Boston Bruins

By Ty Anderson,

Fresh off signing his three-year, entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins, 2017 first-round pick Urho Vaakanainen has laid out his expectations for his first fall in town.

“My goal is to get a spot in Boston,” the 19-year-old Vaakanainen admitted. “But other than that, I don’t really have any expectations. I’m just part of the camp trying to be as good as I just can be and play as well as I can and try to get the spot.

“That’s my only goal for the camp.”

It’s as lofty a goal Vaakanainen can have coming to Boston. But one that Vaakanainen is seemingly helped by his three years of pro hockey in the Finnish Elite League, where he emerged as a teenage top-four defenseman.

“Just learned how to be a professional,” Vaakanainen said of his pro experience, which included four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 43 game with SaiPa this past season, and 109 games overall between three teams. “When I played in juniors, we didn’t care about defending much, so the first thing I learned in the Finnish, league playing with pros, is how to defend and just learned the game. The game is so much more physical in the pro league than in the juniors, so I had to adjust with that. Just grew up as a person playing with older men and maybe matured a little bit, too. I think it helped me a lot.”

At the same time, the left-shot defender knows that there’s an adjustment period he’ll have to go through upon his arrival.

“Well, of course, it’s a smaller rink, and the game is a bit more physical and faster – faster, I guess,” the 6-foot-1 blue liner said when asked about the difference coming from the Finnish pro ranks to the B’s organization. “I just think that the smaller rink, I think, is the biggest thing for me, and, of course, living in North America is different than in Finland.”

Depending on whether or not Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is able to pull off a trade for the sorely-needed left-side defenseman behind Zdeno Chara, Vaakanainen may actually have a chance at cracking the Bruins’ roster. Barring a trade, to make that happen, he’ll have to compete with the likes of Matt Grzelcyk, Jakub Zboril, and Jeremy Lauzon for ice-time.

All three players have a deeper North American resume than Vaakanainen.

But getting a potential leg-up on that competition and becoming a more versatile threat can come in summertime workouts.

“I have to get a bit stronger and just overall better in everything,” the Finnish defender noted when asked about improvements within his own game. “Have to work on my shot a lot this summer and just playing on the offensive blue line getting shots to the net through the traffic. That’s probably the biggest thing that I have to improve.”

Vaakanainen will get his first chance to show off those improvements during Boston’s annual rookie development camp, which will be held at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton later this month.

Ty Anderson is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.