2007-08: In 35 games with JYP’s U20 squad, Sami Vatanen scored nine goals and 29 assists. He also competed with Finland’s national team at the U18 WJC, registering three helpers in six games.
2008-09: Vatanen suited up for 20 games with JYP in the U20 SM-Liiga, posting three goals and seven assists. Captained the Finnish entry in the U18 World Championships, winning a bronze medal in the process. Vatanen was chosen in the fourth round, 106th overall, of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Anaheim Ducks.
2009-10: Playing for JyP HT Jyvaskyla of the Finnish league, Vatanen posted 7 goals, 23 assists, 44 PIM, and 4 powerplay goals. He also registered 324 shots. He also represented Finland at the WJC where he posted 2 goals and 3 assists in 6 games. At the end of the season, he skated for Finland at the World Cup, where he went scoreless in 7 games.
2010-11: Vatanen was an offensive catalyst from his defense spot as a 19-year-old in his second season with JyP, the top team in Finland’s SM-Liiga. JyP finished with 129 points – ten points ahead of second-place Assat Pori and Vatanen was a team-leading +30 plus/minus with 11 goals and 20 assists in 52 games. He was +4 with 1 goal and 1 assist in three playoff games before suffering a leg injury that kept him out of the remainder of the playoffs and the 2011 IIHF World Championship. Vatanen played for Finland at the 2011 U20 World Junior Championship and was +7 with 4 assists. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Anaheim in May 2011.
2011-12: Vatanen was the second-leading scorer among defensemen in Finland’s SM-Liiga behind veteran Toni Soderholm. He scored 14 goals with 28 assists in 49 games in his third season with league champion JyP. Vatanan missed time mid-season with a broken finger and also suffered a leg injury during the SM-Liiga playoffs that limited him to four games. JyP defeated Pelicans in the Kanada Cup finals after finishing fourth in the regular season . Vatanen scored 2 goals and was plus-two with 4 penalty minutes in the playoffs. His injury kept him out of the 2012 U20 IIHF World Championship – which was co-hosted by Finland and Sweden.
2012-13: Vatanen appeared in eight NHL games with Anaheim and was the second-leading scorer for the Ducks’ AHL affiliate Norfolk in his first pro season in North America. He made his NHL debut as a 21-year-old in a game against Minnesota on February 1st and played in three games before being returned to Norfolk then was called up in April and finished the season with Anaheim. He scored 2 goals and was +3, averaging 15:49 minutes of ice time with Anaheim. Vatanen was with the Ducks during the playoffs but did not see any action. In 62 AHL games with the Admirals he scored 9 goals with a team-leading 36 assists and was an even plus/minus with 44 penalty minutes. Norfolk was fifth in the East Division; two points out of an AHL playoff spot.
Vatanen has game-breaking potential with his speed, imagination, and seeing-eye wrist shot. As a puck-carrying, puck-moving defenseman, his skills are on par with the best prospects out there. Vatanen remains rather undersized, which will present a major obstacle as he transitions onto North American ice. He also can be a bit of a risk in his own zone as his size and aggressive offensive style can lead him to getting out of position.
Vatanen was an absolute killer in his rookie season in the AHL, scoring 45 points in 62 games and making the AHL All-Star and All-Rookie Teams for 2012-13. Despite his fantastic offensive game he still was questionable defensively though. However those detractors should not stop him from starting the year with the Ducks in a protected minutes role. Moving forward, Vatanen has true potential to be the Ducks second pairing puck-mover as well as a powerplay specialist on their top unit.