Player of the Month
We are prown to present a new award - European Player of the Month
It will be awarded to the player with the most oustanding performance over the course of the month
October 2004 - Jukka Voutilainen
The first winner of this award is Jukka Voutilainen of Finnish HPK Hämeenlinna.
Voutilainen scored 11 goals in 8 games in October. He had a seven game scoring streak, failing to score in their last match of the month. He has scored 15 goals in 19 games all together.
The Finnish SM-Liiga 2004-2005 has seen two teams quickly opening up a big gap with the rest already early into the season. However there is one team that has been able to cling on to Jokerit Helsinki and Kärpät Oulu. HPK Hämeenlinna superb 80% win record in overtime has seen them claim a solid 3rd place for now. One of the most surprising players on the team so far this season has been center Jukka Voutilainen who had a stellar October month with 11 goals in 8 games and a 7-game scoring streak. So far this season he notched 15 goals and 6 assists for 21 points in 19 games. Quite remarkable numbers for a player that is bound to break his personal point record at the SM-Liiga level this season (current point record stands at 26 points, set last year).
According to Voutilainen the key to the success this season has been a combination having a good start and hard work. 'As a team, we played poorly during the pre-season and we didn´t know how the season would start for us. But instead of continuing the trend, we got off to a flying start of the season. This gave us a lot of confidence and the atmosphere and team spirit have been great. And that shows in our games.'
His personal success somewhat comes as a surprise. After a promising junior career with KalPa Kuopio, he moved to league giants Jokerit Helsinki. But his debut season at SM-Liiga level mainly went up in smoke after he broke a navicular bone. In the summer of 2003 the injury bug stroke again as he needed surgery over the summer to recover from a groin injury. Voutilainen: 'Individually, I think the most important thing to explain my successful season, is that I was healthy during the off season this year. It is such an advantage when you can have a good summer practice. What is also important is that this is my second season in Hämeenlinna. I know the system and the coaches know what I am capable and how I can be used most effectively.' But Voutilainen states it's not a solo-effort that brought him success. 'The wingers on my line are hard workers. They force me to work hard too', Voutilanen says. 'If you work hard every shift, the success will come sooner or later.'
Some might have felt Voutilainen's move from Jokerit to HPK was more of a demotion than a promotion, but both HPK and Voutilainen have done well since they have found each other. Voutilainen doesn't want to look back about the choices he made in the past. 'I´m not regretting what I´ve done or haven´t done, I´m always looking forward and can´t wait to see what life brings me.' But what was it that made him choose a 'smaller' team like HPK over Jokerit? 'One of the main reasons was that I liked the style of hockey here in HPK,' the forward claims. HPK is known to play attractive hockey for the fans with usually lots of goalscoring. Despite having a smaller budget, the team always manages to bring quality on the ice and do well in the league. Added to that there were some details that favoured HPK over Jokerit for Voutilainen. 'The atmosphere in the locker room as well as a couple of my friends playing at HPK added that little extra for me to join the team.'
Atmosphere.... It once again proves how important that factor is. Being from Kuopio, Voutilainen will not forget where he was taught his first hockey lessons. Nor won't a string of other players who grew up there like Olli Jokinen, Kimmo Timonen, whilst also Sami Kapanen has expressed his love for KalPa (the local team). What makes this second division team so special that it can even attract the interest of NHL Lock-out players like Adam Hall? The secret can be found in a combination of familiarly relations and coaches that produce skilled players. 'I had great seasons there in Kuopio and I´m not gonna forget my roots,' Jukka says. He is not even ruling out a move back to KalPa later on in his career. Voutilainen: 'Maybe sometime, but I do not expect it to happen in the next five years. On the other hand, you never know what life brings.' KalPa is also one of the teams that is trying to get into the SM-Liiga, which for now, is still a 'closed' league without promotion and relegation. If there would be an opening for sure KalPa would be one of the candidates to play for it. Voutilainen is more convinced of the team's bid. 'I think KalPa is the next team which is gonna play in the SM-Liiga.'
Adam Hall is just one example of an NHL player, playing in Finland during the lock-out. At this moment there is a total of 21 players that arrived in Finland. Three of them are playing at HPK, Jani Rita, linemate Riku Hahl and their latest addition Mika Noronen. The addition of the latter thrills Jukka Voutilainen. 'Of course, we got world class goalie and now we got two great goalies' he says. Yet he is not sure how to rate the sudden influx of NHL players. 'It's got its pro's en con's', Voutilainen admits. 'It's great that NHL super stars are playing in Europe. But we should not forget for all of us hockey is our profession and teams' third and fourth liners aren´t going to get any playing time because of the lockout.' So far the NHL lock-out has not hurt HPK a lot it seems. And Voutilainen feels there is no reason his team can not keep up the current pace. 'We have speed, toughness, two good goalies and have a management which is not afraid to make team changes if needed.' With a playoff spot looking solid for now, the question is how deep this team can get in the playoffs. Jukka Voutilainen is not afraid his team will be overpowered by the likes of Jokerit or Kärpät. 'I believe that we can win title', he says committed. 'But we have to work hard every game and every practice and take one game at a time.'
Hard work as the basis for success. He has said it before and will tell you several times again. So far hard work has not only earned him a team Finland spot but also the Eurohockey.net Player Of The Month-award. It will be interesting to see if there is more silverware ahead for this 24-year old forward.
- March 2007 - Petr Sykora
- February 2007 - Bernd Brückler
- January 2007 - Martin Prochazka
- December 2006 - Martin Kariya
- November 2006 - Pavel Brendl
- October 2006 - Kimmo Rintanen
- September 2006 - Aleksei Morozov
- May 2006 - Kenny Jönsson
- April 2006 - Aleksei Morozov
- March 2006 - Reto von Arx
- February 2006 - Nicklas Lidström
- January 2006 - Patrick Yetman
- December 2005 - Miroslav Hala
- November 2005 - Vasily Koshechkin
- October 2005 - Tony Salmelainen
- September 2005 - Sergei Zinoviev
- May 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
- April 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
- March 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
- February 2005 - Marian Gaborik
- January 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
- December 2004 - Tim Thomas
- November 2004 - Marian Hossa
- October 2004 - Jukka Voutilainen
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