The first departure of the off-season has struck. Kristian Näkyvä will be returning to the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) after signing a two-year contract with Linköping HC.
This move isn’t entirely a surprise with Näkyvä just not being able to find either the offensive ability or chances that he was known for playing in Europe. In the 2014-15 season he had produced 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 55 games with Luleå HF in the SHL. He also contributed 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in 9 playoff games for Luleå that season. It was that level of play that put him on the Nashville Predators map last off-season when they penned him to a one-year entry level contract. Consider that one and done.
I wouldn’t say that Näkyvä performed badly. His start to the 2015-16 season was shaky and he looked every bit the stereotype of a European skater getting overwhelmed by the North American game’s smaller rink and higher pace. With forwards this isn’t the worst issue or something that is so easily exposed. With defensemen it shouts mistakes into your face. Näkyvä was turned inside out frequently at the beginning of the season and was at times a slight concern to even see out on the ice defensively. The good news? He’s smart. He has a solid work ethic. And he improved. By the end of the season he looked far more comfortable and was settling down. The sad part is that he never truly got to show his full range as an offensive defenseman with power-play time extremely limited for the 25-year old Finn with those chances being handed to Taylor Aronson, Conor Allen, Trevor Murphy, Stefan Elliott, and then Patrick Mullen.
In the end, Näkyvä only managed to score 10 points (1 goal, 9 assists) in 69 games for the Admirals. It’s unfortunate that he couldn’t get to show off more of what he’s capable of but, hey, some players are just best suited for European hockey. And that isn’t a bad thing. I feel the next domino to fall, with a fairly similar story and result, will be Johan Alm.
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