2017, they seemed to get a good point-and-minute defender with limited offensive space. That seems to have been the case early on, too, as Vaakanainen got about 30 minutes per game against seasoned men in the 2018 Liiga playoffs.

Add in a gold medal at the World Youth Championship with Finland and an impressive start to his AHL career, scoring 4 goals and 14 points in 30 appearances, and Vaakanainen looks like he will one day be real player.

It’s not all sunshine and roses for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound blue liner, though.What once seemed like a perfect match Charlie McAvoy Over the next decade or so, among the Bruins’ top pairings, Vakanainen was continually shuffled on the potential draft list, in part due to inconsistencies in his learning of the North American-style game.

Not that Vaakanainen was a bad player, or that he played so badly that he was immediately considered a loser. Instead, he actually started out so well as an NHL draft player that any inconsistencies and blunders along the way led to more criticism. That’s also true, since he was drafted in the top 20 by a team with high hopes in Boston.

With consistent inconsistencies plaguing him, Vakanainen received only sporadic drafting during the first four years of his NHL career. He will play two games in 2018-19, five games next season, nine games last season and four games so far this season. Almost all of those call-ups have a lot to do with injuries, but the most recent call-up should also be credited to his performance in Providence this season.

While offensive dominance is still not Wakanainen’s forte, the fact that he has one goal and eight points in 23 games certainly doesn’t hurt his situation. Plus, though, he looks confident on a nightly basis and ultimately looks like a defensive player who can take charge and be a wind chime on the defensive end.

Vaakanainen becomes regular NHL contributor

So it’s no surprise that Wakanainen has seen an increase in minutes per game this season. Beginning with his season debut at 16:06 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vaakanainen will skate at 16:56 the following night, before going on a sizable 21:03 vs. Montreal Canadiens and 23:17 vs. Philadelphia Flyers rise. The latter’s score was the Bruins’ second-highest score, behind only McAvoy, who played 25:48 in that game. On the season, he averaged a career-high 19:21 on ice.

Urho Vaakanainen Boston Bruins
Urho Vaakanainen has excelled in every role he has played with the Boston Bruins this season (Amy Owen /hockey writer)

With confidence and solid play in those games, Wakanainen is increasingly earning head coach Bruce Cassidy’s trust every night. Even more impressively, Vakanainen is finally starting to see some results on offense.He has three assists in his first three games of the season, although the third assist was initially considered his first NHL goal before being called Changes after the game is over.

If the goal is his credit, Vakanainen would be the second Finnish defender in Bruins history to score. Jarno Kultanen remains the only player who meets the criteria, scoring two goals in the 2000-01 season.

Nor is his performance just noticed by his coaching staff or fans. Brad Marchand After the game, how did Vakanainen play against the Canadiens.

“Vax became the player of the game. Very well deserved. He’s been great since he came here and tonight was a big target for him, Marchand talks about his teammates before the score changes. “It’s so well-deserved.”

related: 4 Breakthrough Candidates for the Bruins in 2022

This is a high praise not only for one of the best players on the Bears, but also one of the best players in the entire league. Vaakanainen is finally starting to get back on his feet and showing that he can consistently do what the Bruins need him to do. It’s true that whether they used him in the third pair, the second pair or even the first pair, he played in Matt Gezelsik’s absence. He also got free throw time, which meant his defensive prowess paid off.

At just 23 years old and having only played 20 games in his NHL career, it’s important to remember that players develop at different rates. It’s important to identify early on what players can do so they can capitalize on their value, but it’s also dangerous to give up young talent prematurely. It’s a fine line, but it’s the Bears finally getting some ROI from Vaakanainen’s side.

Brandon Cohen

Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Brandon works with hockey writers and, in addition to being the news team leader, has extensively covered the Boston Bruins.


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