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Prince George Cougars' import roster Finnish-ed with Jonni Karkkainen's signing

Cats drafted Karkkainen 12th overall at 2020 CHL Import Draft

It's official!

The Prince George Cougars' intake of imported players has been solidified for the 2020-21 season as Jonni Karkkainen has signed a WHL standard player agreement.

The Finland forward was selected 12th overall at the 2020 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft exactly one month ago on June 30 and is the second player from the northern European nation to be taken by the Cats in the event's history.

The 17-year-old's signing today (July 30) means he and Czech Republic's Filip Koffer will make up the import portion of the Cougars' roster next season.

"I'm just really happy and excited to come play in Prince George," said Karkkanien in an interview with Cougars Broadcaster Fraser Rodgers a few days after being called at the draft.

"I think I'm a pretty good all-around player and I hope the coaches really like what I do on the ice. I may not be the most talented player, but I work really hard."

Karkkainen is bringing plenty of international experience to northern B.C., having suited up for Finland's national team at the Under-16 and -17 levels to date and recording four points in 17 games when wearing white and blue.

The six-foot-one Kerava product has been in HIFK Helsinki's system since coming onto the junior scene in 2017, and served as the team's U-16 captain and U-18 alternate captain.

"He has natural leadership abilities as he has been a captain for his team in Finland," said Prince George General Manager and Head Coach Mark Lamb after drafting Karkkainen

"He can play both centre and wing, and has all the intangibles you look for in a young player. We believe he’ll fit right in.”

Karkkainen said he looks forward to coming to Canada to play on North American ice, but to also learn a new culture.

"I always want to win and I really think we can win with the Cougars," he said.

"I'm looking for learning new things especially a new language for me. I can't wait to learn to speak English properly and I think I will learn many new things next year."

With HIFK Helsinki last year, Karkkainen put up 18 points in 29 games, including nine goals and nine assists.

As of Monday (July 27), the CN Centre is closed for the rest of 2020, which was unanimously approved by city council and supported by the Cougars.

The WHL's tentative 2020-21 start date is Oct. 2, but it must receive the go-ahead from health officials in all six of its jurisdictions, including B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, before it can start planning a full 68-game season.