Earlier today, the Tampa Bay Lightning signed Finnish forward Otto Somppi to an entry-level contract. He is expected to report to the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. Somppi was one of two seventh-round picks for the Lightning in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, selected 206th overall. Entering the draft, Somppi had 13 goals and 46 points in 59 games played for the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL. He had also had a goal and an assist for Team Finland in the U18 World Junior Championships.
The season following his draft, Somppi improved his QMJHL career high in goals to 17, but his assists dropped off and he only put up 41 points in 60 games played. He added a single assist in four playoff games. At the end of the season, it was doubtful if Somppi would improve enough to earn an entry level contract. Typically a forward needs to score at a point-per-game pace in juniors, especially when they are a late-round pick. Teams look for prospects to show enough offense in juniors to suggest they can make the jump to the AHL.
After his lack of growth in his second season in the QMJHL, it was imperative for Somppi to make strides in his offensive performance. He answered the bell and put in 28 goals and added 55 assists to bring his points total to 83 points in 59 games leading the Mooseheads in assists and points. It was just the season he needed to show the Lightning he had potential.
As a professional, Somppi will bring some flexibility to the Syracuse Crunch as a speedy two-way player that can play center and on the wing. Listed at 6’0 and 181 pounds, he has good size, but will likely still add 5-10 pounds to his frame over the next few seasons with a professional workout regimen.
For this season, I don’t expect that he’ll find his way into the playoffs line-up for the Syracuse Crunch. The team is already stacked at forward and there would have to be a number of injuries for him to get into game action. However, that doesn’t mean his time with the team will be a waste. He’ll have an opportunity to practice and observe the team as well as getting to know his new teammates better.