It will forever be a story of “what if?” Defenseman Juuso Riikola has left the Pittsburgh Penguins and North America to sign a contract in the Swedish Elite League.
Riikola was the toast of Penguins training camp in 2018, as he zipped all over the ice, played physical, and impressed everyone with how quickly he picked up the North American game.
Riikola played 37 NHL games in his rookie year and scored seven points (2-5-7). He played 36 NHL games in his sophomore season, again with seven points, but dipped to just two last season and five this season.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The original headline of the story indicated IK Oskarshamn was in Finland. We regret the error.
An injury cost Riikola his big chance in 2020-21. As injuries decimated the Penguins blue line, Riikola was in line for an extended NHL run. However, two games into his opportunity, he also suffered an injury.
In training camp, head coach Mike Sullivan expressed regret that Riikola missed his big chance, and Riikola never got another one. He played 53 games with the WBS Penguins this season and posted a solid 35-point season (1-34-35).
“My four years in North America were a good time of life, but I felt it was time for change and the next chapter of my career. I’ve heard good things about the team and the city. I think my style of play will work in the team,” Riikola said via the Finnish press release.
Vi har en ny spelare att presentera! Juuso Riikola är klar för spel i IK under nästkommande säsong. Välkommen till oss Juuso! Läs mer om övergången på hemsidan 📲 https://t.co/3VzJV8EqVe pic.twitter.com/1cKuXHUhoa
— IK Oskarshamn (@iko_officiell) May 25, 2022
The Pittsburgh Penguins also inked WBS Penguins captain Taylor Fedun to a two-year, two-way contract with an AAV just over 762k at the NHL level.
As the WBS captain, the right-handed defenseman scored 16 points, including five goals.
Fedun, 33, has played parts of seven seasons in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, and the Dallas Stars, appearing in 127 games. In his NHL career, he has eight goals, 27 assists, 35 points, and is plus-7.
From the Penguins press release:
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound blueliner’s best season came with Dallas in 2018-19, where he recorded career highs across the board in games played (54), goals (4), assists (7), and points (11). Fedun has also appeared in 18 career Stanley Cup Playoff contests, including 11 games during the Stars run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020.
Fedun has also spent 11 seasons in the AHL, picking up 46 goals, 151 assists, 197 points, and a plus-43 in 400 regular-season games. He served as an alternate captain for multiple teams, including Rochester (2017-19), Utica (2015-16), and Oklahoma City (2013-14).