The Edmonton Oilers continued their parade of signings this morning signing, 2016 3rd round pick, Markus Niemelainen to a two-year entry level contract.
The #Oilers have signed defenceman & 2016 third-round pick Markus Niemelainen to a two-year, entry-level contract.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 30, 2020
The 21-year-old just completed his third season in the Finnish SM-Liiga, posting one goal & six assists with @PorinAssat. pic.twitter.com/jXHd44Hhxn
When he was drafted he was described as a reliable two-way defender that moves up and down the ice quickly. One scouting report went as far as saying that Niemelainen did not lack much of anything in his game. Certainly high praise for a 3rd round draft pick. Yet, since his draft year he has had some rocky progression.
As Athletic writer Jonathan Willis points out, despite his role as the #1 defender with Assat in the SM-Liiga, Niemelainen’s offensive output has reached a near stand still and his overall shot metrics aren’t too appealing.
Niemelainen was Assat's No. 1 defenceman. 19:46 per game, including 2:43 on the PK. Lots of DZ shifts, too.— Jonathan Willis (@JonathanWillis) April 30, 2020
On the other hand, no offence to speak of and poor (44.7% Corsi) shot metrics.
Given his age he's worth a flyer, but at this point he appears somewhat one-dimensional. https://t.co/AY6FcqKNtn
With that being said, he is still only 21 years old, which is very young in terms of defencemen. Considering that he is playing top pair minutes in a professional league shows that he does add value to a professional organization and could potentially develop into a reliable NHLer. As with Lennstrom, who was signed Wednesday, there will be a period of adjustment as Niemelainen gets used to playing on North American ice, although he did spend two seasons in the OHL from 2015-2017.
I expect him to spend the entirety of next season in Bakersfield as I do not believe he will be given priority treatment when it comes to call-ups. He is a decent enough defender where it justifies the signing but he will have to improve his play in the defensive zone and try to up his offensive numbers slightly if he wants a chance at being an NHL regular.
Overall, it looks like another low-risk signing that doesn’t seem to have a ton of upside, but not a lot of down-side either.