It was announced Tuesday that Detroit Red Wings’ prospect, Vili Saarijarvi, will be among the six players nominated for the Ontario Hockey League’s Max Kaminsky Trophy, which is awarded every year to the league’s most outstanding defenceman. Saarijarvi has enjoyed a productive season, both regular and post, with the Mississauga Steelheads after enduring a tumultuous 2015-16 season with the Flint Firebirds organization.
Saarijarvi, who was selected in the third-round (73rd overall) by the Red Wings in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, finished the 2016-17 regular-season ranked 11th in points on the Steelheads with 11 goals, 20 assists, and a plus 20 rating. The young and speedy Finn would have undoubtedly produced even greater numbers but was sidelined for much of the early season after recovering from a wrist surgery that he underwent in August.
Vili also currently ranks 26th in points among all skaters (fifth on Mississauga) who are participating in the 2017 OHL Playoffs with four goals and six assists in 11 games played. The Steelheads will face the Peterborough Petes in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning on Thursday evening.
I profiled Saarijarvi last June for WIIM and like the Red Wings, I have been keeping a close eye on the youthful blue-liner since being drafted by Detroit. Similar to Dennis Cholowski, who the Wings drafted 20th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Vili is a fast, puck-moving defender, who despite his size, could possibly play an extremely important role in the Hockeytown’s defensive future.
If Saarijarvi is able to take home the Kaminsky Trophy he would join a prestigious and impressive list of former winners. Aaron Ekblad, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Ellis, and Drew Doughty have all been awarded the title of the OHL’s most outstanding defenceman in the last decade. Ryan Sproul won the award in 2012-13 but has not quite lived up to some of the aforementioned names and hype.