Ilves has signed contracts with seven new players. The new members of the team are goaltender Jakub Málek, defensemen Peetro Seppälä and Otto Latvala and forwards Miro Ruokonen, Tommi Tikka, Samu Bau and Aku Räty.
Goaltender Jakub Málek – Contract 2022–2024 + option year
20-year-old Czech goaltender Jakub Málek joins Ilves on a 2+1-year contract from VJK Vsetín, who finished second in the Czechia’s second-highest league this season. His save percentage was 93,21 in 31 regular season games and 93,27 in 13 playoff games. Málek was also part of the Czech team in the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship that were cancelled due to spread of COVID.
The 194 centimeters tall goaltender was drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 NHL entry draft by the New Jersey Devils.
– Jakub Málek is a very talented, tall and for his age experienced goaltender, who has already played in the men’s leagues and has all the tools to develop into a top goalie. He strengthens our strong group of goaltenders, which plays a very important role in reaching success. The long contract is aimed to allow Jakub develop into a key player for Ilves through time, says sports director Timo Koskela.
Defenseman Peetro Seppälä – Contract 2022–2024
Defenseman Peetro Seppälä, 21, has signed a two-year contract with Ilves. Seppälä played his first games for the Finnish national team in the spring of 2021. The defenseman scored 29 points (8 goals, 21 assists) in 57 regular season games and added 8 assists in 15 playoff games for KooKoo this season. The product of the KooKoo junior academy has recorded 54 points (15 goals, 39 assists) in 174 regular season games over his five seasons in the Finnish Elite League (Liiga).
Seppälä was a part of Finland’s gold-winning team at the 2018 IIHF U18 World Championship and also belonged to Finland’s team at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.
– Peetro Seppälä is an top defenseman at the Liiga level and has already played in the national team as well. He is an important part of our team next season. Peetro is big in size and a versatile, quality defenseman, who can still develop a lot in the coming years. Through experience and gaining more strength he will add new fine elements to his game, sees sports director Koskela.
Defenseman Otto Latvala – Contract 2022–2024 + option year
Defenseman Otto Latvala, 22, joins Ilves on a 2+1-year contract after playing for HPK’s Liiga team for the five previous seasons. The 198 centimeters tall defenseman collected 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 56 regular season games this season. In total he has played 172 regular season games and scored 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists) in his Liiga career.
During 2016–2017 season Latvala won silver at the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship, won the Finnish U20 league championship and was selected rookie of the season. The defenseman was a part of Finland’s gold-winning team at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.
– Otto Latvala is a big and versatile defenseman, who made his breakthrough in the Liiga last season. He is an excellent penalty-killer, can move the puck well and adds physicality to our team. We believe that developing his skating will take his game with the puck and his attacking game to the next level at Ilves, says Koskela.
Forward Miro Ruokonen – Contract 2022-2024 + option year
Forward Miro Ruokonen, 26, and Ilves have agreed on a 2+1-year contract. The forward won the Finnish Championship with HPK in 2018–2019 season. The product of the Forssan Palloseura junior academy scored his points record this season recording 20 points (7 goals, 13 assists) in 56 regular season games for HPK last season.
182 centimeters tall forward has played 307 games and scored 59 points (31 goals, 28 assists) over his seven seasons in the Liiga. Ruokonen also won U16 and U20 Finnish championships and U20 silver-medal in his junior years.
– Miro Ruokonen is a versatile forward, who had a major role in the penalty killing unit last season. He is a very strong skater who brings speed and trustworthy two-way game to the rink every night, describes Koskela.
Forward Tommi Tikka – Contract 2022–2023 + option year
26-year-old forward Tommi Tikka, HPK’s alternate captain in the past two seasons, has signed a 1+1-year contract with Ilves. The 190 centimeters tall forward scored 7 goals and added 19 assists in 51 regular season games last season.
Tikka, who started his Liiga career at Sport, has scored at least 20 points in each of last five seasons. In total the forward has played 349 regular season games and scored 135 points (45 goals, 90 assists) over his seven Liiga season.
– Tommi Tikka is an important addition for Ilves. He adds physicality to our team and offers more choices to special teams. Tommi is a strong player in front of the net on the powerplay and also excels as a penalty-killer. As a really versatile forward he can play in many different roles. His playing style fits the playoffs extremely well as his qualities stand out even more then, says Koskela.
Forward Samu Bau – Contract 2022–2024 + option year
193 centimeters tall forward Samu Bau, 18, has signed a 2+1-year contract with Ilves. The forward added 18 points (10 goals, 8 assists) in 36 regular season games for the HIFK U20 team and scored 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 2 games for the HIFK U18 team last season.
Bau was also a part of the bronze-medal winning team at the 2022 IIHF U18 World Championship that ended on Sunday. The forward played in each of the six games in the tournament and recorded one assist.
– Samu Bau is a big, junior national team forward who skates well. He is a future player, who needs to add to his physique, but has the potential to become a good two-way player. The multi-year contract allows us to develop the player persistently towards our Liiga team and the next level, comments sports director Koskela.
Forward Aku Räty – Contract 2022–2024
Ilves and 20-year-old forward Aku Räty have agreed on a two-year contract. The forward recorded 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 56 regular season games and 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist) in 7 playoff games for Kärpät this season. The academy product of the Oulu-based team played his first Liiga and CHL games in fall 2019. In total he has played 124 regular season games and scored 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) over his three seasons in the Liiga.
Räty represented Finland at the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championship, 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship and 2021 IIFH World Junior Championship and won bronze in the latest tournament The 184 centimeters tall forward has also won the Finnish U20 championship, U18 bronze-medal and U16 silver-medal.
Räty was drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 NHL entry draft by the Arizona Coyotes.
– Aku Räty has already proven his class in the Liiga. We believe he can take the next steps in his development towards the league’s winger elite at Ilves. Aku is a versatile player with a good shot. The numerous junior national team call-ups and getting picked in the NHL draft tell about his talent, says Koskela.
After the contracts published today Ilves now have 31 player contracts in total for the 2022–2023 season.
Contract situation for the 2022–2023 season
Marek Langhamer 2023, Jakub Málek 2024+1, Vadim Žerenko 2023
Karri Aho 2023+1, Santeri Airola 2023+1, Otto Heinonen 2024, Veeti Hietaniemi 2024+1, Les Lancaster 2023, Otto Latvala 2024+1, Leo Lööf 2023, Jarkko Parikka 2025, Tuomas Salmela 2024, Peetro Seppälä 2024
Samu Bau 2024+1, Nikolai Hakala 2023+1, Joona Ikonen 2024, Petri Kontiola 2023, Joona Korhonen 2023+1, Jakub Kos 2023+1, Panu Mieho 2024, Matias Mäntykivi 2024, Miro Nalli 2024, Jani Nyman 2023+1, Joonas Oden 2023, Eetu Päkkilä 2024, Miro Ruokonen 2024+1, Aku Räty 2024, Balázs Sebők 2023, Eemeli Suomi 2023, Tommi Tikka 2023+1, Santeri Virtanen 2023