Who Is Eero Somervuori?

By Pete Choquette

powered heavier-than-air aircraft that has fixed wings from which it derives
most of its lift? No, that would be an aeroplane.

The Finnish born late-modernist architect whose famous works included the TWA Terminal
at Kennedy Airport and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri? No, that would
be Eero Saarinen.

If you answered the Lightning’s 7th round draft pick from the 1997 draft and
one of the most unknown and underappreciated prospects in Tampa Bay’s system,
you are correct. Currently, Somervuori ranks amongst the league leaders in the
Finnish SM-Liga in the key statistical categories of goals, points, and
plus/minus. Playing on a team with former Lightning center Vladimir Vujtek and
current Lightning prospect Erikki Rajamaki, in 36 games, he has compiled 16
goals and 31 points with a +20 rating this season. His numbers are good for
12th in the SM-Liga in points, 6th in goals, and 6th in plus/minus, yet few
Lightning fans have heard of the native of Järvenpää, Finland.

began his career playing for Jokerit’s junior teams in 1993, when he was named
the best 14 year old player in Finland at the nation’s all-star developmental
camp. The following season, Somervuori posted 23 goals and 54 points with
Jokerit’s junior C team and cemented his status as one of the rising stars
amongst the Finnish junior ranks. However, injuries wiped out his ’94-’95
season and despite putting up favorable numbers at both the junior A and junior
B levels as well as in a short stint with Jokerit’s SM-Liga club, where he
posted 1 goal and 3 points in 6 games, Somervuori fell to the 7th round in 1997
where Donny Murdoch, head scout of the team at the time, leapt at the chance to
select the 5’10” 167 lb. winger.

Eero soon justified Murdoch’s faith in him with a sterling performance at the
1998 World Junior Championships where he posted 3 goals and 9 points in 7 games
en route to collecting a gold medal and a first team all-star selection for the
tournament. Somervuori’s stock shot up considerably and scouts within the
organization began to make sterling comparisons to Russia’s Andrei Kovalenko
and even more impressively, to his fellow countryman Teemu Selanne, whose
number eight he wears to this day. It looked as if he was well on his way to
being signed by the organization with a Lightning sweater in the not too
distant future.

However, Somervuori struggled at the SM-Liga level in ’98-’99 after being
pressed into checking line duties for Jokerit and despite putting up a solid 4
goal 8 point performance in 6 games at the 1999 World Juniors his stock began
to wane. The following season he continued to struggle with Jokerit in the same
defensive role and with the firing of Murdoch and his scouting staff and the
introduction of Rick Dudley as general manager, Somervuori lost his primary
supporters within the organization. It seemed as if Somervuori’s path to the
NHL had been snowed in, and despite reaching career highs in the SM-Liga with
14 goals and 20 points in 56 games with his new club HPK Hämeenlinna in
’00-’01, the team made little reference to the fact Eero was even alive, let
alone a component in the team’s future plans. The organization kept his name as
a footnote on the team’s website and assistant general manager Jay Feaster made
passing reference to the status of his draft rights in a preseason web chat,
but it looked as if Somervuori would go unsigned.

But with Somervuori’s sudden explosion at his country’s top level of hockey,
one has to ask the question, why wouldn’t the Lightning, who hold his draft
rights until this summer, sign a player who has shown dominant scoring ability
in an elite level European men’s league? Consider the fact that no other player
in the organization, with the possible exception of Anton But who was recently
acquired in the Andrei Zyuzin trade, can claim that same level of success. At
22 years old, Eero is by no means an old prospect and he has grown to 185 lbs.
Size remains his biggest knock, however if he could add another 10 lbs. upon
signing and coming to North America he would be similar in size to sophomore
sensation (and Don Murdoch pick) Brad Richards, who weighs roughly 195 lbs..
Certainly an organization who has spent development time and money to bring
marginal (at best) prospects like Thomas Ziegler to North America would seem a
lock to sign a player with the credentials of Eero Somervuori.

And yet, there hasn’t been a peep from the normally very active Lightning press
personnel about the high scoring Finn. His impressive statistical output can be
found wedged towards the back of the team press notes before each game, and
that is the extent of attention he has received this season. Part of the reason
Somervuori continues to dwell in relative obscurity can be traced to the fact
Dudley and his scouts have shown little respect for the picks of the previous
regime. Certainly a case can be made that they are somewhat justified in their
stance; players like Matt Elich, Samuel St. Pierre, and Jan Sulc haven’t proven
to be prizes. Then again, Brad Richards, who was forced to do everything short
of washing Dudley’s car in order to secure his rookie contract, has proven his
worth as runner up for the Calder Trophy last season and with continued success
on the Lightning’s top line this season.

Given the organization’s overall lack of forward prospects at the AHL level who
seem capable of stepping up to the next level in ’02-’03, and the fact the
Lightning currently are dead last in scoring in the league, they cannot afford
to turn their back on a scoring prospect with Somervuori’s credentials.
Whatever reservations or biases the front office has in regard to Murdoch’s
picks, they should not allow them to stand in the way of providing the best
possible stock of potential NHLers. Clearly, the Lightning should sign Eero

UPDATE: Lightning European

W Evgeni Artukhin (Podolsk
24GP    4G    3A   7P   
D Henrik Bergfors (Sodertalje
24GP    1G    1A   2P   
54PIMs    (+12)
W Dimitri Bezrukov (Niznhekamsk RSL)      
23GP    4G    5A   9P   
W Anton But (Yaroslav
27GP    8G    6A   14P  
6PIMs       (+2)
C Johan Hagglund (Orebro
27 GP   3G    2A   5P   
42PIMs     (-20)
D Andreas Holmqvist (Hammarby SWE-1)  28GP    
8G   11A   19P  71PIMs     (+5)
W Alexander Polushin (CSKA
RUS-1)          22GP  
10G   10A   20P   8PIMs
(RUS WJC)                 
7GP    2G     3A  
5P     0PIMs     (+6)
D Marek Posmyk (Zlin
36GP    8G     6A   14P                    
W Ivan Rachunek (Zlin
35GP    5G     9A   14P                    
W Erikki Rajamaki (HPK
36GP    9G     4A  
13P    61PIMs   (+7)
W Pavel Sedov (Khimik
1GP    0G      0A   
0P     0PIMs
W Eero Somervuori (HPK
36GP   16G   15A   31P  
20PIMs   (+20)
W Ilya Solarev (Leninogorsk
7GP     0G    
3A     3P     6PIMs
2GP     0G    
0A     0P     0PIMs
C Alexander Svitov (Omsk
3GP     0G    
1A     1P     2PIMs
5GP     2G    
1A     3P    43PIMs   (+3)

**Note: Andreas Holmqvist is currently tied for 4th in the Swedish second tier
league with 4 GWGs
***Note: Statitistics unavailable for C Vitali Smolyninov