October 02, 2014

Arto Javanainen

When we North Americans think of the all time greats from Finland, we think of Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, among others. But very few will mention the name Arto Javanainen.

Arto who?

Arto Javanainen. He was the long time star of the Assat Pori (and, for two seasons, TPS Turku). He was a five time SM-Liiga (that was Finland's top league's name) scoring champion. When he retired he was the all time leader in goals, assists and points. He represented Finland at the 1981 Canada Cup, the 1982 and 1983 World Championships and the 1984 Olympics.

Jari Kurri's NHL success had the NHL searching for the next great Finnish finnishers. Yet they shied away from Javanainen for whatever reason. He was not drafted until he was 24 years old when the Montreal Canadiens grabbed him in 1983 (113th overall). The Habs never signed him however. And, as per the rules of the day, Javanainen returned to the draft pool the next year.

The Pittsburgh Penguins took Javanainen 85th overall in 1984. Somewhat surprisingly, Javanainen was the very first European player ever drafted by the Penguins. 

The Pens did sign Javanainen. He came to North American for the 1984-85 season, and put up solid numbers in the minor leagues with AHL Baltimore. He also got a call up for 14 games in the NHL, scoring 4 goals and 5 points.

Javanainen returned home after that season. He probably could have put some decent goal totals had he remained in Pittsburgh, especially with Mario Lemieux's arrival around the same time. Had Javanainen and Lemieux ever found any success, the comparisons to Gretzky and Kurri would have been inevitable.

Javanainen went home, enjoyed many more years in Finland, and was inducted in their Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately Javanainen became ill and passed away back in 2011. He was just 51 years old.

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