Toronto Maple Leafs Roster Preview, 50-in-50: Miro Aaltonen

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ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA FEBRUARY 21, 2017: SKA St Petersburg's Ilya Kablukov (L) and Vityaz Podolsks Miro Aaltonen struggle for the puck in Leg 1 of their 2016/17 Season Kontinental Hockey League Western Conference quarterfinal playoff ice hockey match at the Ice Palace. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander DemianchukTASS via Getty Images)

Back on March 17, the Toronto Maple Leafs started out their offseason early by signing KHL standout Miro Aaltonen. A 2013 sixth round pick of the Anaheim Ducks that went unsigned, Aaltonen had a breakout season with Vityaz Podolsk. His production earned him an NHL contract and a minor role for Finland at the 2017 World Championships.

Toronto Maple Leafs Roster Preview, 50-in-50: Miro Aaltonen

Prior to 2016-17, Aaltonen had spent his entire career in Finland. He was drafted at age 19 in the sixth round by the Anaheim Ducks in 2013, after an 11 goal campaign with the Espoo Blues of the SM-Liiga.

His point totals would continue to grow in the following seasons, reaching 16 goals and 37 points in 2014-15, but he remained unsigned by the Ducks. Aaltonen left the Blues organization for Karpat in 2015-16, where his totals stagnated at 35 points.

Miro Aaltonen decided to leave the familiar grounds of Finland last season in search for more exposure and a shot at the NHL. He signed with Vityaz Podolsk of the KHL, a team that was looking for a major offensive boost (their leading scorer in 2015-16 was Maxim Afinogenov, who scored just 28 points).

The decision paid off for the then 23-year old, as well as Vityaz Podolsk. After finishing 13th in the Western Conference in 2015-16, the club jumped to seventh for their first postseason appearance in the KHL. Alexei Kopeikin led the team in scoring with 51 points, while Afinogenov jumped to 47 points.

In third was Miro Aaltonen, scoring 19 goals and 44 points in his rookie season in the KHL. Aaltonen’s 2016-17 numbers put him at the top of the KHL in U24 scoring, and fourth in U24 points per game. He wasn’t the only Vityaz Podolsk player to turn their performance into an NHL contract either, as defenceman Jakub Jerabek signed with the Montreal Canadiens, and goaltender Harri Sateri signed with the Florida Panthers.

After Aaltonen signed with the Maple Leafs on March 17, Mike Babcock talked about the Finnish forward, saying “He plays fast, he shoots the puck, he’s a competitive guy. We think he’s a guy who can help our roster.”

Profile (via EliteProspects)

Age: 24

Position: C/W

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 172 lbs

NHL Entry Draft: Sixth Round, 177th Overall in 2013 by Anaheim

Contract (via CapFriendly)

As a 23-year old unsigned draft pick, Aaltonen had to sign a one-year entry level contract if he wanted to join an NHL team, which is exactly what he signed with the Leafs. Aaltonen will carry a base salary of $832,500, but received a signing bonus of $92,500, putting his cap hit at the maximum $925,000 for entry-level players. His contract also has some performance bonuses as well.

Aaltonen received full Schedule A bonuses from Toronto, which may reach a maximum of $850,000. This means the most the 24-year old Finnish forward can make in 2017-18 is $1,775,000, which only occurs if he plays in the NHL and reaches all criteria for his bonuses.

2017-18 Season

With the signing of Dominic Moore and the logjam of players at wing, Aaltonen is likely headed to the American Hockey League to start the upcoming season. He would need an incredible camp to push his way past the players on the Leafs depth chart that require waivers.

If Aaltonen’s transition to the North American game goes smoothly, he could become a primary call-up option for Toronto if/when injuries occur. His versatility in being able to play all three offensive positions is a benefit as well, so don’t be surprised to see the native of Joensuu, Finland at some point in the NHL this season.

Beginning the year, however, Aaltonen will likely be a key cog for the Marlies. The additions of Chris Mueller and Adam Brooks to the lineup could push Aaltonen to the left wing, where he can take over from Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft pick Brendan Leipsic.

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