Teemu Lassila was one of five goaltenders invited to Milwaukee Admirals Conditioning Camp in Nashville this summer. He is coming off a solid 21-14-06 season with TPS Turku in the Finnish League, in which he had five shutouts, a 2.31 GAA and .919 save percentage. In six playoff games he had a 2.69 GAA and .918 save percentage.
Drafted in the fourth round in 2003, it is the 22-year-old’s second summer camp in Nashville. Rooming with Latvian Lauris Darzins, Lassila is having fun at camp, but with a contract in the Swedish Elite League next year, he’s not imminently joining the Admirals like so many of the participants.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Lassila following Sunday’s on-ice session.
HF: How does this camp compare to last year, is it harder?
TL: I think it’s a lot easier to come here now, I’ve gotten to know these guys a little bit more and all the coaches. No, it’s a lot easier.
HF: What’s been your favorite activity so far in camp? I know they’ve had you doing a lot of different things like soccer.
TL: I enjoy going on the ice. It’s the main thing why I’m here. I’m not really good at other things (laughing), I like being on the ice.
HF: The other Finnish goalie, Pekka Rinne, are you friends back home?
TL: Yeah, we know each other, but we live so far away from each other. So we don’t see each other so much. This camp is really the only place.
HF: Did you play against each other this year?
TL: Yeah, we played. Two or three times.
HF: Whose team won?
TL: Well, usually Karpat won. They won the whole series and they won the championship.
HF: How did last season go for you, it seems like you had more responsibility.
TL: Yeah, I played like 52 games. It was a hard season for us, we had a couple of players injured just before the playoffs. So it took something away from us. It was hard, hard to play. It’s hard to say what went wrong, but it’s never good to lose in the first round so of course I’m disappointed.
HF: Did you feel like you personally played better this season than last?
TL: I thought that I was developing as the season went on. I think it’s better for me to play as much as I can. So it was nice.
HF: What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
TL: Well, I’d have to say maybe the finals last year in the SM league. Or then maybe the first national team games that I played.
HF: I read that you had an injury not last year but the year before. Can you describe what happened?
TL: Yeah, it was a knee injury. It was in practice. Some guy just kind of kicked my knee with his skate. I was out for eight weeks or so, then back to practice.
HF: Did you have to have surgery?
TL: Yeah. If the same thing would have happened to a defenseman or forward, it wouldn’t have gone through surgery. But with goalies you need your knees.
HF: Was it an MCL, ACL?
TL: Yeah, MCL.
HF: You’ve worked with famous goalie coach Urpo Vlonen. Can you talk about how he helped you?
TL: Well, he’s very experienced. He’s been in ice hockey 40 years now, so he knows a lot. He’s like a professor almost. He tells great stories. It makes it easier for a young goalie to play when he’s around.
HF: What part of your game does he tell you, or other coaches tell you, that you still need to work on?
TL: Well, I know for a fact that my stickhandling needs to get better (laughing). I need to put some time into that. And of course every part of your game, you can always get better.
HF: Were the drills you did here very different from what you do in Finland?
TL: There was some new stuff, but not that much. These are not like regular practices, we mostly play games. More like having fun than working out.
HF: Can you talk about your contract with Djurgarden, signed in May?
TL: Yeah, I have a contract with Djurgarden and I had a couple of months if I sign here or somewhere else. But that’s over now, I’m now officially Djurgarden’s man. I’ll be playing for Djurgarden no matter what happens. That’s for sure now.
HF: So even if Nashville wanted you to come over, you wouldn’t?
TL: Well, of course there’s that chance always, but right now, I’m in Djurgardens next season. I don’t want to make a fuss about going away from Djurgarden because it’s like 99 percent sure that I’ll be playing there next season. There’s very, very little chance of me to leave there.
HF: When do you hope to come to North America to play, the year after?
TL: Um, you can never know. I need to play very good to get a good contract here. I need to really play a good season to be able to come here.
HF: What is your goal for next season then?
TL: Of course I want to play a lot better than last season and hopefully get the same amount of games. I would love to play a lot and work on those weak spots like stickhandling and stuff and we’ll see.
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