Iiro Pakarinen knows how to hockey. For this, and other reasons, he slots in at #17 in our Top 25 Under 25 for 2015.
A former draft pick of the Florida Panthers (184th overall in 2011), Pakarinen came to Oil Country via free agency last summer after spending time in Finland's Liiga. His career-to-date statistics are as follows, courtesy of eliteprospects.com:
Despite what might appear to be a severe allergy to offense - or at least assists - Pakarinen does possess some nice tools that we’ve seen some flashes of in the big leagues:
A brief overview of Pakarinen, as per eliteprospects.com:
A large winger shooting from his right. An energetic player with good skating and a nice frame. Possesses a good sharp, wrist shot and is a solid finisher. A hard worker and versatile player who can also play as a defenceman.
Granted that scouting report is from 2012, but Jonathan Willis at the Cult of Hockey recently suggested that he saw Pakarinen the same way:
Pakarinen is a fun player to watch, and not a bad bet to make the Oilers this season. He plays a rambunctious north/south game, never saw a shot or a hit he didn’t like, and has good size and decent defensive awareness. Many a bottom-six NHL career has been forged out of less.
I tend to agree. Pakarinen does have an interesting skill set and a motor that won’t quit. An energy player who can take a pass as well as they can wash a face would be a welcome sight at Rexall. It almost certainly won’t be enough to make the Rexall beer worth it, but that’s not his problem.
Never known for his overpowering offense, Pakarinen did manage to improve his points-per-game every year in the Liiga. And while he only managed 1-2-3 in 17 NHL games before his knee betrayed him, Pakarinen did score 17 in the AHL last year in just 39 games. For some context, OKC’s leading goal getter last season was Andrew Miller, who scored 27 in 63 games – good for 10th in the league. Given that Pakarinen’s per-game output was better, and he’s Finnish, there is cause for our optimism with this player. Note that all of your favorite Copper & Blue pundits had him firmly in their top 25.
It’s probably worth mentioning that Todd Nelson really liked what he saw from Pakarinen last season, praising both his consistency and maturity in an interview with 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer. He even went so far as to call him a complete player.
#Oilers recall Pakarinen. Todd Nelson calls him a complete player. 17 goals (28 points) in 39 games w/ Barons this season.— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) February 3, 2015
But who cares what his old coach thinks? To this observer, Pakarinen is definitely in the mix for a bottom six job this year, and will compete with the likes of Tyler Pitlick and Luke Gazdic for a roster spot. Given that one can’t stay healthy and the other can’t play hockey, I wouldn’t bet against him.
Pakarinen is waiver exempt though, so he could be the odd man out come October if the Oilers decide they don't want to risk losing someone else to a waiver claim.