This week on Prospect Watch: Mikael Pyyhtia. The Finnish winger (4th round, #114 overall, 2020 NHL Draft) is currently under contract with the Blue Jackets, but is playing on loan back in Finland for TPS (Liiga). Unfortunately, his offensive output seems to have taken a dive this season. Is that cause for concern?
In short, yes: his production is a little bit alarming, considering he’s in his third season in Finland’s highest league – a league that he excelled in last season. Pyyhtia was so good last year, that the Jackets signed him to his ELC in May. He came over for rookie camp last summer and didn’t look out of place, even skating on the team’s top line at the Traverse City Prospects tournament – alongside Kent Johnson and Kirill Marchenko, who are both now in the NHL.
While was quiet in that tournament for the most part, but he was a nice complimentary piece to that top line and showed that his shot is, really, pretty good. His timing and pace was just a little bit behind, but not so much that it stood out in a bad way.
Pyyhtia stuck around for main camp, but then was loaned back to TPS this season. In part, I think this was due to a lack of strength and him struggling on the smaller ice surface. But rather than stick around in Cleveland and learn the North American game; he returned to Finland, where he’s posted just 4 goals and 11 points in 34 games – good enough for 13th on the team.
This is a far cry from last season, when he scored 21 goals and 35 points in 56 games, finishing second on the club in scoring and leading the team in goals (he tied for fifth in the entire league in goals). Certainly, coming out of last year, Pyyhtia looked like a guy who might be ready for the next step – he just hasn’t taken it quite yet.
Now, TPS is a vastly different club from last season. Their roster has changed quite a bit year over year, but if anything that should signify more of an opportunity for Pyyhtia to step up and lead the way. Instead, his production has fallen off a cliff and leaves me wondering: with all of the injuries in Columbus and the way opportunity has presented itself this season, would he have been better off sticking around?
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It’s tough to say with any certainty that he would be better off playing for the Monsters, but it feels like a bit of a wasted year in Finland at this point. At least if he’d stuck around here, he could be developing on the smaller ice and learning the nuances of North American hockey. Neither of those things are happening, nor is he scoring at a rapid rate like he has in the past.
It’s likely that Pyyhtia will be sticking around next year – he is under contract, after all. It will be interesting to see if he’s gotten much stronger and how he’s coming along in his overall game. While he’s still just 21 years old, he’s a tough projection for this team because he’s so far behind a lot of players who are years younger than him; which makes me wonder how many opportunities he’s going to get.