Defenseman Tommi Kivisto, a seventh-round pick of Carolina in the 2009 Entry Draft, returned to Finland following his selection after playing one season in the WHL, but returned to North America last summer for the Hurricanes’ prospect conditioning camp. (Photo by LTD)
With the deadline to sign European players selected in the 2009 Entry Draft approaching, the Carolina Hurricanes inked their third- and seventh-round pick from that season's draft Wednesday, getting both Swedish forward Mattias Lindstrom and Finnish defenseman Tommi Kivisto signed to three-year, entry-level contracts.
Lindstrom was selected 88th overall by Carolina in 2011 and played the past two seasons in Sweden, while Kivisto was chosen 208th overall out of Red Deer of the Western Hockey league, but opted to return to Finland that summer to play for Jokerit in SM-liiga in 2009-10 and 2010-11.Since being drafted, both players have experienced a some disappointments. For Lindstrom, it came in the way of injuries that have limited him to just a handful of games since he was drafted. The 6-4, 205-pound forward was compared to fellow Swede Tomas Holmstrom by International Scouting Services in their 2009 NHL Draft Guide, where they called Lindstrom "a huge truck on wheels [who] is impossible to stop once he gets going. Screens the goaltender on the powerplay – scores important goals from the top of the crease area." But an injury cost him nearly all of 2009-10 and the majority of the 2010-11 season, leaving the Hurricanes wondering if they would offer Lindstrom a contract this offseason.
"He’s had a tough road back from the injury, and that’s been disappointing for everybody, Mattias included," vice president and assistant general manager Jason Karmanos said back in November. "He’s in Skelleftea there, and actually our scouts are over there in Sweden now, so they have him on their schedule to see shortly. So we’ll get an update on where he is. But unfortunately to this point, we don’t have a lot beyond what we had prior to drafting him just because of the injuries. So we’ll need to get as good a report on him as we can this season, because the way it works now you get two years no matter where the guy’s been drafted [from], other than college players, and we’ll need to make a decision on whether we want to sign him at the end of the season."
As it turns out, Carolina must have felt confident enough in Lindstrom's skill level and recovery to commit to a three-year contract with him. Lindstrom, according to the Hurricanes, will join the team for prospect conditioning camp before a decision is made on whether he will be loaned to Skelleftea, his team in Finland, or begin his North American career in 2011-12. The Swedish paper Norran reported Tuesday that Lindstrom was close to signing and a translation of the article revealed that Lindstrom felt he would likely be lent back to his SEL team in 2011-12.
As part of his contract, Lindstrom receives a $120,000 signing bonus and if he makes it to the NHL will be paid $525,000 in each of his first two seasons and $550,000 in the final year of his contract. He will be paid $50,000, $55,000 and $60,000, respectively, in each of the three years if he plays in the American Hockey League.
Kivisto's disappointment came more from where he was selected rather than any injury issues. Projected as a fourth- or fith-rounder, Kivisto fell all the way to the final round and subsequently decided to return to Finland rather than playing in Red Deer, though he did return last summer to participate in prospect conditioning camp in Raleigh.
"We knew it was a possibility [that he’d return to Europe]," Karmanos said in the fall. "He came over as a pretty highly touted guy. He was very disappointed in how late he was drafted. He maybe had a difficult adjustment being in North America. The way it is now, players can develop in all situations. He made the decision on his own that he wanted to go back home. He came in here for conditioning camp and showed he’s a very mature kid for his age. He’s extremely well-conditioned, so the work ethic is not a problem.
"So that’s one’s comforting thing from an organization’s point of view is when someone is overseas, it is harder to monitor them on a day-to-day basis. Knowing that he’s a hard worker, and he conditions himself very well takes some of the concern away. He’s playing at a high level and adjusting to that, and we’ll continue to try and track his progress the best we can"
The 6-1, 195-pound Kivisto registered seven assists for Jokerit last season as the team's youngest blueliner and played for Finland in the past three IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championships. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2008 CHL Import Draft and had one goal and 21 assists with Red Deer in 2008-09.
As part of his contract, Kivisto is allowed to return to Jokerit next season before joining the Carolina organization in 2012-13. He also receives a $120,000 signing bonus and would earn $525,000 in the NHL and $55,000 in the AHL in all three years of his contract.