Sheffield Steelers: New arrival is backed to make big impression by Aaron Fox

Janne Kolehmainen will not be anywhere near match-fit when he makes his debut for Sheffield Steelers on Friday night.

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 10:21 am
Aaron Fox. Sheffield Steelers head coach. Picture: Dean Woolley

But he comes with the unmistakable pedigree of a player who has scaled the heights of European hockey.

Kolehmainen is a veteran of 36 Champions Hockey League encounters - in fact, he won the competition in February last year, when underdogs JYP beat Växjö Lakers 2–0 in Sweden to become the first non-Swedish team to win the coveted title.

The Finn scored a dramatic empty-net goal with 20 seconds on the clock. It was a career-defining moment that will doubtless stay with him forever.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Kolehmainen is a former teammate of Mikko Kuukka, who was pleased to add his recommendation when coach Aaron Fox said an agent had suggested him to the club.

The new recruit, who was picked by Ottawa Senators 115th overall in the 2005 NHL Draft, will have to try and hit the ground running .

He was scheduled to arrive in England on Thursday, have his first and only practice session on home ice, and then on Friday he and the rest of the squad will head to Leeds airport and on to Belfast Giants for that evening's match.

Fox has not seen him play live, but has studied Kolehmainen on video.

Six-foot three Kolehmainen, while a hard-working two-way player, is not regarded as a naturally gifted goalscorer.

He has hit the net just seven times in the last two Liiga seasons with JYP, who are currently fourth in their division after finishing 10th last year.

Fox told The Star: "He comes from a pretty solid Finnish side which won the CHL two years ago. We needed a heavy body that is reliable, responsible and can help us win tight games.

"He hasn't played this season. Like Kuukko he has been holding out, looking for the right job and he is with us now for the full year.

"Will he be 100 per cent game ready? Probably not.

"But I think he will be the type of player who helps us get bigger, helps us on the penalty kill and is capable of closing out games."

Marco Vallerand is recovering from injury, skated on Wednesday and could be fit to join the squad en route to Belfast.

Robert Dowd's situation will be determined closer to game-time. He is less likely to play and has an injury that might benefit from a week's rest.

Eric Meland will go back on to defence, this weekend, with three import d-men all out.