Following a miraculous hat trick, including the overtime game winner in game seven of the second round to send Nathan Mackinnon and the Colorado Avalanche packing, the main question on everyone’s mind was “Who is this Joel Kiviranta kid?”.
The answer to that begins with former Star and current General Manager of the Finnish national team Jere Lehtinen. Apparently still in good contact with those at the forefront of the organization he won the Selke trophy with, Lehtinen alerted the Stars of the then 23 year old Kiviranta, who agreed to sign with the team on a two year entry level deal in the wake of a gold medal performance at the 2019 World Juniors.
After five seasons in his country’s top pro league, the AHL wasn’t the biggest of leaps for Kiviranta, as he was able to notch 12 goals and 11 assists in 48 games with the Texas Stars before receiving the call up to the show for a January 3rd game against Detroit. He remained with the team in Dallas, playing 11 more games in the regular season following his debut, scoring a single goal in that span. Coming into the season restart, he was largely still an unknown, and would remain as such until he was inserted into the lineup for game seven of the semifinals in place of the injured Andrew Cogliano. From there the rest is history, in just his second playoff game since 2016, Kiviranta powered Dallas to the franchise’s first conference finals appearance since the 2007-08 season.
In the aftermath of the game, he was quoted as saying that it “felt like a normal game” for him, which not only adds to the night’s lore, but also establishes the stoic nature of the young Finn and how pressure doesn’t seem to faze him, a trait that certainly prolong his stay in the league. Watching him play, Kiviranta is not some superstar that can go 100 mph around every player on the ice, he’s just a positionally solid forward that always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He creates opportunities for himself and his teammates through that high Hockey IQ that he appears to possess combined with the fact that he doesn’t shy away from the physical side of the game, using his body to win puck battles and gain position in front of the net.
If he can continue to perform as he has been in these playoffs, he seems to be perfect for a second line role with this Stars team. An all-around player with clutch in his genes and nerves of steel, the future looks bright for Joel Kiviranta.
Image: Jason Franson