The Florida Panthers started their summer by signing top prospect Aleksi Heponiemi to his first pro contract.
On Wednesday, May 15th, it was announced that the Florida Panthers had agreed to terms with prospect Aleksi Heponiemi on a three-year, entry-level contract that will take effect during the 2019-20 season.
Drafted back in 2017 (2nd round, 40th overall), the Panthers managed to steal another Finnish gem, opting to go for the 5’11”, 154lb forward.
Playing with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL during his draft year, Heponiemi recorded an outstanding slash line of 28G, 58A, and 86 points in 72 games.
In result of leading the WHL in assists (58) and points (86), Heponiemi was awarded the Jim Piggott Trophy, which is given to the WHL’s most valuable rookie player.
The following season (2017-18), Heponiemi blew his previous tally out of the water, putting together an incredible line of 28G, 90A, for 118 points in 57 games.
In the playoffs, Heponiemi led the Broncos all the way to a Championship title, tallying 5G, 25A, for 30 points in 26 playoff matches.
In result of his dominant play, Heponiemi closed out the year with most assists during the regular season (90) and playoffs (25), awarded the CHL’s Sportsman of the Year Award and the WHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player (Brad Hornung Trophy). In addition, he was also named to the WHL’s (East) First All-Star Team.
After playing in his final season with the Broncos, Heponiemi elected to return home, signing with Karpat of Liiga.
In his first season with Karpat, Heponiemi recorded 16G, 30A, for 46 points in 50 Liiga games. His tally in assists (30) and points (46) was good enough for the top spot among rookie players that season. In the playoffs, Heponiemi potted three goals in 17 games.
“We are thrilled to have agreed to terms with Aleksi. He is an immensely skilled and dynamic player with excellent vision and hockey IQ. Aleksi has been an elite player at every level and a leader on winning teams on the junior and international stages. We look forward to Aleksi’s development with the Panthers and believe he will be an important part of our organization’s success for years to come.”
Heponiemi, who’s currently 20 years of age, will start the 2019-20 season in North America (AHL or NHL) with no European out, according to Elliotte Friedman. It’s likely that he starts the year in the minors with the Panthers’ affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds.
This gives Heponiemi a chance to adjust his game to the North American ice surface, which will prepare him for when he receives an expected call-up from the Panthers next year.
So far, the future looks incredibly bright for the young Heponiemi. It’s only a matter of time until he jumps up into the big leagues and dawns the Panthers’ colors.