The New Finn in the Island Waters: Marko Tuomainen

By Joe Muccia

Beginning in 1989, Marko played 2 years with his hometown team, KalPa Kuopio of the Finnish Elite League. Originally a 9th round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 1992, Marko then moved to North America to attend Clarkson University. In four years at Clarkson, Marko accumulated 190 points in 135 games. In 1994-95, Marko was summoned to
Edmonton for a four game cup of coffee. Although he went pointless, he did show excellent defensive awareness, finishing the stint with an even plus/minus. Later in 1995, he reported to the Oilers farm team, the Cape-Breton Oilers and the year after to the Hamilton Bulldogs, all the
while posting solid numbers.

Expecting more scoring from him, the Oilers chose not to renew Marko’s entry-level contract after the 1997 season. Marko chose to return to Finland and HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League. Impressed with his defensive skills, Helsinki assigned Marko to a
checking role in which he excelled. Even though he was used in a
defensive role, he still managed to tally 50 points in 94 games over a
two-year period. Not bad for a guy that was supposed to shadow the
oppositions top players.

Early in 1999 the Los Angeles Kings, impressed with Marko’s
well-rounded game, signed him to a free agent contract through the 2001
season. Marko ended up playing right wing on the Kings third and fourth
lines. He played 63 games, logging quality minutes on the top PK unit
in addition to his regular shifts (he finished with 17 points, scoring
both on the PP and PK). In 2000, due to the Kings depth at forward
(especially with the acquisition of Kelly Buchberger and emergence of
Brad Chartrand, Eric Belanger and the since-traded Steve Reinprecht),
Marko started the season on the Kings AHL farm team, the Lowell Lock
Monsters. In Lowell, he was a dynamo, scoring 67 points in 59 games and
playing against the top lines of opposing teams. He was summoned to Los
Angeles later in the year and tallied a single assist in spot duty (11
games). He was unable to capture the two-way magic he had enjoyed the
previous year.

Although he’s thirty, Tuomainen has only played 78 games in his NHL
career. He’s still got plenty of legs left. At 6’3″, 213lbs he’s
solidly built and big enough to handle the rough and tumble Eastern
Conference. Marko has good speed and has built a reputation as a
talented and relentless checker. In addition to his defensive skills,
Marko has a booming slapshot and a deceptively quick wristshot. He also
cycles the puck well and with his excellent size, he is able to shield
the puck from the defender. He anticipates and reads plays well; this
asset assists him with his defensive responsibilities.

Marko does have some deficiencies. He does not have an expolsive
first step and is sometimes tentative about shooting the puck. He will
more often than not, look to pass the puck to a teammate.
Marko is not afraid to mix it up and do the “dirty work” needed to
score goals. His cycling ability helps to chew up valuable minutes on
the penalty kill, especially if he can trap the puck along the boards.

Marko has a better than average chance of
making the Islanders opening night roster, although this maybe strictly
in a 4th line and penalty kill capacity. As a right-winger, it would be
tough for him to place ahead of Czerkawski, Parrish and Kolnik. His
defensive ability would make him a shoe-in for the fourth line. Primary
competition for this job would be Steve Webb and Alexander Kharitonov.
He plays better defense than both and has more offensive upside than
Webb.

Although, Kharitonov has the edge in skills, his small size would
hinder him from playing in a checking role. As stated in the
Kharitonov article, the Isles need Webb’s agitator/instigator skills, so
Islander fans, in the 2001-2002 season you can expect to see Marko
Tuomainen split the season between Long Island and Bridgeport. He won’t
score a ton of points for the Isles, but he won’t hurt the Isles
defensively either.

Next article: Ray Giroux