2009-10: Niklas Tikkinen skated for the Espoo Blues U18 and U16 teams in Finland. In 15 games for Blues U18 he scored 3 goals with 1 assist and had 8 penalty minutes. Tikkinen played in one U18 playoff game for the Blues squad that reached the bronze medal game and had one assist. In 12 games with Espoo’s U16 team he scored 9 goals with 15 assists and had 6 penalty minutes. After finishing sixth, Blues lost to TPS in a three-game playoff series. Tikkinen scored 2 goals with 3 assists and had 2 penalty minutes in the series with TPS.
2010-11: Tikkinen appeared in one game with Espoo Blues’ U20 team and was an assistant captain for the club’s national champion U18 team. He represented Finland at the 2011 U17 European Youth Olympic Festival. He was scoreless in his only U20 game. In 34 U18 games, Tikkinen scored 8 goals with 23 assists and had 8 penalty minutes. After finishing second in the regular season, Espoo’s U18 squad defeated TPS in the playoff finals. In 13 playoff games Tikkinen scored 3 goals with 4 assists and had 6 penalty minutes. Tikkinen had 4 assists in three games for Finland at the EYOF tournament.
2011-12: Tikkinen converted from forward to defense and played in 39 games with the Espoo Blues U20 squad after opening the year with the U18 squad. He represented Finland at the 2012 U18 World Junior Championship. Tikkinen scored 8 goals with 15 assists and was minus-one in 39 games for Espoo’s U20 team. After finishing second in the regular season Espoo fell to HPK in a four-game series. Tikkinen was plus-four with 1 assist in the HPK series. He scored 3 goals with 9 assists and had 32 penalty minutes in seven qualifying games for Espoo U18. In nine U18 playoff games he scored 2 goals with 8 assists and had 12 penalty minutes as Espoo won a silver medal. In seven games for fourth place Finland at the U18 WJC he had 2 assists and was plus-one with 4 penalty minutes. Tikkinen was ranked 17th amongst European skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the 2012 NHL Draft.
2012-13: Tikkinen made his debut in Finnish pro hockey as an 18-year-old — skating in 25 games for Espoo Blues in the SM-Liiga and playing in seven games in the second league, Mestis. He scored 1 goal with 7 assists, averaging 16 minutes of ice time, and was an even plus/minus with 12 penalty minutes. Espoo finished 11th in the 13-team league. Tikkinen scored 1 goal with 5 assists and was +4 in seven Mestis games (five with HCK and two with LeKi). He was a key member of Espoo’s silver medal-winning U20 team. In 14 regular season games he scored 3 goals with 15 assists and was +7 with 6 penalty minutes and scored 5 goals with 4 assists, finishing +7 with 16 penalty minutes, in 12 playoff games. He skated in eight games with Finland’s U20 team during their Mestis schedule but did not compete in the World Junior Championship.
A converted forward, Tikkinen is smallish defenseman who has all of the skills that you would expect of a diminutive blueliner. He is an effortless skater who is at his best in transition thanks to his speed and puck skills. He is very much an offensive rearguard possessing the vision and passing of a dangerous powerplay quarterback.
Tikkinen took an extension with the Espoo Blues of the SM-liiga that will last until at least 2015. There he can work on getting stronger and more mature for North American hockey.