Continuing my efforts to try to introduce you to some of the newly drafted Edmonton Oilers' prospect, I bring you Samu Perhonen. I like to think that I am pretty good at listening through accents, but apparently that it is only when they are used to speaking English. When the Oilers announced their first pick of the third round, 62nd overall many of us didn't know what name had been called and really didn't have any idea what to expect.
A tall blonde with a big smile who seemed a little more nervous than the other players had been walked into the room wearing an Oilers jersey. Once the questions began, Perhonen's voice shook, and his answers were short, slow and choppy. It was easy to see that Perhonen has been learning English, but would need the help of a translator to have any in depth conversations.
The first question was the easy, how do you feel being drafted by the Edmonton Oilers. "Very good. I like this team, I watch them sometimes. There are some good players. I don't know very much about the city." At this point, there was a collective sigh. We felt a little helpless, and I'm sure that Perhonen felt even more so. You had to wonder if he might not have had a translator when speaking with the teams and their scouting staff. You wondered if he was in the crowd somewhere and could be of some help to this young man. Help did not arrive.
Someone else asked what his career aspirations were. Unfortunately, Perhonen started to answer the question, then realised that he didn't quite know what it was that we were asking, and he stopped. My heart broke for him at this point.
This is a developing team, what do you see? "I think this team is very interesting for me."
There are a few Finnish goaltenders in the NHL, do you have a favourite or a player that you would like to play like? Miikka Kiprusoff, Pekka Rinne? "Pekka Rinne, I like him, how he plays." That one seemed easy to the young goaltender. You knew that he was wishing all of his questions would go so smoothly.
When asked what his plans were again, but in a slightly different wording there must have been a few more words that he was prepped on and recognised. "I think I play next year in Finland, then I want maybe to come here."
At that point, after five questions we all smiled and shook his hand. We told him congratulations and welcome to the club. What else was there to do or say? Well the voice of the Oilers Jack Michaels tried to get a few questions in, and seemed to have the same success.
I couldn't help it though, I wanted to try to ask about the mandatory military service that as far as I know will have to do. Unfortunately, none of the words that I used for army helped Perhonen. I can only assume that he will have to complete that at some point in his adult life, but that he can pursue his hockey career for a little while longer.
When the opportunity came for me to pose the same question to the head of the Oilers' amateur scouting, Stu MacGregor, he said he wasn't too sure. The Oilers just knew that they really liked the play of Perhonen and knew that they would have to take him a little earlier than they might have wanted to, just because they felt so high about his play they didn't want anyone else to draft him.
There will be more on Perhonen as he develops and as he learns more English. Of course, this would have been much easier if I spoke Finnish, but there is only so much a person can to to prepare for the draft.