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Nokelainen Eager to Return to NHL

Monday, 09.19.2011 / 6:39 PM / Features
By Anthony Perez
GLENDALE -- After spending a year in Finland, forward Petteri Nokelainen is at training camp with the Coyotes and shooting for a rebirth in the NHL.

Petteri Nokelainen
Nokelainen, selected by the New York Islanders in the first round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, spent the early days of his career in the Islanders and Boston Bruins organizations. On March 4, 2009, he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks where he played 67 games and notched eight goals and nine assists.

The Coyotes acquired Nokelainen from the Ducks during the 2009-10 season. He played in 17 regular season games for Phoenix that year but was not kept on board for 2010-11.

Nokelainen returned to his native Finland and played last season for Jokerit Helsinki of the Finnish professional league. While in Helsinki, Nokelainen contributed 11 goals and 16 assists in 46 games. He also played for Finland in the IIHF World Championship and chipped in a goal and an assist.

His performance in Finland caught the eye of the Coyotes, and in May General Manager Don Maloney signed him to a one-year contract.

I didn’t come here to go to the American League. That’s my goal, to be on an NHL team and be a big part of the team, too." - Petteri Nokelainen
On Monday, after his third day of training camp at Jobing.com Arena, Nokelainen spoke about how excited he is to be pursuing a second life in the NHL with the Coyotes.

“I just felt it was so easy to come back here because you know the guys, you know the coaching staff, and I had only good memories from here,” Nokelainen said. “Everyone has treated me well, from the coaching staff to the players. I had only good times and good memories from here. So, I was happy to be back here.”

Head Coach Dave Tippett likes Nokelainen’s versatility.

“He’s a big physical guy (and) he’s a utility player,” Tippett said. “He can play all three forward positions; he’s done some penalty killing. He’s a big guy that can play pretty hard. He’s got a little meanness to his game… He had a very good year in Europe last year so we decided to give him another shot.”

Petteri Nokelainen. Photo by Getty Images.
While he missed the NHL, Nokelainen believes playing a full season in Jokerit will serve him well now.

“I think it was actually really good for me to go back and play big minutes and get healthy,” Nokelainen said. “I had so many seasons in the NHL where I had injuries and didn’t play that much, so it was really good for me to go back and kind of calm down and practice and kind of get back in it.”

While the Coyotes have a lot of depth in training camp, Nokelainen has set the bar high with the expectation of making the NHL roster.

“I didn’t come here to go to the American League,” Nokelainen said. “That’s my goal, to be on an NHL team and be a big part of the team, too… All I can do is play the best I can.”
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