Merelä, 24, spent 2022-23 with Liiga club Tappara, recording 15 goals and 33 points in 41 games while capturing his second consecutive Liiga championship. The right-winger was under contract with Tappara for 2023-24 but will now head stateside.
Merelä is quite the late bloomer, not even getting a look in Finland’s U20 league during his draft year, 2015-16. He’s pushed his development into overdrive since, however, and has showcased himself as one of the top U25 forwards in the Liiga.
He briefly appeared for Finland at this year’s Men’s World Championship, scoring a goal in one appearance, a 7-1 win against Hungary.
Merelä does have a decent chance to crack Tampa’s opening night roster, with some holes bound to be created in their forward corps by free-agent departures. Alex Killorn, Corey Perry, and Pierre-Édouard Bellemare are all pending unrestricted free agents and could either retire or price themselves out of a return.
He has proper size at 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds, and he does have a fair amount of physicality to his game. At first glance, he appears well-suited for a bottom-six role in head coach Jon Cooper’s system.