When Jeff Gorton signed Ville Meskanen and Michael Lindqvist last spring he added two young, scoring wingers to the organization. Now, eight months later, Meskanen is honing his skills in Hartford with the Wolf Pack, but Lindqvist is back in the SHL with Färjestad BK after his contract was terminated by the Rangers.
The departure of Lindqvist has added more interest in Meskanen’s development and adjustment to the North American game. Regardless of our level of interest or what we might expect out of him, it’s important to remember that this is his first season, professional or otherwise, playing hockey in North America.
Even before Lindqvist’s departure, there was already plenty of intrigue surrounding Meskanen. He had 44 points in 48 games with Ilves in the Liiga as a 22 year old last season. It also goes without saying that the Rangers have a dearth of talented wingers in the organization. It is because of this that Meskanen has an opportunity to be a great deal more than an AHL scoring winger. But, before that ever happens, he needs prove himself in the AHL. Halfway into the Wolf Pack’s season, he’s been doing just that.
Meskanen has hit his stride with the Wolf Pack in the last six weeks or so. He recently had eight points in his last 11 games and is now second on the team in scoring, behind veteran center Peter Holland. Impressively, Meskanen hasn’t gone three games without registering a point since October. And although his point total is buoyed by a team-high 10 secondary assists (in all situations), his production at 5-on-5 for Hartford is definitely an encouraging sign.
Ville Meskanen put up a 3-7-10 line with 26 SOGs in 12 December games.— Zach Ellenthal (@zellenthal) December 31, 2018
The Finnish winger is now second on the Wolf Pack in 5-on-5 primary points and is tied for second in total points. According to Jeff Craig’s AHL Tracker, Adam Mascherin (Dallas Stars), and Troy Terry (Anaheim Ducks) share the lead in rookie scoring at even strength with 22 points each. Meskanen is right behind them with 21 points at even strength. His production has been assist-heavy, but Meskanen has always been a pass-first player. He’s averaging 1.92 shots per game which is good for sixth on the team. Although it is worth noting that he has shots in 14-consecutive games and that his average SOG/GP since December is 2.29.
Meskanen has just four power play points this season, which is due in large part to not being on the top power play unit in Hartford. The Wolf Pack’s power play is ranked 12th in the league with a success rate of 19.8 percent. Meskanen scored his first power play goal of the season on December 30. One has to imagine that he’d have quite a few more points if he was spending more time with the Wolf Pack’s top unit which features Holland and John Gilmour.
Meskanen’s first 39 games of professional hockey in North America have been a success. To add some context to how he’s doing this year, we can compare him to Antti Suomela. Like Meskanen, Suomela was an undrafted Finn coming off of a career year when he signed with the Sharks last June. He led the Liiga in scoring last season with 60 points in 51 games. This season he has eight points in 27 games with the Sharks and and five points in 13 games with the Barracudas in the AHL, and he’s 18 months older than Meskanen.
Like the Rangers, the Wolf Pack are also going through a rebuild. Meskanen is one of just five rookies in Hartford who has played in at least 10 games this year. He leads all Wolf Pack skaters who are 24 years old and under in scoring by a wide margin. That, in and of itself, is clear evidence that Gorton made a good decision when he signed him out of the Liiga.
Note: Stats up-to-date as of 1/13.