Interview with Top Finnish Prospect Joni Pitkanen

By Mikko Vuori

Joni Pitkanen is 2002 eligible Finnish defenceman, who is playing for his
hometown Oulu in Finnish SM-liiga. Many experts believe that Pitkanen is
one of the best Finnish defenceman prospects ever.

Here are some parts of the interview done by
Kari Heikkinen and that was originally
published in Finnish hockey site
before the Four Nations U20 tournament that was played in Vaasa, Finland last week.

Q: What are your first memories of hockey?

A: There is a long winter in Oulu, and we used to live near the Rannanperä rink.
First I just wwent to to rink with boots to hustle, but later we bought a skates for me.
I remember that I listened Karpatgames from radio and there was a lot of hockey on TV,
so that has had an influence on me. My dad or my bother didn’t play, so I didn’t get
the spark from there.

I started playing at the age of five and joined a team when I was seven.
I was a bid nervous about joining a real team, but then I encouraged myself and now I’m
still playing.

Q: Who are your idols in hockey and sports all in all? Reijo Ruotsalainen? Janne Niinimaa?

A: There are many of them, but maybe Reijo Ruotsalainen, as he is from Oulu. And Mario
Lemieux, altough he is a forward. When I started to follow NHL he had just won two
Stanley Cups. Niinimaa is still quite young, but when he trains with us I follow
what he does. He is quite a player.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a player? How about in five years time?<p>

A: Strong with the puck, offensive D-man. You have to play defence too, of course.
In five years time? Big, skilled, strong, checking. Offensive D-man who is able
to play hard defensive game. That’s about it, that would be quite perfect defenceman.

Q: Big, mobile, strong? Do you have enough strenght in the U20 nationalteam games?

A: Quite well, but more strenght wouldn’t hurt.

Q: Do you think you are extrovert or introvert person in the locker room?
How would you describe a leader?

A: In locker room in just normal, I don’t mumble too much there. Some want to
talk more, some less. A leader shows example on the ice, scores a beatiful goal
or something else. You notice on the ice who is the leader. In our national team
maybe Koivu and Ruutu.

Q: You were not drafted in NHL yet because you were little to young to be drafted.
Do you have a favorite team in NHL and what do you think about getting to NHL?

A: I don’t have any special favourite team, they’re all good. NHL isn’t topical yet,
you have to live in this moment. Of course it’s a dream, but I don’t think
it on daily basis. If you start to do that you might just dream and never make
the dreams come true.

Q: How have you played in national team this season?

A: In national team the games have been ok. We have had two tournaments this season, in
Lake Placid and Olomounc. In USA everything went well, in Czech it was good too, but
then I had had a lot of games, and I noticed I was a little tired. I’ve been satisfied,
but it could always go better.

Q: What are your goals in the near future?

A: To get to the WJC team obviosly. And in Karpat it’s important to get the
team playing better and to get in the playoffs. To play as well as possibly.

Finland won all three games in the tournament. Pitkanen got one assist and +1
in the games. His spot in WJC roster is basicly guaranteed.