Penguins

Prospect Watch: Airola to move to top Finnish league

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Santeri Airola. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Finnish news site Ilta-Sanomat reported on Wednesday that Penguins defense prospect Santeri Airola is expected to sign with the Tampere Ilves of the Finnish Liiga, the top men's league in Finland.

The contract would be for the 2020-21 season.

Airola, the Penguins' seventh-round pick this summer, is currently under contract with Kettera of the second-tier Mestis league through next season with a club 2021-22 option, but the club would allow him to move to the higher league.

Airola, 19, is a 5-foot-11, 165-pound right-handed defenseman. He played in three Liiga games with SaiPa last season, and two games with SaiPa on loan this season. In his 25 games with Kettera this season, he's recorded 11 assists.

The website Finnish Junior Hockey has been watching Airola in the Mesitis league this season, and had this to say of his game:

Airola is a strong skating, mobile defenseman with superb acceleration who can travel with the puck. His first few strides are very quick, enabling him to move away from pressure and facilitate the breakout. He made a firm, crisp first pass and he was active offensively, consistently being involved in the final third. Shot isn’t his calling card, but he has a pretty quick release and he was eager to unleash pucks on net from the point. He had a lot of puck skill and he played with his head up to scan the ice. He got on the scoresheet with two assists, including one on the game-winning goal. 

In this clip from his time in juniors last season, he used his speed to move the puck up ice and pick up an assist:

In this clip, he capitalizes on a turnover, moves the puck up ice and scores:

Airola is able to chip in offensively. He has a strong shot and doesn't shy away from moving forward to make a play:

Because Airola was drafted at age 18, the Penguins retain his exclusive signing rights until June 2023. He can continue to develop in Tampere before making the jump to North America.

Here’s how the rest of the Penguins’ prospects in juniors, college, and Europe did this week:

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FORWARDS

Judd Caulfield
Position: Forward
Size: 6-4/207
Shoots: Right
Drafted: 2019, fifth round
Team: North Dakota (NCAA)
Season totals: 
23 games, 3 goals, 8 assists

Caulfield picked up an assists in his two games this week.

Liam Gorman
Position: Center
Size: 6-3/196
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 2018, sixth round
Team: Princeton (NCAA)
Season totals: 
21 games, 3 assists

Gorman was scoreless in two games this week.

Filip Hallander
Position: Center/Wing
Size: 6-1/190
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 2018, second round
Team: Lulea HF (SHL)
Season totals: 
13 games, 4 goal, 3 assists

Hallander scored one goal in two games this week.

Nathan Legare
Position: Right wing
Size: 6-0/205
Shoots: Right
Drafted: 2019, third round
Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Season totals: 
46 games, 26 goals, 25 assists

Legare played in two games this week and scored one goal and an assist

Linus Olund
Position: Center
Size: 5-11/183
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 2017, fifth round
Team: Brynas IF (SHL)
Season totals: 
36 games, 3 goals, 6 assists

Olund was scoreless in three games this week.

Nikita Pavlychev
Position: Center
Size: 6-8/225
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 2015, seventh round
Team: Penn State (NCAA)
Season totals: 
21 games, 6 goal, 6 assists

Pavlychev scored two goals in two games this week.

Samuel Poulin
Position: Wing
Size: 6-1/207
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 2019, first round
Team: Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Season totals: 
36 games, 29 goals, 33 assists

Poulin scored two goals and four assists in two games this week, and was again named the QMJHL Player of the Week.

Valtteri Puustinen
Position: Wing
Size: 5-9/183
Shoots: Right
Drafted: 2019, seventh round
Team: HPK (Liiga)
Season totals: 
40 games, 13 goals, 20 assists

Puustinen recorded one assist in two games this week.

DEFENSEMEN

Calen Addison
Size: 
5-10/180
Shoots: Right
Drafted: 2018, second round
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Season totals: 
36 games, 8 goals, 32 assists

Addison was a scratch this week, but not listed on the Hurricanes' injury report. It's not clear why he was scratched.

Santeri Airola
Size: 5-11/165
Shoots: Right
Drafted: 2019, seventh round
Team: SaiPa (Liiga), Kettera (Mestis)
Season totals: 
2 games with SaiPa; 25 games, 11 assists with Kettera

Airola played in four games and recorded four assists.

Ryan Jones
Size: 
6-2/186
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 2016, fourth round
Team: Nebraska-Omaha (NCAA)
Season totals: 
28 games, 2 goals, 7 assists

Jones was scoreless in two games this week.

Antti Palojarvi
Size: 
6-1/172
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 2017, sixth round
Team: Lukko (Liiga), Lukko U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga), Hokki (Mestis)
Season totals: 
5 games with Lukko; 14 games, 3 assists with Lukko U20; 17 games with Hokki

Palojarvi was scoreless in two games with Hokki.

Clayton Phillips
Size: 5-11/183
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 2017, third round
Team: Penn State (NCAA)
Season totals: 
25 games, 2 goal, 7 assists

Phillips did not play this week, and is not expected to play this weekend. He suffered an undisclosed injury last week.

William Reilly
Size: 
6-2/196
Drafted: 2017, seventh round
Team: Rensselaer Polytech (NCAA)
Season totals: 
26 games, 7 goal, 10 assists

Reilly added one assist in two games this week.

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