After being acquired for a fifth round pick back in the 2013 off-season, Kris Russell’s tenure as a Calgary Flame is over. For the impending UFA the Flames were unlikely to be able to re-sign, the Flames got back quite a haul: two young players and a second round pick that could turn into a first.
No matter how you slice it, that’s a fantastic trade, and we’re all undoubtedly cheering for the Stars to make the conference finals – because that pick could be as high as 27th overall.
But unlike with the Jiri Hudler trade, the Flames actually got some names back, too. Who are Jyrki Jokipakka and Brett Pollock?
Jokipakka (who, if you’re having trouble with his name, you can simply call “Kevin”) is a 6’3, 215 lb. 24-year-old Finnish defenceman. He has, thus far, played 91 NHL games – 40 this season, his sophomore year – all with the Dallas Stars, who selected him 195th overall in the 2011 draft. He has two goals and four assists for Dallas this season, and averages 14:10 a game.
He also carries a $900k cap hit, and is signed through next season. He becomes an RFA in 2017.
Pollock is a 6’3, 194 lb. 19-year-old centre/left winger, though he’ll turn 20 on March 17 (a St. Patrick’s Day baby! He shares a birthday with Mikael Backlund!). The Stars selected him 45th overall in the 2014 draft. He’s playing his fourth and likely final year for the Edmonton Oil Kings, who will probably make the WHL playoffs in a wild card slot.
Through 63 games this season, Pollock has scored 25 goals and 42 assists for 67 total points: Edmonton’s leading scorer by a fair margin (the next guy, Lane Bauer, has 58 points through 63 games). He also wears an ‘A’ for Edmonton, and is already signed to an entry level deal that is still sliding due to his junior status.
The fancy stuff
Because Pollock’s still in junior, we don’t have a ton more to go on with him – though because he plays for the Oil Kings, he’s easily watchable in this neck of the woods. He looks to have power forward potential due to his size, with obvious scoring ability.
Jokipakka, on the other hand, is already an NHL defenceman, added to a reasonably young group – two years older than Dougie Hamilton, and a year younger than T.J. Brodie – who, at the very least, looks to be on Russell’s level already.
Jyrki Jokipakka could actually step in and almost replace Russell outright. Wow. pic.twitter.com/eWqPoBQRXV
— Christian Roatis (@CRoatis) February 29, 2016
Jokipakka is being utilized as a bottom pairing guy, and has the stats to match it – though he already appears at least somewhat better than Russell when it comes to preventing corsi events against. He’s also rather young and in just his second season, so the chance to improve remains.
It’s just a really nice added bonus that he’s really, really cheap – though his size is also probably welcome.
Via War on Ice, here’s how Jokipakka compared to the rest of the Stars’ defence:
His usage is evident: he’s been sheltered (much like Russell was), and comparatively, has a negative 5v5 CF% rel (-2.96, to be exact). His overall corsi, however – minding that Dallas is a 53.5% CF team, second in the league – is 50.34%, second worst out of all Stars defencemen. Out of all regular Flames defenders, he would be second in raw 5v5 CF, behind Mark Giordano (51.08%) and just ahead of Brodie (50.32%).
He is, however, improving, increasing his possession numbers (49.7% CF in his rookie year) while taking harder zone starts:
Is it possible Jokipakka steps right into Russell’s old role alongside Hamilton? Maybe, depending on what happens when Dennis Wideman returns, and how much the Flames want or are able to keep Jakub Nakladal and Tyler Wotherspoon together.
But prior to being traded, it looks like Dallas was using him in the role he was best suited for, at least at present time – though he’s only through his second NHL season, so who knows what the future will bring for him?