The San Jose Sharks roster is relatively the same as last years with most of their roster returning for the 2018-2019 season. They did, however make a surprise addition from outside the franchise, the Finnish forward Antti Suomela.
The San Jose Sharks signed Antti Suomela to a one year, $925,000, with some performance bonuses attached as per capfriendly.com. The contract is a low risk – high reward gamble for the Sharks. His performance during training camp can determine whether or not he can become a contributor on a San Jose Sharks roster looking to compete for a Stanley Cup again this year.
Antti Suomela was signed out the Liiga Champions Elite League, the top league in Finland. The 24 year old center accumulated the most points for the JYP Jyväskylä over the last two seasons with 45 in (2016 -2017) and 60 in (2017 – 2018) according to the Liiga Champion Elite League site liiga.fi/en/. He compiled 105 points total over that time and lead the entire Liiga Champions Elite League last season. That type of production gets NHL scout’s attention, regardless of what leagues they might reside in.
While Suomela lead Liiga Champions Elite League in points during the regular season, his team faltered in the playoffs with Suomela not putting up spectacular numbers. He also exhibited flashes of greatness during the 2018 IIHF Worlds against some NHL competition, but ultimately under performed.
There might be some questions about how his game will transfer onto the bigger stage. There is also the smaller ice surface, which is not the only thing he will have to adjust to in the NHL. Suomela will also have to adapt to the size, speed, and skill of players that cannot be replicated anywhere else.
It’s just extremely hard to project how well players of Suomela’s age will transition into the NHL. If he makes the team with the rest forward group essentially being made up he will most likely end up the 4th line at center. This would significantly cut his offensive zone time and would put him in more of a defensive role, which could be tall order for the young skater.
The San Jose Sharks signed Suomela for a reason and one should suspect that he will be on the roster sooner rather than later. The Sharks have had some good luck signing players out of the Liiga Champion Elite League. Fan favorite Joonas Donskoi was signed after spending time with kärpät in 2015, and his style of play has transitioned well into the NHL. Pete DeBoer deploys the Finnish winger up and down the Sharks lineup. The team is betting on duplicating this success with the addition of Suomela.
Both Donskoi and Suomela show prowess in the offensive zone, however the two get results in different ways. Donskoi has had some problems staying healthy over his first few seasons on the Sharks roster, but he’s shown flashes of greatness using his wide frame and reach to control possession. Suomela seems to take a different approach when handling the puck, but it’s produced results so far in European pro career.
There isn’t much video on him but what one can observe from some brief highlight reels, Suomela doesn’t hold onto the puck for very long. Unlike Donskoi who likes to skate with it and shield it from defenders.
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Known for his scoring prowess throughout the Liiga Champions Elite League, Antti Suomela also shows aptitude in the face-off circle. Face-offs are often seen as a bloated stat or just another puck battle in a game full of them. But to a team like the San Jose Sharks who are capable of trekking the puck through the neutral zone with relative ease (at times).
Winning those stationary battles becomes an ingredient for success. Suomela has taken over 1,700 face-offs over the past two seasons and has maintained over a 50% average. This workload and proficiency in the circle is most likely something that attracted the Sharks to the 24 year old.
The risk they took signing Antti Suomela was minimal yet it could potentially payoff huge for the Sharks. He has shown the ability to compile a monster amount of points at the European Pro level, however it is tough to project how that type of production translates onto the ice in the NHL.
Suomela could potentially start the year down with the Sharks AHL affiliate the San Jose Barracuda. This becomes more likely with some active roster players not being waiver exempt like Barclay Goodrow or Marcus Sorenson also vying for spots on the team; however he has a chance to prove he belongs on the Sharks roster when training camp begins on September 14th.