No place like NHL for Finnish winger

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:39 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Janne Pesonen gave European hockey a try. He played there for many years even. He is, after all, from Finland.

Give him a chance to play in the KHL or the NHL, however, and Pesonen would pick North America every time.

“I wanted another chance here, and I really enjoy playing hockey in North America,” the Winnipeg Jets hopeful said Wednesday. “It’s more intense and even though the rink is smaller and I’m not a big guy, I still like the game way more here.”

Pesonen, who is 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, was picked by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the ninth round of the 2004 draft, but he remained in Finland to play for Karpat. After notching 34 goals and 44 assists in 56 games during the Finnish Elite League’s 2007-08 season, he gave the NHL a try the following year with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It didn’t go as well as he had hoped, however, as he appeared in only seven games for the big club and the rest of the 2008-09 campaign with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

So back to Europe he went, signing with Kazan Ak-Bars of the KHL. He scored 28 goals in 88 games over the last two seasons before getting his agent to send out NHL feelers once again.

The Jets took a chance on the winger, giving him a tryout as an unsigned player, and have been giving him plenty of opportunity to make his mark. He played on the first line with Andrew Ladd in last Tuesday’s pre-season opener, and he was with Alex Burmistrov and Nik Antropov on Wednesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.

In between, the 29-year-old missed four or five days of training camp with a charley horse, which is never good when you’re an unsigned free agent.

“In a matter of 10 or 12 or 14 days, those days are a big difference,” head coach Claude Noel said. “But we’ll take that into account.”

Noel likes Pesonen’s smarts, and the brass is no doubt looking for any kind of offensive punch to add to a lineup that could use a little scoring. Noel said there are a couple of forward spots up for grabs, and Pesonen is one of 23 still in the mix for about 15 spots.

If that means he has to throw his weight around, Pesonen is all for it.

“I don’t mind it,” he said. “It gets you more into the game, obviously, when you get a couple hits or give a couple hits.”


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