#5- Juuso Valimaki
2020-21 Team: Calgary Flames (NHL)
Stats: 2 G, 9 A, 11 Points in 49 Games
Drafted in 2017, Round 1, Pick 17
2020 Ranking: #4 (-1)
The opinions of Valimaki over the past few months have been drenched in disappointment and concern, but how fairly can he be assessed yet? Scoring at a point-per-game pace with Ilves Tampere of the Finnish Lliga with 19 points in 19 games, Valimaki built a lot of hype for his return to hockey after missing all of 2019-20 with a torn ACL.
His transition back to the NHL in January under Geoff Ward was rocky and awkward as many of the Flames were. He played somewhat better after the switch to Darryl Sutter, but also simultaneously found himself a healthy scratch more often. The anticipation for his return combined with his phenomenal success in a very respected league caused his NHL play to seem that much more disappointing. If you look at Valimaki’s 2020-21 season simply as a player who had serious health concerns, managing to play an entire season without sustaining any injuries, it’s easier to see it as less of a failure.
That’s not to say things are about to get easier. While Juuso didn’t do anything to really stand out in the preseason, his playing time was going to be hindered no matter how well he played. The first reason for this is the absolute explosion of development Oliver Kylington has seemingly undergone this offseason to likely claim the opening night left-side of the third pairing. The other reason are two overpaid defensive black holes named Nikita Zadorov and Erik Gudbranson, who are likely not going to spend much combined time on the bench because they’re being paid an incredible 5 million dollars combined.
The Flames re-signed him to 2-year deal with a $1.55 million AAV this off-season.
What do you think of Valimaki’s final ranking?