Apparently a Nokelainen is a player for the Montreal Canadiens, in case you forgot all about him. The Finnish forward has not played a single shift so far this season as he continues to nurse a back injury. The belief was that Petteri would be back by now considering GM Marc Bergevin stated when the lockout was over that Nokelainen was only a couple of weeks away from returning. Well, we are definitely further along than that and we have not really seen much of him. There have been times where he has taken to the ice and trained, and every time a reporter indicates that he is out there, I think just maybe he is on his way back. However, he will then not skate for awhile again or at least nothing is said if he has. It has to be worse than originally thought, no? Or else we would be hearing his name a lot more often.
So why even bring him back? Obviously the 6’1″ forward would add some depth to the Canadiens and Bergevin felt that Nokelainen had some sort of role within his new team. Last year, Petteri Nokelainen suited up for 51 games for the Habs where he had 3 goals, 3 assists, a -5 rating and 37PIM. You probably do not remember much of what Nokelainen did because he only averaged 8:48 TOI per game, which was only ahead of Dumont, Palushaj, Engqvist and Staubitz. However, if it is one thing you should recall, it is this absolute bomb that he let go against the Islanders, watch it here.
The Habs traded for Nokelainen early in last year’s season. They acquired Petteri along with defenceman Garrett Stafford from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Brock Trotter and a 2012 7th-round draft pick on October 23rd, 2011. Stafford was assigned to the Hamilton Bulldogs, where had a pretty good year. As for Brock Trotter, there are still a few people out there that wish he was never traded.
If Nokelainen does come back in this short year, where would you put him? or do you leave him up in the press box if/when he is absolutely needed? He can play wing or centre, and is right-handed which is not as common in the face-off dot. However, there is a logjam at that position so it is hard to believe that he would be inserted there unless absolutely necessary. I believe that if he does get cleared, he should go down to the Bulldogs for at least a conditioning stint like Ryan White did last season. At that point, the Habs can decide what to do. It is possible that they try to send him down and see if he is claimed on waivers but as we have seen already this season, Palushaj got scooped up. I think he would not be claimed as maybe he would be more of a risk to take than Palushaj was for Colorado but you never know. The good thing for the Canadiens is that he was not expensive as his cap hit is only $575, 000 and he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The likelihood of him returning? Not good, sorry Petteri!
Nokelainen was a former first round pick (16th overall) for the Islanders back in 2004. It is safe to say he did not pan out the way that they were probably hoping. He played just 15 games for the team that drafted him before making his way around the league. In addition to New York, Nokelainen has appeared in games for the Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes and now, the Montreal Canadiens. In 245 NHL games in his career, Petteri has put up 41 points total.
When it comes to the international stage, Nokelainen has represented his country Finland 5 times whether it has been in the World Junior Championships or World Championships. In 2004, Finland won a Bronze medal at the Juniors and in 2011, the country won the Gold medal at the World Championships. Nokelainen was apart of both rosters.
It has been a rough ride for Nokelainen over the course of his career between injuries and switching teams, but at just the age of 27, it is safe to say that he still has a place somewhere in this league. However, it won’t be in Montreal. The Imatra, Finland native could find a home on the 4th line in another area code next year or perhaps he will ditch the NHL and head back over the pond. What the future holds for Nokelainen will remain to be seen but for now, he continues to be sidelined.
Update: March 1st – Nokelainen is back at practice