After taking tough defenseman Cole Krygier with the first of its two seventh round picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Florida Panthers chose Finnish blueliner six picks later (207th overall) to conclude its business at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Kinnunen attended development camp after being selected by the Cats before returning home where he split his time between Finland’s top two divisions.
This season, his development saw more of the same, as he again went back and forth between the top rungs of the Finnish hockey ladder.
In 24 Liiga games with Pelicans, the lanky Kinnunen produced just one assist and 14 PIM to go along with a -9 rating. He also played one game with the club in the Champions League.
With Peliitat Heinola of second tier Mestis, his numbers were much better as he scored two goals, picked up eight helpers, racked up 26 PIM and posted a +3 rating in 26 games.
While those numbers are an improvement over his Liiga showing, his output in Mestis in 2018-19, 13 points in 21 games, was better.
At a very light 161 lbs, Kinnunen may simply to be small right now to be an effective pro in a top-level European league and until he gets bigger and stronger, may be better off staying in the second division where he is making much more of an impact on a nightly basis.
That said, he has signed a new two-year deal with the Tappara organization, so perhaps he’ll be a better fit there and get in more Liiga games.
It would seem Kinnunen has a long way to go before earning a contract with the Panthers. At 20-years-old, so he is certainly worth keeping an eye on, but this might be a player that is better off not making the trip across the pond, at least until he finishes physically maturing and rounds out his game.
What does Santtu Kinnunen’s future hold?
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