Mikael Hakkarainen will always have the honor of being traded straight up for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. He was the sole return for the Vegas Golden Knights when they sent Marc-Andre Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks last year in a salary dump. Unfortunately, he will no longer get a chance to further his hockey story. Hakkarainen has announced his retirement due to a heart condition that could threaten his life if he continued to play.
Selected in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, his story is one of unrealized potential, after starring in Finland minor hockey and then playing well at the USHL level for several years. After just one game with Providence College, he decided to leave the NCAA circuit, which could have potentially helped his development far more than the path he chose. After another year in the USHL, he entered professional hockey and barely played, suiting up just 14 total times in the AHL and another nine in the ECHL.
After the Fleury trade, the Golden Knights eventually terminated Hakkarainen’s contract to allow him a return to Europe. He played last season for Vasteras IK in the Swedish second tier, where he had 14 points in 26 games.
The 24-year-old hopes to continue in the hockey community in some way but can’t yet say what he’ll do next.