Ottawa Senators Official Website FRANÇAIS Official Site of the Ottawa Senators
Only 4 home games left!

Niemi making the best choices

Finnish defenceman happy he crossed ocean to suit up for Blades

Wednesday, 06.18.2008 / 10:48 AM ET / Features
Share with your Friends

Niemi making the best choices
Jyri Niemi opted to move from Finland to Western Canada, and the move has worked out perfectly. Niemi led all WHL rookie defensemen in goals, was third in points, and is a top prospect for the 2008 Entry Draft.

Jyri Niemi has earned the No. 25 ranking among North American skaters after leaving Finland to play for Saskatoon in the WHL.
Get your 2008 Draft Center Ice Stretch Fit Hat now!
Jyri Niemi could have stayed with the HPK team in Finland, but the 6-foot-1, 197-pound Saskatoon Blades defenceman decided to take a different developmental path.

“I wanted to see how good I really am,” Niemi told “I hear the best players play in the WHL. I have a friend who played in Red Deer and he told me this is the best league you can go and play in.”

So Niemi packed his bags and left his home and family in Hameenkyro, Finland, for Saskatoon and the Western Hockey League. It was a successful journey, to say the least.

Niemi led WHL rookie defencemen with 14 goals and was third with 34 points, in addition to winning the hardest-shot competition at the CHL Top Prospects Game. He also earned the No. 25 ranking among North American skaters from NHL Central Scouting. Not bad for someone who’s only been a defenceman for about four years.

"I had speed and I could skate forwards and backwards,” said Niemi. “So when I was 13 or 14, my coach told me that I have to be a defenceman. The first time that I heard that, I just left the rink and I said, 'I'm never going to play with you again.' I was so mad. I loved scoring goals and when you're on defence, you have to defend."

While it wasn’t a transition he didn’t particularly enjoy, it’s one that has gone smoothly.

Is West the best?
Three European-born players chose to play their draft years in the Canadian Hockey League. Was it the right move? Mikkel Boedker, Luca Sbisa and Jyri Niemi think so. The teams will weigh in with their opinions on Draft Day. …more

A Danish sensation
Denmark may not be a hockey hotbed, but Mikkel Boedker is doing what he can to change that. The Kitchener Ranger forward should become the second-straight Dane chosen in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. …more

Related Links:
"Jyri is adjusting well to the North American game,” said NHL director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire. “He has good poise and stickhandling ability from the back end. He quarterbacks the power play, with a heavy shot from the point. He has an offensive flair to his game and is an entertaining player to watch.

"More dependability in the defensive zone will guarantee that he projects into a No. 3 or 4 defenceman in the league, with the potential to be a 1-2 defenceman."

Niemi said the transition from Finland to the WHL wasn’t difficult and his English skills already were good, but there were some on-ice differences.

“Some things took a while, but it wasn’t that big of a deal for me,” Niemi told “It was just some game stuff that I had to get used to. Mostly defending. In Finland we defend man against man, but here we defend zone. That was the biggest adjustment for me.

“There is so much more speed over here than in Finland. The physical play is a lot harder than Finland. The players are bigger, stronger, faster. The whole league is really different than the league back home.”

During his meetings with teams at the NHL scouting combine, Niemi said he received praise for his willingness to travel to North America in his draft year.

“There aren’t that many players from Europe willing to come over here and play here,” said Niemi. “I think they appreciate that I came over here. They said they thought it was a great decision for me to come over here and play in the WHL.”

Contact Adam Kimelman at

Author: Adam Kimelman | Staff Writer




1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
3 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
4 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
5 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
6 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
7 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
8 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48


E. Karlsson 74 19 41 9 60
K. Turris 74 22 32 -1 54
B. Ryan 70 18 35 9 53
M. Stone 72 19 33 14 52
M. Hoffman 71 26 20 19 46
M. Zibanejad 72 19 24 2 43
M. Michalek 66 13 21 3 34
C. MacArthur 54 13 14 -10 27
D. Legwand 72 9 18 2 27
A. Chiasson 68 11 15 -4 26
A. Hammond 14 1 1 .938 1.92
C. Anderson 14 12 8 .923 2.48