Drafted in the fifth round of the 2021 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders, Finnish forward Eetu Liukas was sent to play his first full season with TPS of Finland's SM-Liiga.
The previous season, the 6'2" 205lbs winger played 19 games for TPS putting up a goal and three points. He also played three games at the U20 level scoring no points. Doesn't sound like production to rave about, but the Isles saw a bunch of Liukas last year with 2018 second-round pick Ruslan Iskhakov suiting up for TPS in 20-21.
The Islanders knew they were drafting a physical forward with a good shot and that prided themselves on a strong defensive game. But that could also add some depth offense.
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And through the 2021-22 season, that's what Liukas delivered on all of that. His game helped push TPS out of a rut midway through the Liiga season and into a playoff spot. And then in the playoffs, he once again lifted his team up and helped bring them close to a championship.
In 48 regular-season games, Liukas scored 12 points, eight of which were goals. From January through March, Liukas scored three-quarters of his production with five goals and four helpers. His contributions were noticed league-wide. Fellow Finn and Islanders prospect stopped to tell Liukas exactly that after both had faced each other during the year.
When it came to the playoffs, where depth offense and grind-it-out type of players shine, Liukas stepped up. In 17 games he produced four points, all goals. None were are important as this one in Game 6 vs Ilves.
That goal proved to be the game winner and sent TPS to the Liiga finals for the second year running.
Unfortunately, in the finals TPS ran into the top team in the regular season; Tappara. In five games TPS fell to Tappara. They kept it close, only by more than one goal once.
Overall, it was a good year for Liukas. He took a step up even if it was primarily from the third or fourth line. His time in Finland isn't yet done. He'll likely stay one more year before making the leap to North America. Now we wait and see if this fifth-rounder can take another step up.