The Sharks announced Wednesday they have signed Finnish center Antti Suomela to a one-year, entry-level contract, continuing the team’s trend of bringing in free agent players out of European leagues.
Suomela, 24, was the leading scorer in Liiga — Finland’s top professional league — this past season, recording 21 goals and 39 assists in 59 games with JYP. Suomela had one goal and two assists in six playoff games, helping JYP win the 2018 Champions Hockey League.
Internationally, Suomela, listed at 6-toot and 175 pounds, was most recently a member of Team Finland at the World Championships in Denmark. He recorded one goal in four games.
According to the Sharks, Suomela had a number of NHL suitors.
“Antti’s a very skilled center who has improved his development and production in each of his three seasons in Finland’s top league,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. “We like his combination of skill, speed and defensive awareness and think his style of play fits with the way we play as a team.
“After leading the league in scoring, he had a number of teams interested in his services, and we are excited that he chose San Jose. We look forward to him joining our organization.
Suomela could fill an opening the Sharks might have at center next season, with Eric Fehr, 32, set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and Chris Tierney, 23, a restricted free agent.
Most likely, though, Suomela will need time in the American Hockey League with the Barracuda to adjust to playing center on the smaller North American-sized ice.
Other young centers in the Sharks system include Dylan Gambrell, 21 and Maxim Letunov, 22. Rourke Chartier, 22, and Alexander True, 20, both spent all of last season with the Barracuda.
The Sharks have had some success with recent European free agent signees, including forwards Melker Karlsson and Marcus Sorensen of Sweden and Joonas Donskoi of Finland. Defensemen Tim Heed of Sweden and Radim Simek of the Czech Republic also came to San Jose via free agency.