Toni Rajala was named one of the two "players of the game" after Team Finland's opening day win over Team Russia. Rajala posted four points (2 goals and 2 assists). What impressed me most was his ability to find open ice and get free of Russian defenders.
I had the opportunity to speak to Rajala after the contest. His teammate Erik Haula provided some translation help (Haula is attending Shattuck-St. Marys in the USA and he speaks English like a native).
BWA: You were named best player of the game. Is this a perfect start for you?
Rajala: Yes, it was perfect. We have a very good [start as a] team, we were skating hard--and our goalkeeper was good.
BWA: It seemed that the physical play got things. It seemed that there were some questionable hits?
Rajala (translated by Haula): He thinks that it was really important that it became a physical game. That got us into the game early. They took those penalties at the start and it got us going. We had some guys who were a little bit nervous, but it got better in the end.
BWA: This year you played 21 games in the top Finnish league. Did your coach there give you any special team responsibilities on the power play or penalty kill?
Rajala: Yes, the first ten games I didn't play on the power play, but then I played much more on the power play. I was given more responsibility.
BWA: For fans who have never seen you play, can you compare your style to a Finnish NHLer or any NHL player?
Rajala: Maybe like Marian Gaborik or Henrik Zetterberg?
BWA: You played with an American Troy Milam, did he give you any hints about America? [Troy Milam played for the Thrashers ECHL affiliate the Gwinnett Gladiators.]
Rajala: (laughs) Yes. he's a good guy, he taught me a lot about English and America.
BWA: Do they still call him "Milo"
Rajala: No, he is "Troy" He is very funny, a good team player.
BWA: Have any NHL teams interviewed you so far?
Rajala: No, not so far.
BWA: Do you plan to come over for the NHL draft this summer?
Rajala: Yes, I think so.
BWA: Are you excited to come over and play in North America?
Rajala: I don't know yet.
BWA: Was it special to beat Russia?
Rajala: Yes, very much. Russia is next door.
BWA: Which is better beating Sweden or Russia.
Rajala and Haula: Sweden! (no hesitation)
Haula: We have had wars with Russia.
Hockeys Future Reporter: Team Sweden was clapping when you scored against Russia.
Rajala and Haula: Wow! (both seemed surprised by this)