After grappling with the choice between playing in his native Finland, or bringing his talents across the pond to North America, Detroit Red Wings prospect Vili Saarijarvi has opted to play for the Flint Firebirds for the upcoming 2015-16 season.
Saarijarvi was drafted in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft by Detroit this off-season, and was then subsequently drafted 9th overall by the Firebirds on June 30th in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. He signed an entry-level deal with Detroit on July 3rd.
While he already had a contract in place to play in Finland, the decision was his whether he wanted to stay overseas or come develop his game in North America. He ultimately decided that playing in the OHL would have far more benefits for his development than playing in Finland. Via MLive:
“It was mine,” Saarijarvi said of his decision. “All of mine. Of course they tell what they think, but that’s all me. I have heard good things about the Ontario Hockey League. That’s a big thing, and I think it’s a good step for me.
“It helps a lot, so they can come watch me and I can watch some Red Wings games. They said it’s probably going to be good for you, and I thought it was going to be good for me.”
The Firebirds’ home opener is on September 26th against the Saginaw Spirit.