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Markus Niemelainen keeps hitting for Edmonton Oilers

Markus Niemelainen is a soft spoken man who is often described as a loud hockey player.

The humble Finnish defenceman is a man of few words, but you can hear him when he hits the ice for the Edmonton Oilers. He’s established himself as a bone-rattling body checker. He’s reinforced that reputation during the Oilers pre-season, having dished out several big hits that are both eye-popping and ear-popping.

“It usually gets the guys fired up. It’s fun,” chuckled Niemelainen.

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“When he’s on the ice, the physicality level goes up. He defends hard. He’s not afraid to be in the shooting lane. He catches people by surprise sometimes with his level of timing and his ability to close quickly. He’s a great skater. He’s had a really good first part of training camp,” said head coach Jay Woodcroft.

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Niemelainen, 24, grew up in Finland. As he progressed through his hockey career, he realized he had to find a way to stand out. It turned out hitting was his path to the pros.

“I tried to be a skilled guy once. It didn’t work out,” said Niemelainen.

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“In order for him to carve out a niche at the National Hockey League level, he had to find a way in. He dedicated himself to adding that layer to his game. It’s not surprising him to Dave Manson and myself. We saw this everyday in Bakersfield,” said Woodcroft.

Making adjustments is a big part of Niemelainen’s journey. He was drafted into the OHL by the Saginaw Spirit and moved there when he was 17.

“It was different for sure, different culture and that kind of stuff. It was a long season and sometimes I missed my friends and family. But I got used to it,” recalled Niemelainen.

On Sunday, the Oilers assigned Xavier Bourgault, Seth Griffith, Noah Philp, Michael Kesselring, Philip Kemp, Olivier Rodrigue, Alex Peters, and Luke Esposito to Bakersfield in the AHL. Greg McKegg was played on waivers for the purpose of reassignment.

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The Oilers will host the Vancouver Canucks in a pre-season game Monday night at Rogers Place. The game is on 630 CHED with the Face-off Show at 5:30 p.m. The game will start at 7 p.m.

 

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