In a move that really flew under the radar (not picked up until JoeBlockhead hit the Roundtable comments section up with the news) Joonas Rask has signed a two-year deal with HIFK.
The deal was actually announced on the HIFK website last week. I didn’t see or hear much made of this news. Double shame on me considering, of all Finnish teams, I’ve been following HIFK the closest because of Juuso Puustinen joining them around this time last season.
Rask made a splash in his first career North American hockey game with the Milwaukee Admirals. He scored a goal and an assist in Milwaukee as the team won 6-4 against the Charlotte Checkers.
In addition to that, he was called up to the Nashville Predators and scored an assist in his NHL debut on 4/27/13 in Columbus.
Despite that quick start, his first full professional season in North America in 2013-14 didn’t offer up enough consistency. When you consider the flashes of brilliance, speed, and skill he is capable of – and compare it to his stat line of 58 games, 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists), a plus/minus of +8, and 15 penalty minutes – it is a shame he couldn’t have done a bit more.
In my talks with Rask throughout the season I often asked him about the differences between European and North American hockey. I feel Miikka Salomaki‘s playing style ends up better suiting the North American game because of his grit and toughness. Rask meanwhile showcases great skating and stickhandling ability but can be shoved around by the bigger bodies on the ice – which close in on him far quicker on the smaller North American ice surface. I’d be curious how much of that feeling actually weighed in on his decision to return back home in Finland.
What were your impressions of Joonas Rask this season? Is there a serious learning curve to the North American style of hockey? Did HIFK just become your new favorite non-AHL or NHL team? Mine too!