When you look at the 2016-17 season as a whole right now for the organization it feels like something is missing. Someone who can night in and night out provide great energy that sparks an entire group. Yes, Viktor Arvidsson is fantastic but before him there was the “bull in a china shop” named Miikka Salomäki. And he has had the worst luck imaginable this season.
Salomäki has appeared in only three games between the NHL and AHL this entire season. When the new campaign kicked off he broke his hand blocking a shot in only the Nashville Predators second game of the season. That forced him out of action for just shy of two months before he would get a chance to go on conditioning assignment and play with the Milwaukee Admirals. It took him just one period of hockey upon his return to be sidelined until this present time where he remains out due to a lower-body injury.
The Admirals were preparing to play a road game on 12/2/16 against the Cleveland Monsters and Salomäki injured himself in the game’s opening period while delivering a check. Much like his 2014-15 season, which saw him suffer two shoulder injuries with the last requiring season ending surgery, he just hasn’t had any good luck in 2016-17 at a time when he could be flourishing and being a hugely positive influence for the organization. It’s simply a shame.
What you appreciate with Salomäki is his relentless work rate on and off the ice. Even now, the soon to be 24-year old Finn looks more and more ready to make a return to game action this season. He has been routinely skating while rehabbing in Nashville. He is optimistic that this season hasn’t seen the last of him. And, must be said, the prospect of having a full healthy and fresh Salomäki when the season becomes a grind for the playoff push could be big for the organization.
If I had to say one of my favorite things about Salomäki it would be that, of all the players I’ve had the chance to follow in Milwaukee, he’s one I saw really grow away from the rink. Often times I think people overlook hockey players for the actual human beings that they are. Salomäki arrived to a brand new country with the dream of playing in the NHL but he needed to understand the English language, settle into a new country and city, and so many other mundane daily living activities that were different in his new surroundings – much less the transition from the European style game versus how it is played in North America.
Salomäki was astonishingly shy when he turned up to Milwaukee as a 20-year old. The language barrier was a real thing for him. Thankfully, the Admirals at the time did have a nice contingent of Finns for him to get help if he needed it: Joonas Järvinen and Joonas Rask. The more he was able to settle in off the ice the more he could simply apply his trade on the ice. And boy did he do that part great. After all, he was the Admirals leading scorer with 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists) in his first pro North American season.
In the times that Salomäki has played in the NHL he has shown the same endearing qualities that he did in Milwaukee in Nashville. He plays fierce, fearless, and can have the knack to get dirty goals around the net. He has contributed 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) from 64 games in his NHL career to this point. The hope would be for one solid conditioning assignment to be coming up in the not too distant future, work the allotted fourteen consecutive days in the AHL, and then extend the NHL run for himself with the Predators. There is still so much more to Salomäki’s game that the NHL has yet to see.
Cheers to the Nashville Predators and Miikka Salomäki for providing me the time to hear from our ol’ Milwaukee Admirals player all grown up! To listen to every single installment of “Catching Up” you can listen to the entire playlist on SoundCloud.
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