Not many people foresee Toni Rajala playing many–if any–games in the NHL. The other day on Twitter I asked Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus if he sees Rajala as a legitimate NHL prospect. His one word reply was “Nope.” The biggest roadblock to an NHL career for Rajala is his size–or lack of it. He’s listed as being only 5’10”, 163 lbs.
But Rajala just keeps on doing what he does. With the Stockton Thunder, Rajala scored 11 goals and added 12 assists in only 14 games and was named the ECHL Player of the Week for Nov. 12-18.
Rajala’s strong offensive play earned him a call-up with the AHL’s Barons. (Phil Cornet and Cameron Abney were also promoted.) With OKC, Rajala has 1 goal in 3 games.
Prior to the 2009 NHL draft, Bob MacKenzie of TSN ranked Rajala 50th overall. (He ended up being drafted 101st.) Back then, International Scouting Services said,
Rajala has been the focus of a lot of hype from a very young age. He has dominated every level he has played at in Finland and shown very well during international competitions. He had the most eyes looking his way at World U18 Championship he didn’t shy away but rather further pushed the spot light his way. Rajala needed to have a big tournament and do that he did, finishing with 19 pts in 6 games, eclipsing the previous U18 scoring record set by some kid named Ovechkin. He is said to be too small, but he is feisty and didn’t back down when challenged. He had a tremendous second half of the bronze game against Canada and was easily the best player on the ice for either team.
On Lowetide.ca, Stockton coach Matt Thomas is quoted as saying,
He’s not a huge guy, but he’s got great speed and vision, and every time he has the puck you think he can do something with it. Size doesn’t mean that you are quick or smart, and Toni is both.
And Neil Livingston of Tend the Farm (an OKC Barons blog) reports,
When Toni Rajala was sent to Stockton, where he’d eventually be well above the norm in terms of scoring, there was no denying that his return to OKC would be swift. He has quickly turned some heads. Coaching staff and fans have enjoyed seeing him blossom, albeit in a very short time frame, into a very gifted and creative offensive threat. For me, his greatest asset has only begun to rear its head, and that’s the play at both ends of the ice. We’ve seen a few really strong two-way forwards in the AHL this season, and Toni Rajala just might be lumped into that category when the 70+ game season is finished. He has really great hands, a quick first step, and is about as sturdy as a forward can be. In a rookie season where he’s gotten somewhat buried in an AHL lineup, he’s found a way to really raise some eyebrows, including my own.
Toni Rajala – RW
Drafted 101st overall in 2009
14 GP / 11 G / 12 A / 23 PTS / +6 / 6 PIM
Phil Cornet – LW
Drafted 133rd overall in 2008
14 GP / 8 G / 11 A / 19 PTS / +8 / 2 PIM
Cameron Abney – RW
Drafted 82nd overall in 2009
3 GP / 1 G / 0 A / 1 PTS / 0 / 5 PIM
Kristians Pelss – LW
Drafted 181st overall in 2010
10 GP / 2 G / 2 A / 4 PTS / -1 / 13 PIM
Tyler Bunz – G
Drafted 121st overall in 2010
12 GP / 8 W / 3 L / 1 SO / 2.85 GAA / 0.891 SV%