The Sharks have signed center Annti Soumela of the Finnish Liiga to a one-year entry-level contract. According to Kevin Kurz of The Athletic, as many as twelve teams expressed interest in the 24-year-old.
Soumela led Liiga, the top professional league in Finland, in scoring with JYP. Averaging 15:47 minutes per game, he led his team in points (60), assists (39), and game-winning goals (six, tied for second in the league). He also ranked tied for second in goals (21), and third in shots on goal (268) and only took three minor penalties all season. In six playoff games, he added one goal and two assists, as well as three goals and three assists in 12 tournament games to help JYP win the 2018 Champions Hockey League.
“Antti’s a very skilled center who has improved his development and production in each of his three seasons in Finland’s top league,” said Doug Wilson. “We like his combination of skill, speed and defensive awareness and think his style of play fits with the way we play as a team. After leading the league in scoring, he had a number of teams interested in his services, and we are excited that he chose San Jose. We look forward to him joining our organization.”
In 169 career games with Liiga, Suomela posted 131 points (56 goals, 75 assists), scoring at a .78 points per game pace. He was put on the Sharks’ radar by Shin Larsson, the same scout who brought in Joonas Donskoi. In comparison, Donskoi put up 156 points (60 goals, 96 assists) in 271 games with Kärpät in Liiga, a .58 points per game pace.
The top left of Suomela’s player card shows his all-strengths time on ice this season. Directly below that is his 5v5 and power play primary points scoring rate. This season, he played third-line minutes but scored 5v5 primary points at the rate of a first-line forward.
The “shot impacts” and “goal impacts” charts show that Suomela’s team took a greater proportion of shots and scored more goals with him on the ice than without him (at 5v5). His heatmap illustrates that (in blue) he helped his team prevent more shots than average (on the left-hand side) in dangerous areas while helping them take more than average (dark red on the right-hand side) at 5v5.
Finally, the graphic to the right of the heatmap gives us some context. We can see that Suomela enjoyed a higher-than-average on-ice shooting percentage at 5v5, more offensive than defensive zone starts, and some of the best teammates (by time on ice) on his team. For instance, Jerry Turkulainen, someone who was skipped over during his the last two NHL drafts but is receiving attention this year, played with Suomela for 73% of the center’s 5v5 ice time.
Using Rob Vollman’s NHL equivalency, Suomela is likely to score at a .33 points per game pace in the NHL, roughly a 27 point season. The Wilson Method, a version of NHLe that includes data from players who went to the AHL from European leagues, that number jumps to .47 points per game, or 38 points over 82 games. For a player that will likely slot into the middle six, that seems promising.