In sort of a surprising move, the Nashville Predators have announced that Mikko Vainonen has been assigned to SaiPa of SM-Liiga. The defenseman had been playing for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL during the 2014-15 season prior to this assignment.
Press Release via Milwaukee Admirals:
Nashville, Tenn. (January 15, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has assigned defenseman Mikko Vainonen (MEE-koh vigh-NOH-nehn) to SaiPa of the Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga).
Vainonen, 20 (4/11/94), has five assists in 31 games for Nashville’s ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones, in 2014-15. Nashville’s sixth choice, 118th overall (fourth round), in the 2012 Entry Draft helped Finland claim gold at the 2014 World Junior Championship, their first gold medal at the tournament since 1987.
Again, interesting decision by the Predators. I’m not too sure if this is being done because Vainonen needs a bigger test than the ECHL can provide or if they just feel that his development could use some home cooking in Finland. No matter the reasoning behind the move it means one less defenseman in North America for the Admirals and Cyclones.
Vainonen had 5 assists in 31 games for the Cyclones with a plus/minus rating of -8 and 16 penalty minutes. He made his North American pro hockey debut as a member of the Admirals after finishing up his junior playing career with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL.
Thoughts on this decision for the Nashville Predators and Mikko Vainonen? Does this say something about the ECHL as a developmental league or is it simply a decision to have him play at home for a bit?