Someone who has possibly flown under the radar for consistency sake this season has been Milwaukee Admirals defenseman Kristian Näkyvä. The 25-year old from Helsinki, Finland has yet to miss a game due to injury this season. The only five-games he has missed this season have come down to being a healthy scratch to see the likes other other defensemen get rotated into the lineup.
Näkyvä was touted as a puck moving and offensive minded defenseman when he arrived from Luleå HF of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) in the off-season. Last season in the SHL he played 55 games and scored 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists). That hasn’t necessarily translated into the smaller North American ice. He has only produced 8 points (1 goal, 7 assists) in 46 games for the Admirals this season.
While that might seem like a major blow-back the reality of the transition from Europe to North America is a hard one to take for many players crossing the pond. The heart of the defenseman position is written in the job title: defense. Näkyvä started his debut season of North American hockey in quite shaky fashion. The speed of the smaller ice surface seemed to get the best of his previous instincts. As time has gone on the Finn has looked more and more comfortable in defense while starting to let his ability to move the puck be seen in a different avenue than a score sheet might shout out. Because of a player like Näkyvä the transition game of defense to offense can really roll at a high energy pace. It’s on him to protect his own zone and float the puck up for the forwards to do the damage. Thus far, that’s been the Näkyvä experience of 2015-16. Not as flashy as expected. Not as bad as people might make out purely looking at the numbers.
Cheers to Kristian Näkyvä for taking the time to do this interview. He had ten-minutes and we hit that ballpark number perfectly! Reminder, my check list of players that you’ve suggested to hear from next on Fifteen is pretty bare. Please comment down below with more suggestions!
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