2002 prospect interview: Joni Pitkanen

By Robert Neuhauser

Joni Pitkanen
Team: Karpat Oulu
Position: defenseman
Birthdate: September, 19th, 1983
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 202 lbs.
Shoots: L

When did you start playing hockey?

Relatively late, I was seven when I really started playing hockey. The time before I was
just skating, but then I decied to play hockey. It was more fun.

Where did you start playing hockey?

It was in Oulu, I started playing for the local team.

Who brought you to the game?

Well, there wasn’t any exact person which directed my first hockey steps. I just watched
hockey games and I liked the game, so I started playing. So it was me who brought me
to hockey.

What is your biggest success in hockey so far?

Playing for Finland at the WJC in the Czech Republic was really amazing and I’m very
happy with the bronze medal. This is definitely my biggest success so far.

So what would you say about the 2002 WJC?

I think that we had a very good team this year and played a solid game at the WJC. The only
thing that we missed was just a piece of luck. Our shots sometimes hit the posts instead
of going into the net and so on. With more luck we could easily make the finals and compete
for gold. But nevertheless, I’m very happy with the bronze success, it was great for me,
and a huge experience!

Who is your hockey role model?

I have two players who I really like. The first is Finnish legendary defenseman Reijo
Ruotsalainen, he was really a leading personality. From the active players then
Edmonton Oilers’ blueliner Janne Niinimaa. Another great Finnish defenseman.

Your favorite Finnish team?

Karpat Oulu. I haven’t any favorite team except the team I play for.

And your favorite NHL team?

I came to like the Pittsburgh Penguins. They won two Stanley Cups at the beginnng of the
90’s (1991 and 1992), I followed the series and so the Pens became my favorite team.

You are a top prospect for this year’s draft. Do you have a special team you want
to be drafted by?

Well, I don’t care about it at all. I’m glad that some team will hopefully select me,
but I bother which one. I just go to the draft and will see what happens.

Do you have a favorite number you like to wear on your jersey?

Defensemen usually don’t wear very big digits and I’m no excpetion. I like the number

How would you describe yourself as a player?

I would say that one of my assets is size. I’m quite big and that’s a good thing. Then
I guess I’m a solid skater and I can handle the puck. This would be my strengths and
my weaknesses? Well, I need to make my play in the defensive zone mistake-free and keep
it simple. Just concentrate on defense. And, I’m a young guy and I need of course more

Have you had any serious injury in your previous career?

Yeah, last year I had a shoulder injury, but now I’m OK, it didn’t influence me.

What do you do in your free time?

I have two things I like to do. The first one is just to relax and watch movies on TV.
The second is then bowling. I like the sport, it’s funny.

What’s your main goal for this season?

My first goal was to play at the WJC and it is already fulfilled. The second one is to
help Oulu in the Finnish League and I’m looking forward to the NHL Entry Draft.

Your hockey dreams?

Playing in the NHL and I would like to perform for the Finnish senior national team, too.

And what would you do if you wouldn’t be a hockey player?

I hope I would be a soccer player. I also played soccer besides hockey and a soccer career
wouldn’t also be bad.