It’s too early to declare anything goal of the year quite yet, but Jokerit’s Juhamatti Aaltonen could certainly challenge for the honor with an absolutely outstanding tally he scored Thursday.
In Jokerit’s second game of the season, Aaltonen collected the puck in the neutral zone and broke into the Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod zone with a head of steam. The first defender he met, Aaltonen broke around with speed and beat with a quick forehand-backhand deke before shovelling the puck to Tommi Huhtala.
Huhtala dished the puck back to Aaltonen as he swung around the net with speed, then he proceeded to wait until the last moment to slide the puck between his own legs onto his backhand, get into the slot and rifle a backhand past goaltender Ivan Lisutin. The entire play is outstanding:
Aaltonen, 30, has been a steady contributor over his career, but for him to score a goal like this is somewhat shocking. One would expect these kind of hands to come from a consistent 30-goal scorer, but Aaltonen hasn’t hit that mark since his under-20 days. It has even been three seasons since he scored at least 15 goals, as hard as that is to believe.
This tally is incredible for Aaltonen’s first goal of the season. It seems unlikely he can top it, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to see him try.
Though he has played his entire career in overseas, Aaltonen was a ninth-round pick, 284th overall, of the St. Louis Blues in 2003. Even though he was drafted, only eight players were selected lower than Aaltonen, two of whom — David Jones and Brian Elliott — have gone on to successful NHL careers.