When Iiro Pakarinen was waived by the Edmonton Oilers and assigned to the Condors on Dec. 2, he didn’t need to be told why.
He knew his major deficiency.
“They didn’t tell me that much, but I know myself what I have to do better,” said Pakarinen, a seventh-round pick of the Oilers in 2011. “I didn’t score any goals up there. Played 18 games and only had one assist. I think that was the one thing they were not happy about so that’s a thing I have to get better and and I think I have.”
While Pakarinen, 26, struggled to score goals in his limited role in Edmonton as a fourth, and sometimes third-line player, he has found that touch with the Condors.
In 17 games with the Condors, Pakarinen has put up 13 points (nine goals, four assists).
“I just keep doing my thing,” Pakarinen said. “Obviously I play more here than I did in Edmonton. Here I’m second/third line guy and play penalty kill and power play. I just try to shoot the puck as much as I can. That’s my thing — play physical and shoot the puck.”
Condors coach Gerry Fleming said that while Pakarinen’s on-ice contributions are significant, he brings much more to the table.
“It’s good having him here, just for the mere fact we’ve got a young team and they can look up to him and see the things Iiro does and the type of player and person that he is,” Fleming said.
For his part, Pakarinen said being with the Condors is a two-fold opportunity: one, to improve himself and the second to help younger players in any way he can.
“Of course it was a big disappointment for me (to be waived) and not being picked up on waivers, either,” he said. “ At the same time it’s a good chance for me to get better here. To play a lot of minutes here and to get better as a player. I think that’s a good thing for me and I think that’s what I need right now.”
As for being a leader, Pakarinen stresses work ethic and positivity.
“I just try to work as hard as I can every day and show some example for the younger guys here and bring some positive energy every day here at the rink, he said. “I think practice is a little up and down when you’re younger. Sometimes you get a little bit tired. It’s pretty tough in this league, too. It’s a lot of travel so taking care of yourself, how you recover, how you eat, how you sleep, all those things. I try to tell them how to do those things and I think they’re getting better and better at it all the time.”
As is Pakarinen’s game.
He scored a goal in his first three games and is now on the longest point streak in the Condors brief AHL history — seven games (goals in five straight and assists in his last two).
“He’s got a heavy, fast shot,” Fleming said. “He’s a complete player. He does everything well. From his practice habits, game preparation, his on-ice habits, he’s a pretty complete player. He plays physical, is responsible without the puck, makes good plays with the puck and has a bomb for a shot.”
Pakarinen said he is trying to take advantage of his increased ice time, especially on the power play.
“On the power play my mentality is to shoot almost every time we have the puck,” he said. “Five on five I try to make some plays but the on the power play I try to be the shooter and shoot the puck as much as I can.”