Finnish kid has quite a shot

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Jyri Niemi spent a lot of time working on his shot in the off-season and last night it paid off, unloading a pair of bombs to win the hardest shot competition at the Home hardware CHL Top Prospects skills competition.

The 18-year-old native of Hameenkyro, Finland, registered 97 miles per hour on both his attempts to take the honours.

"I knew I could shoot the puck," Niemi said. "Before I left, (teammate) Colton Gillies said he expected me to win this, so this is for him."

Niemi, in his first year with the Saskatoon Blades, has nine goals and 10 assists in 29 games. He was Saskatoon's first pick - 13th overall - in last year's CHL Import Draft.

"I play on the point on the power play," Niemi said. "I've done it all season long and throughout my career so it's no big deal. I work hard in the summer on my shot."

Niemi, who will play for Team Red in tonight's top prospect game is ranked 29th among draft-eligible players currently in North America.

Last night his team cruised to an easy 17-9 win in the skills competition, that, along with hardest shot, also included a puck relay, a fastest skater competition, shooting accuracy, penalty-shot relay and a three-on-three scrimmage.

Brandon McMillan of the Kelowna Rockets won the fastest skater event, clocking in at a time of 13.897 seconds.

"It was a great experience," McMillan said. "I had a great time. I almost had a little slip in the corner, but I was trying to get the crossovers going, move my feet and it worked out well."

Defenceman Michael Del Zotto of the Oshawa Generals won the accurate shooting event, going a perfect four-for-four. In 43 games with the Generals this season the Stouffville, Ont., native has 11 goals and 34 assists.

"I've never done the targets before," he said. "I was a little nervous coming into it. I just wanted to hit the first one and get my confidence up and go from there. Apparently it worked out well."

Tonight, things aren't expected to be as loose as they were during the skills competition as the players try to impress the numerous scouts in attendance.

"It's not going to be a typical all-star game, that's for sure" Del Zotto said. "Everyone is going to be looking to prove themselves and compete on every single shift and not take a shift off. There is going to be a lot of banging out there."


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