The Top 20 Under 24 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of five staff writers and over 300 readers that ranked prospects under the age of 24 and have played less than 125 NHL games.
Next up in our Top-20 Under-24 series is Finnish defenseman, Oskari Laaksonen. Currently playing in the Liiga, on loan with the Lahden Pelicans, Laaksonen is preparing himself to make the jump to North America.
Laaksonen signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Buffalo Sabres back on June 15, 2020.
Last season, Laaksonen suffered a dip in his offensive output (2 goals, 10 assists in 46 games) but played through injuries throughout the season.
Laaksonen’s 2020 season has started off hot though, as echoed by Expected Buffalo’s Chad DeDominicis.
“Through 11 games, Laaksonen is back on track to being the player we saw in the 2018-19 season,” DeDominicis said. “He’s playing top pair minutes for the Pelicans and is back to creating offense from the blue line.”
Oskari Laaksonen found the net from his sweet spot Tuesday for his first goal in a Pelicans uniform. pic.twitter.com/UTW5bRB3CI— Kris Baker (@SabresProspects) October 7, 2020
In that same piece, Kris Baker of Sabres Prospects spoke very highly of Laaksonen.
“Laaksonen is an exciting player to watch with the puck,” Baker said. “He plays free and confident when it’s on his stick. He isn’t afraid to take the ice that’s given to him.”
When he was drafted back in 2017, Laaksonen’s third-round selection shocked many, including Laaksonen himself.
One of the biggest knocks on Laaksonen’s game was his lack of size. On draft day, he was listed at 6’1” and 165 pounds.
Three years later, Laaksonen now is listed by his current squad as 6’2” and 188 pounds, which has become a very encouraging development.
Before the worldwide pandemic worsened, Laaksonen was slated to come over to play for the Rochester Americans next season in the American Hockey League.
When I spoke to Randy Sexton a few weeks back, chances were already good Oskari Laaksonen was coming to North America. With Lawrence Pilut off to Central Russia, that decision was a lot easier for the Sabres to make.— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) June 15, 2020
While his status currently remains in the air, Laaksonen will play overseas until plans for the next NHL and AHL season pan out.