Player of the Month
The European Hockey.Net European Player of the Month is awarded to the player with the most oustanding performance over the course of the month
Nominations are collected at the end of each month, then a vote by the site's admin team decides the winner.
October 2005 - Tony Salmelainen
October 18th of 2005 will go into the history books in Finland. For the first time in almost 15 years, and only the eleventh time in their history, a player managed to score five or more goals in a single game.
The player who achieved it: 24 year-old, Helsinki born Tony Salmelainen.
Salmelainen's offensive outburst in the game against Pelicans Lahti (8-1) wasn't a fluke. The forward comes off a stellar October month in which he notched 14 points in 13 games including a +9 plus/minus-rating.
"It was a great month for me personally, but especially for the team," Salmelainen says. "I feel honoured to win this award. You know you've done something right to receive this kind of award."
Although he's still just 24 years old, the Finnish forward has already gained a lot of experience. After two seasons in the junior B-league with Espoo Blues, he joined his hometown team - HIFK Helsinki. His offensive talents immediately blossomed, netting him 80 points in 59 games in his first two seasons playing for the HIFK Junior team. That earned him a spot on the Finnish European Junior team and World Junior team - putting him on the global radar.
The Edmonton Oilers spotted this up and coming talent and picked him in the second round of the 1999 NHL entry draft. Kevin Lowe heaping much praise on him ever since, hailing him for his explosive speed and his multi-functionality (Salmelainen can play both left and right wing).
The Cinderalla story continued the following season when he scored on his SM-Liiga debut. Nevertheless after just nineteen more games for HIFK and a solitary goal, the following season, Salmelainen decided to move to Ilves Tampere.
"I wanted more ice time, and Ilves gave me a chance to play more," Salmelainen tells us, explaining his reasoning behind the move.
With the increased ice time, Salmelainen's offensive numbers improved. Notching up 32 points over the next two seasons, after the 01-02 season, he decided it was time to cross the pond and joined the Edmonton Oilers training camp.
"Edmonton offered me a contract and I felt it was the right time in my career to move on," the forward explains. During his first season he received a lot of support from fellow Finn, Jani Rita. "Jani helped me out with a lot of things and made the acclimatisation a lot easier."
After a slow start for the Oilers' farm team Salmelainen finished with a stellar post-season notching 14 points in 17 games. "My ice time went up due to some injuries on the team. That gave me more confidence and enabled me to produce more."
The good performance didn't go unnoticed. He made his NHL debut during the 03-04 season and Tony Salmelainen found himself in an environment he had never experienced yet.
"Life in the NHL is quite a bit different compared to the AHL or to Finland," the forward states. "Teams fly in their own planes, you get to stay in the fanciest hotels etc. Also you play alongside a lot of great players, so the level of the game is higher, but that is what you get when you play with the best players in the world."
Nevertheless, Salmelainen was unable to get a secured spot on the Edmonton Oilers' roster. After just 13 games (1 assist), he returned to the AHL where he picked up where he left, registering 91 points over 2 seasons.
This season the forward is back in Europe - back home playing for his beloved HIFK Helsinki. "I did not receive a one-way contact, so I decided to return to Finland," Salmelainen explains. His decision to return to HIFK Helsinki was a no-brainer for the forward: "HIFK was my only alternative after I decided to return to Finland."
The departure of the fan favourite to Finland, left a lot of Canadian fans disappointed. Although the odds of a quick return are slim at the moment, Salmelainen hasn't ruled the chance he will go back to Canada.
"You never know what the future brings. If I get a decent contract proposal, I might give the NHL another shot."
Despite HIFK losing a lot of players during the summer, Salmelainen and his team have been performing above expectations this season and are currently sitting in fifth place. When asked about his team's objectives for the season the 5-goal hero is initially modest, "First let's get the regular season out of the way and try to finish as high as possible."
More confidently he adds, "Then in the play-offs, there is only one goal: to win the championship!"
With 24 points from 25 games so far this season, and currently leading the league in goals, Tony Salmelainen is certainly playing his part in achieving that goal.
From the eurohockey.net archive
- 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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