Over the years, Urho Vaakanainen has become a key part of the Bruins’ future. The Finland native was taken in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft and made his debut a year later. Since signing with Boston, he has appeared in seven games at the NHL level. While Vaakanainen has yet to earn a permanent spot on the Boston blueline, he has continued to improve in Providence and become one of the organization’s best prospects.
In 23 games for Providence this season, Vaakanainen has four goals and six assists. He also won one Player of the Week honors and has the most goals of any Providence defenseman. The young blueliner has already tied his goal total from last year in only 23 games. His offense is a welcoming sign considering he got off to a slow start this year after an impressive training camp.
While Vaakanainen is not known for his physicality, he excels due to his speed and ability to start breakouts. It allows him to affect the game in multiple ways as in a seven-game stretch from Nov. 10 to Dec. 6, he went only two games without a point.
Even though the Bruins’ blueline is currently full, the 20-year-old has already seen some NHL action this year. When the Bruins were without the services of Torey Krug, Vaakanainen appeared in two games and recording a plus-minus rating of two. The top prospect also recorded two shots on net and averaged 16:51 on the ice. In his brief call-up, Vaakanainen proved that he could hold his own when needed most.
Although Vaakanainen’s stay was brief, he has only used it as motivation. Since returning to Providence, he has been a force offensively, which the Bruins will need in the future. He has a plus-minus rating of 11 this season and has already landed 47 shots on net. The former first-round pick also has a power play and short-handed goal, tying his total from last season.
As the season progresses, the Finnish native will be a player for Bruins fans to keep their eyes on. With Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug set to become free agents after this season, Vaakanainen’s opportunity in Boston could be on the horizon.
The Bruins still have a lot of hockey to play, but if Vaakanainen can continue his recent play, then his future in the NHL will be bright.