Petri Kontiola: Cometh the KHL, cometh the man?

Petri Kontiola: Cometh the KHL, cometh the man?

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    Petri Kontiola

    Petri Kontiola is a 29-year-old Finnish centerman who spent the last five seasons playing in the KHL, where his trajectory toward a return to the NHL began in 2009.

    With his early years spent in Tappara of the Finnish SM-liiga, Kontiola was drafted in the 2004 NHL entry draft (196th overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks. After making his NHL debut in 2007-08, he simply wasn’t good enough to stick around. Regardless of his strong AHL numbers (130 points in 147 AHL games), he couldn’t gain traction in his first time in North America; after the centerman was traded to the Anaheim Ducks in 2009 with James Wisniewski for Samuel Pahlsson, Logan Stephenson and a conditional pick, he spent all of his time with the Iowa Chops, the Ducks’ AHL affiliate at the time.

    It was in Russia that Kontiola found a next level and developed into the player he is today. Gaining confidence after his first semi-productive KHL year with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Kontiola turned into one of the most important players on that team  the following season. His steady climb continued with Traktor Chelyabinsk, where he moved at the start of the 2010-11 season after 108 games and 70 KHL points for Metallurg. With Kontiola on the roster, Traktor enjoyed their most successful KHL spell to date, reaching the Gagarin Cup Finals in 2012-13 before losing out to Dynamo Moscow. The Finnish-born center scored the most points (19) and ended up as the top scorer of the playoffs with 10 goals in 25 games.

    In fact, during his KHL career, Kontiola was always productive in the playoffs and gained quite a reputation for playing well in the post season. His all time KHL playoff points-per-game stands at 0.60, having scored 17 goals and 40 points in 67 Gagarin Cup playoff games. In 2012-13, he was also pretty dominant in international tournament play, once again scoring the most points (16) and becoming the WC top scorer with 8 goals.  While this past season wasn’t as productive, he still topped the scoring charts with 15 goals and 22 assists on a disappointing 2013-14 edition of the Chelyabinsk team that missed the playoffs despite featuring Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andrei Kostitsyn, Jan Buils, and Stanislav Chistov, all familiar names to the North America hockey audience. All in all, he should be coming to Toronto on a high note, after his five points in six games helped Finland to the bronze medal at the Sochi Olympics. There, he also ranked third among Finnish forwards in ice time.

    Petri is listed at 6’0″ and 207 lbs, but the weight seems a little bit generous. Still, he’s hard to knock off the puck and has really good hands in tight. Kontiola possesses good puckhandling ability and can drive the puck up ice. His passing is top notch; he’s a creative on-ice presence with good vision and can find open ice with ease, which is one of the assets that should help him readjust to the North American game. Kontiola has deceptive speed, a good “change of gears,” and has become a much more dangerous goalscorer in recent years. He still thinks pass first, which was one of the knocks on him earlier in his career, but has found more use for his quality shot, quick release and very good patience in front of the net, made evident by his increased goals total. Like most Finnish players, he’s been well coached and somewhat defensively responsible, although he has never really been made to embrace a checking role on account of his offensive skillset. In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs decide to use him as a winger.

    Maybe Kontiola’s name winds up but a fleeting memory for Leafs fans in a year’s time, but given the skillset, the KHL success, the stellar international play and possible (still relatively untested) chemistry with newly re-signed Leaf favorite Leo Komarov, signing him to a 1-year, $1-million flyer wasn’t a difficult decision by Leafs brass.

    27 comments
    Optimustic
    Optimustic

    I'm way late to the party here, but when I started reading this I thought,that I'd like to get Mislav's opinion of Kontiola.   The only one of us that would have any chance to know of the player first hand.

     Thanks for the article Mislav, good to here from you.

    rustynail
    rustynail

    YAY Mislav is BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Waiting4LSC
    Waiting4LSC

    Mislav: hope you see this. Really miss your posts and insights. Truly hope life is treating you well! Have you made an honest woman of your better half?

    DARF24
    DARF24

    What happen to Joni Pitkainen? hes a UFA no? but didn't play at all last season?

     Don Cherry
    Don Cherry

    So sick of Nonis for letting decent players walk for nothing and replacing them with question marks and pylons. Stand by my prediction that we are a lottery team this year because no improvement over last years roster!!!

    Jmessih
    Jmessih

    Great write up Mislav, good to see you on here again.

    The Leafs need to find a way to get another decent LD and find a solution for Franson (traded at a decent value preferably) and we should be ready for the season.

    Making sure Orr and FML do not play this season is absolutely imparative to any potential success, I do however love the hunger and determiniation of the bottom 6 forwards and the D this year.

    GO Leafs Go!!

    Mind Bomb
    Mind Bomb

    Thanks Mislav, hard not to get Hyped , thinking we finally stole one lol.


    I cant wait to see our new toy, Drop the Puck !

    The_Polish_Cannon
    The_Polish_Cannon

    Good write-up Mislav, really looking forward to seeing this guy play. He may make Nonis look like a genius

    Cameron19
    Cameron19

    @dlb Mad He'll find a way to screw it up. Here's hoping they can him before he has a chance to totally derail the season.

    Cameron19
    Cameron19

    @DARF24 His injury still prevents him from doing anything. He's a long way from recovery still.

    billtech
    billtech

    @ Don Cherry Nothing wrong with getting a lottery pick. You get McDavid and Nylander adds 15 lbs by next yr. start of a nice 1b line. Gauthier is at least what we think he can be...a nice big 3rd line center who can fill in as 2nd line when needed. nonis biggest mistake is signing someone like Bolland with a 1 yr contract left ..what we were going to the cup this yr. with him?

    B_Leaf
    B_Leaf

    @ Don Cherry


    I agree with this based on what he did to our team last off season.

    conis
    conis

    @Armchair GM Based on the way they play on the world stage - never too many

    Jimmie Dorey
    Jimmie Dorey

    @Cameron19 @DARF24 Broken heels never seem to heal and that is from personal experience. It's been two years and my left foot is still much bigger than my right (I broke both of them at the same time)

    kevtoth22
    kevtoth22

    @conis @Armchair GM   Agreed...no such thing as too many Finns. Most consistant hockey nation on the world stage. No matter what...they always medal.!!!