At the 2016 NHL Draft, the Flames picked up two European players: Linus Lindstrom at 96th overall, and Eetu Tuulola at 156th.
Lindstrom was not at the draft; Tuulola was. What’s more, he came on his own: no family, just his agent. He sounded like someone absolutely committed to one day playing in the NHL (maybe even this upcoming season; “everything is possible in this life”) – and while there’s nothing wrong with continuing to play in Finland, he now has the option to play in a league much closer to the Flames.
The Everett Silvertips took Tuulola 40th overall in the CHL Import Draft.
As for Lindstrom, his not being drafted isn’t a worry; if he simply wants to stay in Sweden, then CHL teams wouldn’t select him.
Tuulola has spent his entire career to date playing for HPK in Finland, and when he spoke at the NHL Draft, it sounded like he was going to return there. However, when he was asked about where he was playing the 2016-17 season, he brought up the possibility of the AHL (and the NHL, yes) on his own.
He didn’t mention the CHL as an option, but it’s possible the thought hadn’t crossed his mind – especially without knowing which team he would be going to if he did come over.
Standing at 6’2 and 224 lbs, Tuulola is a big kid whose size is certain to be appreciated in North America. He spent most of this past season playing for HPK’s U20 team, scoring nine goals and 14 points over 29 games; he also played 10 games for the main HPK club in the Liiga, scoring just one assist. He did have a modest showing at the U18s, though, scoring four points through seven games. He also did this:
— Greg Balloch (@GregBalloch) June 27, 2016
(If he makes it, he’s sure to become a fan favourite.)
Tuulola now has three solid options for where he can play next season: Finland, Everett, or Stockton. (Or Calgary, if we take his wonderfully optimistic words to heart.) We’ll see if he makes the jump to North America sooner rather than later – but to select him, Everett must have had some reason to believe he could come over.
And since he did show up to the draft on his own, maybe they’re on to something.
Everett isn’t in the Hitmen’s conference – but it’s much closer to Calgary than the other options.