Montreal Canadiens Prospect Joni Ikonen Signs For Two Years in Finland

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 02: Joni Ikonen
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 02: Joni Ikonen /
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The Montreal Canadiens have an intriguing prospect in Joni Ikonen. They have hardly been able to see him play in two consecutive seasons. He just signed a two-year deal to stay in Finland.

The Montreal Canadiens have been affectionately dubbed the NHL’s “Team Finland” the last few years. They drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the third overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and had him playing on a line with country-mates Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia for a while.

The Habs also signed Otto Leskinen as a free agent out of Finland’s top league, Liiga, and added him to a crop of prospects that includes Jesse Ylonen who just finished his Liiga career and signed with the Canadiens last month.

The Canadiens have one more Finnish prospect in the system, though he has not garnered as much attention lately. That isn’t because of his hockey talent, but because injuries have robbed him of almost all of the last two seasons of game action.

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Ikonen had a very promising season leading up to his NHL Draft. He scored 41 points in 40 games, playing in the Swedish Junior league. He was sixth in the league in scoring and four of the five players ahead of him were two years older. He was a 17 year old, who was among the best players in a league dominated by 19 year olds.

The 5’11” centre played for Finland at the World Under-18 tournament that season and had eight points in seven games, helping his country earn a silver medal.

The following season, Ikonen made the move to pro hockey, signing with Kalpa in Liiga, Finland’s best hockey league. He scored 14 points in 52 games and was named to the World Junior team where he scored two points in five games as an 18 year old. Kalpa was a decent team, but the Liiga is a low scoring league and teenagers don’t often light it up offensively.

The following year should have been a big breakout for Ikonen. He would have been back in Liiga for a second year ready to put up more points and would have been counted on as a top player for his country at the World Juniors.

However, a knee injury ended his season after just 13 games. He did score ten points in those 13 games, showing he was on his way to a much more. productive offensive season than his first year in Liiga. That injury finished his season and injuries to his hamstring ended this season before it even started. That means he has played just 13 games in the last two full years.

Kalpa did not re-sign him after this season and just yesterday it was announced that Ikonen signed a two-year contract with Ilves in the same league. He always had great vision and a tremendous shot, but he is going to have to be excellent next year for the Habs to hang on to his rights.

The Canadiens have until June 1, 2021 to sign Ikonen or he will become an NHL free agent. Though he signed a two-year contract with a team in Finland, they usually come with an out-clause for the NHL. Meaning, if Ikonen is great next year and the Habs sign him to an entry-level contract next spring, he could be in training camp in September 2021.

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Ikonen was a promising prospects before injuries derailed two formative seasons. It will be interesting to watch how he performs next season. If he can get back on track, the Canadiens could add one more promising Finnish player to their already impressive group for Suomi.