The Maple Leafs have announced the signing of 23-year-old forward Miro Aaltonen to a two-year entry-level contract.
A 5’10, 169-pound left-shot center, Aaltonen was left unsigned after the Anaheim Ducks drafted him out of the SM-Liiga in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. In his draft season, Aaltonen scored twice against Latvia in his first game at the World Juniors before having his tournament end prematurely due to an ankle injury.
After five seasons in SM-Liiga — most recently with Karpat, where he played alongside top prospects Jesse Puljujarvi and Sebastian Aho — Aaltonen signed a one-year contract with Vityaz of the KHL for the 2016-17 season. As a KHL rookie, he put up 44 points in 59 games, good enough for 19th in points scoring and first among players 24 and under. In points-per-game, Aaltonen ranked 30th overall and sixth among U24s.
Aaltonen’s first career KHL goal was pretty, going skate to stick and finishing on the turn:
He scored 18 more over the course of the season to finish in the top 20 in KHL goal scoring and third among U24s. Aaltonen also finished 13th in the league in shots on goal with 168. In a February 2017 report, McKeen’s Hockey described Aaltonen as a skilled and frequent shooter of the puck, a capable playmaker, and an undersized player who needs to improve his consistency, skating, physical strength, and faceoff abilities.
The Leafs have had some success recruiting out of the KHL under the current management group, with former KHL’ers Nikita Soshnikov and Nikita Zaitsev contributing full-time to the NHL club this season (and Zaitsev, in particular, playing 20+ minutes a night and sitting third in points scoring among rookie defencemen with 29). Director of Player Evaluation, Jim Paliafito, has been credited by Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock for putting in the legwork to secure the services of sought-after talent in Russia.
Aaltonen’s Standard Player Contract won’t kick in until next season, which is why the Leafs can sign Aaltonen while right up against the 50-contract limit. The Leafs currently have 31 SPCs on the books for 2017-18.
Miro Aaltonen Scouting Reports
— Gus Katsaros🏒 (@KatsHockey) March 17, 2017
A fairly small forward, Aaltonen can play as a center or in the left wing. He is a goal-scorer with good puckhandling and creativity. He also has very good playmaking-ability and is a useful assett on the man-advantage. Aaltonen skates well and has decent top-speed. He works hard but lacks physicality and needs to add plenty of strength. The 2012/2013 season was an important one for Aaltonen who took a big step forward in the summer and started to get on the board regularily in the SM-liiga. However, he missed a great part of the 2nd half of the season after breaking his ankle at the World Junior Championships.
– Elite Prospects, 2013