Red Wings sign Finnish defenseman Oliwer Kaski
Of defenseman Oliwer Kaska, above, Jiri Fischer, Detroit director of player evaluation, said: “It’s really impressive how calm he is under pressure.”
Oliwer Kaski has come a long way in a year – so far, in fact, that the Red Wings think the 23-year-old might be able to improve their blue line.
Detroit signed Kaski, a defenseman from Finland, to a one-year entry-level contract on Tuesday.
Kaski, 6-3 and 190 pounds, was an average player in the Finnish league in 2017-18, according to Detroit director of player evaluation Jiri Fischer.
But Kaski blossomed this past season with the Pelicans of SM-liiga, leading the team with 19 goals and 51 points in 59 games.
“From the beginning of the year, he started putting up points, which escalated into borderline dominating the game at the Finnish Elite League, which I would say is a little bit below the American League,” Fischer told www.mlive.com.
He added that Kaski was smart on the ice and able to read the play.
“It’s really impressive how calm he is under pressure,” Fischer said. “When there’s a forechecker coming and he’s got the puck, he doesn’t panic. He always tries to make a play, tape-to-tape. He really tries to play the puck-possession game.”
Kaski, a right-handed shot who is particularly effective on the power play, was a member of Finland’s surprise gold medal-winning team at the World Championship in Slovakia, which ended Sunday. He had two assists and was plus-3 in 10 games.
“He generates a lot of scoring chances off his shot, which has generally been very hard to handle for European goalies,” Fischer said. “He generated a lot of rebounds for his teammates that ended up being goals.”
The Red Wings’ defense corps is already crowded with veterans Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley and younger players Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski and Madison Bowey. Niklas Kronwall may or may not play another season. So Kaski will have his work cut out for him earning a roster spot out of training camp.
Fischer said Kaski has improved his skating over the past couple of years and is now considered “an above-average” skater.
His adjustment to the smaller North American rinks won’t be as difficult as most, because Kaski played at Western Michigan during the 2015-16 season (four goals and 12 points in 31 games). He returned to Finland after only one game the following season.
“As if I wasn't having enough good fortune @leijonat, I am so excited to start the next chapter of my career with an original six @DetroitRedWings organization,” Kaski tweeted. “Just want to thank everyone who has touched my career and helped me get to this point. Thinking of you all!”