NOKELAINEN: READY FOR NORTH AMERICA
The Islanders have signed 2004 first round pick Petteri Nokelainen to a three-year contract. The 19-year old center, the 16th pick overall in 2004, was Team Finland's MVP at last year's World Junior Championships.
"It's great news for us to be able to bring Petteri to North America just a year after drafting him," said Islanders general manager Mike Milbury. "We're anxious to take a good look at him in camp and see how he does against our NHLers and other top prospects. Petteri is a very strong young player that will have an impact with the Islanders in the near future."
The 19-year old Nokelainen has spent the last three seasons with SaiPa Lappeenranta of the Finnish League. In 2004-05, Nokelainen scored 15 goals with five assists in 52 games, impressive numbers for a teenager playing in the top league in Finland. In 94 career games with SaiPa, Nokelainen is 20-9-29 with 52 penalty minutes.
"He's an intense competitor with very good skills," said Islanders European scout Anders Kallur. "Petteri has played very well in his homeland, but his game may even be more well-suited to the NHL style. He doesn't really have any glaring weaknesses. In time, he's going to be an excellent player for us."
The 6-1, 190-pound center is known as a two-way forward with a strong defensive mindset. At the 2005 WJC, Nokelainen was responsible for shutting down the opposing team's top line, but also had a goal and four assists.
Nokelainen will join several other Islanders prospects at a rookie camp prior to the opening of the Islanders training camp on Sept. 12 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The rookie camp, which begins on Sept. 10 at Islanders Iceworks in Syosset, will also include Sean Bergenheim, Masi Marjamaki, Blake Comeau, Jeremy Colliton, Chris Campoli, Ryan Caldwell, Dustin Kohn and 2005 first round pick Ryan O'Marra, among others.
It will not be Nokelainen's first visit to Long Island, however. Since the Islanders drafted him a year ago, the teenager has spent several weeks in the New York area, seeing the sights and spending time with management. It was that time that convinced the youngster he was ready to sign a contract and begin his life in North America.
"I've spent a lot of time with Mike Milbury and Coach Stirling, and the communication has been very good," Nokelainen said this afternoon from his home in Finland. "I have a good understanding of what it is going to take for me to become an Islander and what management expects of me.
"Getting to know Long Island and New York was also very important for me. I've been all over the Island and love it. What a beautiful place to live. I've been to some Yankees and Mets games and had a chance to see what New York City has to offer, which was very exciting.
"Ever since I started playing, my dream has always been to play in the NHL," continued Nokelainen, who admired fellow Finn Teemu Selanne growing up. "I feel I'm ready, but of course we'll see what happens at camp. I know I'll give it everything I have."