The Calgary Flames have sent Juuso Valimaki back to the Tri City Americans. The soon to be 19-year-old blueliner will strut his stuff again in the WHL this season. In no way shape or form should anyone be anything but excited about the type of player the Flames selected in the 1st round of 2017 NHL Draft. At 6’2 210 pounds the Finnish product Valimaki has all the tools. Valimaki is a strong skater, has a great frame, an above average shot, very good poise, offensive instincts, yes in my opinion the makings of a special defenceman at the NHL level.
The excitement for me began in the summer on the final day of the Flames development camp. In the scrimmage my first take was how poised he was with the puck. He made alot of quality decisions many under duress. Check mark number 2. The Finns performance at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth Michigan, where again I found myself glued to watching his every move. Step 3: At the Young Stars Tournament I was blown away. In Game 1 against the Oiler’s Prospects he was the best player on the ice, at least from a Flames perspective. His ability again to get up and down the ice and affect the game in such a positive manner, left me beyond excited about his future and even the mark Valimaki might make at main camp and during the preseason.
Valimaki’s hopes of cracking the Flames roster came to an end on Tuesday following three appearances in the exhibition campaign. Were there times where he looked overwhelmed. Yes, no question, especially in Monday’s game in Winnipeg against a veteran laden Jets team. However, the 7th leading scorer amongst dmen in the WHL last season had far more to suggest that he is just scratching the surface with all those tools.
Let’s add another thing I like about Valimaki. Look for him to Captain Finland’s team at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo starting on Boxing day. In the spring of 2016 he wore the C in the Finns gold medal winning effort at the World Under 18 Championship in Grand Forks. A great tool box. Leadership qualities, and a quality title to his credit. What’s not to like. Some would suggest. If he’s that good, why isn’t he ready for prime time now?
The last time I checked cracking the NHL full time in your 19 year old season on defence is no easy chore. Flames Head Coach Glen Gulutzan put it best after the loss to the Jets. Gulutzan spoke glowingly saying he has seen alot of young blueliners in his time, but few if any who were further ahead at this age.
Valimaki will celebrate his 19th birthday on October 6th. He won’t do so in Calgary. Young man if everything progresses for you the way I see it, you are likely in for one heckuva 20th celebration next year in the Stampede City