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Florida Panthers sign Aleksi Heponiemi to three-year, entry-level contract

Robert Murray/WHL

 

Aleksi Heponiemi is officially a member of the Florida Panthers.

The 2018 WHL Champion put pen to paper on a three-year, entry-level contract Wednesday with the National Hockey League club.

Heponiemi’s path to the Western Hockey League and the NHL began when the Swift Current Broncos selected him 10th overall in the 2016 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

His offensive skills quickly translated from Europe to North America, with the Finnish forward recording 86 points (28G-58A) in 72 regular season games. During the 2016-17 season, Heponiemi ranked first among WHL rookies in both assists and points. That performance earned Heponiemi the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as WHL Rookie of the Year.

In 14 WHL Playoff games that season, Heponiemi recorded eight assists. Later that summer, the Tampere, Finland, product was selected in the second round, 40th overall, by the Panthers at the 2017 NHL Draft.

“We are thrilled to have agreed to terms with Aleksi,” said Panthers President of Hockey Operations & General Manager Dale Tallon in a release issued by the Panthers Wednesday. “He is an immensely skilled and dynamic player with excellent vision and hockey IQ. Aleksi has been an elite player at every level and a leader on winning teams on the junior and international stages.

“We look forward to Aleksi’s development with the Panthers and believe he will be an important part of our organization’s success for years to come.”

Heponiemi returned to the WHL for the 2017-18 season, which would be full of team and individual successes.

The Bronco forward would finish the regular season third in WHL scoring with 118 points (28G-90A) over 57 games. His 90 assists led the league. As part of his team’s memorable season, Heponiemi recorded the longest point streak in the league that season, earning 69 points (19G-50A) over a 28-game point streak from October 14, 2017 to January 21, 2018.

Adding more memories in the 2018 WHL Playoffs, Heponiemi finished fourth in league scoring with 30 points (5G-25A) in 26 games, helping the Broncos win their first WHL Championship since 1993.

Incurring just 28 penalty minutes to go along with his impressive offensive totals, Heponiemi was named the recipient of the Brad Hornung Trophy as the WHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player, earning the Bumper to Bumper CHL Sportsman of the Year Award as well.

Through his two seasons in the WHL, Heponiemi recorded 204 points (56G-148A) in 129 WHL regular season games, including 18 power-play goals and 12 game-winning goals. He’s also accumulated 38 points (5G-33A) in 40 WHL Playoff games, including one power-play goal and two game-winning goals.

At the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, Heponiemi won gold alongside fellow WHL Alumni Henri Jokiharju and Sami Moilanen.

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