New York Rangers prospect Kalle Väisänen another Finnish player from TPS

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Jun 9, 2022; New York, New York, USA; General view of Madison Square Garden before game five of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs between the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
[sendtonews key=”peKAXibZ” type=”player”]

The New York Rangers can’t seem to stay away from TPS, the team from Turku, Finland. After signing undrafted free agent Alexandar Georgiev, and drafting Tarmo Reunanen (R4, 2016), Patrik Virta (R7, 2017), Lauri Pajuniemi (R5, 2018) and Kaapo Kakko (R1, 2019), it felt weird not seeing TPS show up when going through our 2020 draft class.

Well, it only took one year for the Rangers to go back to their favourite Finnish talent pool last summer when they used a 4th round pick on winger Kalle Väisänen. But who is this young kid and what can we expect?

Kalle Väisänen early years

Born in 2003, (Yes, I realize we’re getting old when we’re discussing kids born the same year we drafted Hugh Jessiman), Kalle grew up in the small town of Kotka, on the south coast of Finland.

Located in the Kymenlaakso province, Kotka is home to 50,000 people and about an hour drive to the Russian border. Growing up there, it was an easy decision what team Kalle would be playing for and he followed in his father’s footsteps.

“I was 4-5 years old when I started playing in Kotka for Titaanit. My dad played for the same team before I was born so it was a special feeling,” Väisänen explains.

Father Markku who played hockey in Sweden in the mid-90s, finished his career at Titaanit in Kotka about a year before Kalle was born.

Fourteen years later, father and son would work close together as Markku was the coach of Titaanit’s u16 team with Kalle led his team to the playoffs with 43 points in 20 games but lost the semi-final and bronze medal game to finish 4th in u16 Mestis (2nd tier). It earned him a move to Helsinki where he played for Vikingit for a year in u16 SM-sarja (top tier) and again he led his team in points. It was an easy transition and not surprisingly, another move was in the cards and at age 16 he moved even further west, to Turku.

I was 4-5 years old when I started playing in Kotka for Titaanit. My dad played for the same team before I was born so it was a special feeling.

Väisänen about his early childhood

New York Rangers draft Kalle Väisänen

In the summer of 2019, the move to Turku was finalized and it was another step up in his hockey journey. After making his way through the ranks at different age groups, Väisänen started the 2019-20 season for TPS’ u18 team.

In a successful season where he put up 39 points in 44 games, he finished 4th in points and 3rd in goals. He played with upcoming top prospect Juraj Slafkovský, who is projected to go top-3 this summer in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. His performance earned him a call-up for Finland’s u17 team and in 6 games he registered 1 assist.

It was just before our game against Sweden in summer showcase so didn’t have that much time to process getting drafted before the game

Väisänen on his draft experience

In his draft year he made another jump, this time to the u20 team and with 30 points in 27 games he again finished 4th in points. With Finland’s u18 team he traveled to Frisco, TX where Leijonat would fall short of a medal, losing the bronze medal game to Sweden. But it was a game vs the Swedes a few weeks later that will stick with the young winger for the rest of his life.

“It was just before our game against Sweden in summer showcase so didn’t have that much time to process getting drafted before the game,” Väisänen said of his draft experience.

In the weeks leading up to the draft, he had several phone calls with Mikko Eloranta, the Finnish scout for the New York Rangers. One text he received after he was drafted came from a familiar face.

Lauri Pajuniemi, drafted by the Blueshirts in 2018, was still in Turku at that time preparing to move to North America. He sent Kalle a message to congratulate him.

Lauri Pajuniemi kalle vaisanen
Lauri Pajuniemi (Photo: Kelly Shea / Hartford Wolf Pack)

Pro hockey and what we can expect

Väisänen is a versatile player who doesn’t really have a preference as to where he plays.

“I can play both left wing and right wing. I adjust easily and don’t really see any challenges. Until 5 years ago, I played center as well so who knows,” the 6’4″ forward explains.

That versatility saw him line up in different spots in his first pro-season of hockey. He explains that the intensity is of course a lot higher and more demanding than at u20 level. But in his first season with the big club, he played 39 games in total, including 1 playoff game and 6 in the continental Champions Hockey League where TPS traveled to Germany, Sweden and Czechia to take on Fischtown Pinguins, Växjö Lakers and Sparta Praha respectively.

Despite losing every game on the road, it was still a great experience because it gave Väisänen the opportunity to explore and discover places he otherwise would not visit.

CHL games are pretty fun to play and you get to travel with the team and see hockey culture in other countries

Väisänen on the joys of playing in an international tournament.

Growing up, his favourite player was Teemu Selänne who retired in 2014 but is a living legend in the land of saunas, lakes and Minttu.

During the season, contact with the Rangers organization remained as is the case with all prospects. The previously mentioned Mikko Eloranta keeps tabs on him and preparing for his 2nd pro-season, he will get all the support he needs from the Rangers organization. Realistically, the now 19-year old winger is still a few years away from making the move to North America but he’s definitely a name to remember and the next on an increasing list of TPS players in the Rangers organization.

PS: I want to thank Kalle Väisänen for sitting down with me and giving me the opportunity to share this story with our readers.

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