Selected by the Nashville Predators in the second round of the 2011 draft, Miikka Salomaki has spent his time in the organization being molded in Milwaukee. Up until this season his only other appearance with the Predators was in January of 2015. He scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game and was shipped back to Milwaukee the next day. It's the song and dance of a young player who may not be ready for a full time gig in the big show.
His performance in his first professional outing and his work ethic during training camp was enough for head coach Peter Laviolette. Salomaki played all of four games with the Admirals at the start of the season before being re-called in late October and spending the remainder of the season with Nashville.
Via Hockey Reference.
His numbers are average, but for a rookie who's initial purpose was to bring life to a struggling offense he did exactly what was expected. He's a smart player who knows how to create plays even though he plays a more defensive game. Despite being so young he's a physical player who landed 164 hits this season. Second most among Preds behind only Shea Weber who had 169. Not bad for the five-foot-nine Finn.
It's nice to see Nashville has some fearless youth after losing the likes of Weber, Paul Gaustad, and Eric Nystrom this summer. Physicality is not a strong point for the majority of the team's younger players. Their fights are cringe worthy and most of them don't have big bodies to throw around on the ice. Salomaki doesn't let his size hold him back. He will hit anything that moves and does not hesitate to destroy anything that gets in his way. A lesson Corey Perry learned the hard way...twice.
The control Salomaki shows when throwing those hits at such a high intensity pace is incredible. Being able to skate away from it and back into the play is even more rewarding. I'm not sure what Perry did outside of being Corey Perry but Salomaki played with a vengeance against him and Anaheim during the regular season and the playoffs.
Salomaki is the type of player most don't want to go up against on the ice. He's all over the place, constantly watching the ice to see where he can make plays or take someone out of play. He's sneaky, most of the time players don't see him coming until it's too late.
We saw Salomaki paired with just about everyone in the bottom six this season. He was able to make some great plays with Austin Watson and the two wreaked havoc on the ice together. He seemed comfortable next to Colton Sissons and they seemed to find a groove together down the stretch. I think you could put Salomaki next to anyone and he's going to do what he can but finding steady line mates for him would give him room to develop his offensive presence moving forward.
One of his best moments from the season was against the Florida Panthers. Salomaki and Watson created chaos in the corner while Gausted created some great traffic in-front of Roberto Luongo. Watson made a quick pass to Salomaki, who didn't hesitate before he buried the puck top-shelf over Luongo's shoulder. Nashville could have used a lot more goals like this throughout the season
Technically the tally goes to Sissons on this goal against Colorado. You could argue that it might have gone in without deflecting off his chest, but what sticks out to me is the shot from Salomaki. What a rocket form the Predator's blue line. If he can continue to put shots on goal like these this team will be even more deadly.
It's hard to pin-point a bad moment for Salomaki this season. He made his mistakes here and there, most of his penalties being minors so it's hard to use those against him as a rookie. However this moment against Colorado probably sticks out to him. He netted a beautiful goal off a pass from Weber that was called off after Colorado challenged off-sides. Nashville would go on to lose the game, and the off-sides call would later be against Colin Wilson and not Salomaki. It's not a horrible moment, but frustrating none the less.
While it may have been more of an unfortunate moment to be a part of than a bad moment, Salomaki found his name at the center of controversy after the Predators visit to Calgary in January. Salomaki laid a hit on Dennis Wideman, who then plowed into lineman Don Henderson while attempting to skate back over to the Flame's bench. Wideman's head bounced off the glass after taking the hit, initially pulling Salomaki into question.
However, after further review the hit was determined to be clean. While Wideman is definitely the one at fault here, as a rookie this isn't a situation you want your name involved in.
Trending Up or Down
Trending up. With the days of the gritty bottom line veterans behind Nashville, Salomaki has a lot of room to move forward and take his game to new levels. If he can continue to work on his offensive game and put the puck on net more his game has a lot of potential. Nashville has needed youth in their bottom lines for a long time, if they can continue to develop Salomaki to fill that gap the team should see a lot more production from their offense.