#16: Henrik Haapala
Signed in 2017
The Florida Panthers took a chance on Henrik Haapala before the 2017-2018 season, signing the Finnish forward to a contract after Haapala led all La Liiga skaters in scoring. Known as a playmaker, the diminutive Haapala tallied 15 goals and 45 assists for a total of 60 points in 51 games.
Using the latest league conversion rates, 60 points in 51 La Liiga games translates to 45 points in a full 82 game season. That would make Haapala a middle six forward, so the Panthers rolled the dice and signed him to a cheap contract.
Unfortunately, Haapala didn’t find success in North America. He managed just eight points in 20 AHL games (3 goals and 5 assists), and had just a single assist in five NHL games. By the end of the season, he had been sent back to Tappara, where he had seven points in five games to close out the season.
It’s assumed that Haapala will stay overseas to start the season, as the 24-year-old finds more success in La Liiga than he does in the AHL. There’s a good chance that Haapala has the skill to play in the NHL, but it’s tough to see him as anything other than injury depth, especially given the number of players are currently competing for a bottom-six role.
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