Ville Pokka — Pokka rose through the Finnish international ranks starting as a 16 year old with Karpat Oulu on the U16 and U18 teams and playing for Finland’s U16 team. In 2010, Pokka made his SM-Liiga debut with Karpat, but played primarily with the U20 Karpat team, leading all defenders in scoring.
His international duties would continue with Finland’s U17 and U18 teams in the World Hockey Challenge and World Junior Championship. After successful runs with the development program at Karpat, Pokka played in 35 games for the club in his first full season in SM-Liiga and played for Finland at the 2012 U20 and U18 World Junior Championship.
Pokka was invited to the NHL Draft Combine and ranked seventh among European skaters prior to the 2012 NHL Draft, in which he was selected in the second round, 34th overall, by the New York Islanders. His success in SM-Liiga would continue with Karpat after his NHL draft selection, as he played in 47 games in his second full season and represented Finland in the 2013 World Junior Championship. After a gold medal at the U20 World Juniors with Finland, Pokka signed his entry-level deal with the Islanders and would skate in New York’s training camp in the summer of 2014 before being part of the Nick Leddy trade between Chicago and the Islanders.
Pokka’s first North American season would be the 2014-15 campaign with the Rockford IceHogs. He played in 68 games in the AHL, scoring 30 points with a dead-even plus-minus rating. His skill set compares nicely to that of Duncan Keith: a well-rounded defender who has ideal size and can skate for days.
Pokka looks to be a two-way player on the blue-line who can produce offensively while still being solid on the defensive end. He’s spent the 2015-16 season in Rockford as teammates Viktor Svedberg and Erik Gustafsson have had the majority of chances at the NHL level. Pokka should be considered a solid option for the Blackhawks’ blue line starting next season after the dismal season the defensive core has had this year.
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