Pokka the Bear: Islanders sign Finnish defenseman to ELC

The only known North American picture of Ville Pokka - Bruce Bennett

Now what we going to talk about?

No, he's not a starting goaltender, or even a high profile first rounder finishing his junior career in style.

But the Islanders signing of young Finnish defender Ville Pokka to a three-year Entry Level Contract will ease fans' minds a great deal and plant hopes that another promising piece is in the fold.

The clock on Pokka had been ticking all season around these pages as the 19-year-old had an outstanding year for Karpat of SM-Liiga and his home country. He was nominated for the Finnish league's best defenseman award during a championship season for Karpat, and finished with six goals and 21 assists in 54 regular season games and two goals and nine assists in 16 playoff games. The second round pick from 2012 (34th overall) also took time off from Karpat to help Finland to the gold medal at this year's World Junior Championship.

Not bad for 19.

Pokka came in at No. 14 in our Top 25 Under 25 poll and his reputation seems to be more of a game-manager and slick decision-maker than a banger. It's unclear at this point whether he will remain in Europe next season, or cross the Atlantic to play at Bridgeport. Hopefully, we can get a look at him soon enough.

Although still very much a prospect in need of evaluation, the palpable worry that Pokka would go unsigned and re-enter the draft was due to a few factors, specifically A. the Islanders not playing in the playoffs; B. building the case to be excited for next season; C. a recitable list of talented young players that were once Islanders property now tantalizing other teams (Niederreiter! Spurgeon! Kichton! Blake Kessel!); and D. the eternal fear of the Islanders Islander-ing up yet another slam dunk.

But Pokka follows Jaroslav Halak, Lubomir Visnovsky and even a once NCAA loophole eligible Anders Lee as players that showed all the signs of walking and decided to stay. If they're not careful, the Islanders could make this a habit.

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