Elite Series: Janne Laakkonen returns to complete Blaze roster

Image: Scott Wiggins

Image: Scott Wiggins

The Coventry Blaze have completed their 2021 Elite Series roster by signing Finnish forward Janne Laakkonen.

After spending the 2019/20 season with the Blaze, the 38-year-old playmaker returns as a fan favourite at the Skydome Arena.

The 5’9” winger enjoyed an impressive season under Danny Stewart last term, leading the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) with 40 assists. Laakkonen also registered nine goals in the Elite League, finishing the campaign with 49 points in 43 appearances.

The Finnish winger also featured in eight Challenge Cup games, registering nine points before Coventry’s elimination against the Manchester Storm. Laakkonen was also selected in EIHL fans’ Second All-Star Team for the 2019/20 season.

After a successful first season in Coventry, the Finn agreed terms to return for the Blaze in 2020/21. However, as a result of the Elite League’s eventual cancellation, Laakkonen instead spent time in Austria and Norway.

Initially, he moved to EHC Lustenau, registering nine points in eight Alps Hockey League appearances. The left-shot forward left Austria in December, joining Norwegian Eliteserien outfit Narvik where he contributed two points in four games before the season was cancelled.

Image: Scott Wiggins

Image: Scott Wiggins

Blaze head coach Stewart said: "I'm really, really excited to bring Janne back. He is a special player and has a quality that not a lot of players have. He makes our powerplay better and whoever he plays with better." 

The popular Finn has gained a wealth of European experience throughout his 20-year professional career, making over 550 appearances in the Finnish top-flight with HPK and KalPa. During his spell in the Finnish Liiga, Laakkonen registered 380 points.

After leaving Finland in 2013/14, Laakkonen has enjoyed stand-out seasons in Sweden, Kazakhstan, Belarus, France, and Poland. 

In 2018/19, he registered ten points for GKS Katowice in the IIHF Continental Cup. Two years earlier, the Finns' 55 points in 52 games helped Neman Grodno win a Belarusian Championship.

Coventry Blaze Roster:

Head Coach: Danny Stewart

Goaltenders: Shane Owen, Jordan Hedley, Will Bray

Defencemen: Nicolai Bryhnisveen, Max Krogdahl, Paul Swindlehurst, Chris Pohlkamp, Cole Shudra, Paul Clements, Sam Russell

Forwards: Nick Jermain, Luke Ferrara, Janne Laakonnen, Tristan Keck, Mike Hammond, Sam Duggan, Ross Venus, Simen Andre Edvardsen, Alex Forbes, Toms Rutkis, Mac Howlett, Ivan Antonov, Austin Mitchell-King

Coventry's Team GB-eligible players were acquired during the Elite Series Draft. In addition to the draft, five returning Blaze players were added to the protected list.

Fixture List: Coventry Blaze begin their Elite Series campaign with an 'away' game against the Manchester Storm on Saturday 3 April at 14:00. Coventry's full fixture list is available, here.

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