The Winnipeg Jets are returning forward Kristian Vesalainen to the American Hockey League without even playing a game during his brief call-up.
The Jets announced on Tuesday they have reassigned Vesalainen to the Manitoba Moose just four days after his recall. But the Jets are expecting Vesalainen to exercise his option to return to Finland.
Vesalainen has a clause in his contract that permits him to play overseas anytime after November 17 if he’s not in the National Hockey League. His KHL rights are currently owned by Jokerit.
“It’s probably the expectation that he’s going back,” general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told reporters.
“Brought him up and had some good time with him here to discuss the possibility of what he was looking at in the future. The biggest thing for all players is to play and certainly for a 19-year-old player. So we’ve assigned him back to the Moose and we’ll look at the different options here with his representatives just from a logistics standpoint of what happens moving forward here.”
Vesalainen, 19, made the Jets out of training camp and appeared in five NHL games where he recorded just one assist. He was then reassigned to the Moose where he averaged a point per game with three goals and five assists in eight AHL contests.
Cheveldayoff compared the move to sending a young player back to junior.
“If we felt that he was ready to contribute on a regular basis up here, he’d be here,” Cheveldayoff said.
There’s also now a good chance Vesalainen plays for Finland at the World Junior Championships. If Vesalainen plays in Europe, he wouldn’t be eligible to return to the Jets or the Moose until his season in the KHL is over.
The move leaves the Jets with 22 players on their active roster, one short of the league maximum.
Vesalainen was the Jets’ first round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft where they used the 24th overall pick to select the Finnish winger.