For the 1999-born Kristian Vesalainen, the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament was an opportunity to show the international scouting community just how far he has come in his development. Already measuring in at a huge 6’3” and 203 pounds as a 16 year old, Vesalainen took a regular shift on the strong Finnish side’s second line.
Vesalainen, who will join the Frolunda Indians organization in Sweden for the 2015-16 season, took a few moments to speak to Hockey’s Future prior to the bronze medal game against Russia at the Ivan Hlinka.
Hockey’s Future: Finland has played an excellent tournament, but you lost to archrival Sweden in today’s semifinal and you will play for bronze tomorrow. What are your thoughts on things now?
Kristian Vesalainen: I feel really sad. I feel we could and should have won that game. We had all the scoring chances we needed, but definitely didn’t get the result we wanted.
HF: How will Finland now approach the bronze medal game, which is in less than 24 hours?
KV: We’re going to forget this game as soon as possible and concentrate on the next game and challenge, no matter who we are playing.
HF: You are scheduled to play in Sweden next season. Did you think about that while facing these Swedes today, and why exactly have you decided to go play in Gothenburg, where Montreal Canadiens draft pick and fellow Finn Artturi Lehkonen currently plays, at such a young age?
KV: I am going there, but I didn’t think about that at all today. It didn’t play a factor. It is funny that you mention Lehkonen, because we have the same agent and that agent has told me about all of the advantages of playing in the Frolunda organization. I’ve been there now and visited the town and organization. It’s a really nice place and I’m looking forward to progressing there.
HF: What are you particularly looking to improve on next season?
KV: I want to improve my strength and work a lot on my speed and skating in general.
HF: You are one of the younger, even if bigger, players at this tournament and your draft year is 2017. Would you be open to playing Canadian juniors in your draft year?
KV: I can’t rule it out but I am going to take one season at a time and then we’ll see.
HF: Any favorite players out there who you watch closely and whose styles you really like?
KV: Yes, certainly. Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeny Malkin.
HF: How would you describe your own game?
KV: I’m a defensively aware player and can skate pretty well for a player my size and age. I can do some scoring too, even if I will be looking to improve that next season.
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