Two more young players will spend the next several months playing overseas, as Otto Somppi of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Oskari Laaksonen of the Buffalo Sabres have been loaned to the Lahti Pelicans in Finland. Both players can be recalled when NHL training camps open.
Somppi, 22, is another one of Tampa Bay’s late-round draft picks that the organization has committed to developing. The 206th overall pick in 2016, Somppi has now been in their minor league system for two seasons, scoring 18 points in 45 games for the Syracuse Crunch this year. A 6’2″ center that exploded with 83 points in his final year of junior for the Halifax Mooseheads, he’ll be a restricted free agent after the 2020-21 season when his entry-level deal expires.
Laaksonen meanwhile has no experience on North American ice, having played the last three seasons with Ilves in Finland after his 2017 selection by Buffalo. The 21-year-old defenseman was a third-round pick and competed for Finland at the 2019 World Juniors, winning a gold medal alongside other talented defenders like Henri Jokiharju, Urho Vaakanainen and Ville Heinola.
Unlike Somppi, Laaksonen still has plenty of time under contract with the Sabres after only inking his entry-level deal a few months ago. It would be a lot less surprising to see him spend the entire 2020-21 season overseas, though at some point the Buffalo organization would likely want to see him compete in the AHL. That was likely the plan for this season, though Laaksonen was actually signed to his entry-level deal just a day before the team fired GM Jason Botterill.