Publicerad: 2023-02-24
Not many players go from unproven to dominating the way Antti Suomela has in the SHL this season. He has filled the shoes of Fredrik Olofsson and is currently leading the SHL in goals and points. One secret to the success is the chemistry he’s found with linemates Karlkvist and Oksanen in IK Oskarshamn.

”Suomela should be a quality center. We’ve lost a few guys, but he should be able to be there and be a driving force on our center side. If we’re talking top three lines, you need to be able to control the game offensively and still be a reliable player on the ice. He should be a leading player on our team.”

Those were Martin Filander’s – headcoach of IK Oskarshamn – words when they signed Antti Suomela in may 2022. Time would very much give Filander right, but surely not even Filander could’ve foreseen the amplitude of the success. Suomela was after all unproven at SHL level.

”I knew I could score goals and points, but maybe not at this rate. Then again, if you lead the league in goals and points, it’s also because you have good linemates. Patrik and Ahti have helped me a lot this season”, Suomela himself says.

An upgrade from last years superline

Rightful praise, for sure. The line with Patrik Karlkvist, Antti Suomela and Ahti Oksanen has been kicking from the get go, arguably being the strongest offensive force in the SHL this season. Suomela is taking a crack at beating Håkan Loob's famous "unbeatable" goal record (42 goals in 36 games), with 34 goals and seven games left to play. Patrik Karlkvist is right behind him in points total while Ahti Oksanen is tied seventh in the league. When asked about the chemistry they’ve found, Antti Suomela talks with warmth about his linemates.

”I knew that they had a really good line last year (Karlkvist, Olofsson, Rosdahl) so I knew what was expected of me, and that I had to play even better than they did. Filander told me that they wanted someone who could skate, set up plays and score goals, and I felt that I could do that, even though I knew it wouldn’t be easy.”

”I actually knew Ahti (Oksanen) before”, Suomela continues. ”We are from the same place in Finland, even though we had never played on the same team. But we met before going to Sweden. Preseason is hard, you haven’t played hockey in a few months and your game is a bit off, but still we found good chemistry, creating good scoring chances right away.”


The new superline in IK Oskarshamn: Karlkvist, Oksanen and Suomela. Photo: Bildbyrån.

Bankruptcy unlikely door opener

Antti Suomela and Ahti Oksanen both grew up playing youth hockey in Espoo Blues, a club in the outskirts of Finnish capital Helsinki. Before turning pro, Ahti Oksanen took the college route at Boston University, while Antti Suomela stayed in Finland, however changing teams to league rival JYP.

”Blues was a good place to play hockey, but unfortunately the club went bankrupt my first year as a pro, so I was free to seek a new club. I got a couple of offers, and JYP’s seemed like the best one. So I moved to Jyväskylä and had a couple of good years there.”

Indeed he had. Antti Suomela and JYP Jyväskylä won a bronze medal the first year, and went on to win the Champions Hockey League during his second year with the club. In fact, Suomela was so impressive that he not only was on that year’s Team Finland roster for the World Championships, he also received a ton of interest from the NHL.

”I had offers from 15 NHL clubs, and decided to sign with the San Jose Sharks. They simply had the best plan for me, and even though I didn’t play well enough to hold a spot in the NHL I still think I made the right decision”, Antti Suomela says.

A beginning of a new chapter

After two and a half years he was unwillingly traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, which, in retrospect, was the beginning of the end to his stint in North America. It was also the beginning of a new chapter of his hockey career, a chapter called ”SHL”.

”Oskarshamn was the first team that showed interest in signing me this season, and I thought 'wow, they really trust me and want me on their team'. I talked to both Thomas Fröberg (GM) and Martin Filander. They explained what they thought I could bring to the team and my role. It felt like the perfect package and I really feel like I made a good choice. I have really enjoyed being here.”

However, his time in Oskarshamn is not over yet, regardless of what happens next season. Antti Suomela still has a race to the playoffs and potentially more to look forward to.

”Yeah, our goal is to reach the playoffs for sure. If we do, we know anything can happen. We trust our team and have a lot of fun together. After Christmas we’ve really stepped up as a team, but we’re not satisfied. We still want to develop and become even better. If we can take our game to the next level I know we have every chance to upset a few teams in the playoffs”, Antti Suomela says confidently.

Johan Hagesund
SHL:s huvudpartners