Not many people know the name Mika Pyorala. But they may want to learn.
On day one of Flyers’ training camp at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., Philadelphia coach John Stevens paired 28-year old Pyorala on a line with Scott Hartnell and Jeff Carter. With a healthy number of hopeful forwards looking to make an impression, no one expect the move to stick. But it did.
“They are very offensive guys that get a lot of points,” said Pyorala (PURE-ella), who will likely be matched up with the same line in the team’s first preseason game Wednesday in Detroit. “I know if I am going to play with them I have to try to balance the lines because I’m a defensive player.”
Born in Oulu, Finland, Pyorala is an undrafted defensive forward that has yet to play an NHL game, but hopes to crack the Flyers’ tight forward corp or be sent to Glens Falls to be a Phantom.
“The NHL is the best league in the world,” said Pyorala, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason for one-year, $500,000. “I thought it was my time to come here and try to make a team. I’m 28 and if I wait I might pass my time and become too old. I’m excited and willing to take the chance.”
Despite scoring 21 goals and 22 assists with Timra of the low-scoring Swedish Elite League, Pyorala is a versatile defensive forward that is known more for his shutdown capabilities than his scoring. He also can play both wings and center, although his faceoff percentage was below 50% last season.
“He’s a solid two-way guy,” said fellow countryman and Flyers’ defenseman Kimmo Timonen. “He’s not a 30-goal scorer but he can score. He reminds me of Jere Lehtinen, in that he is a very good defensive player that can also create some offense.”
Timonen also believes the Flyers may have found a needle in a haystack.
“I think so (on Pyorala flying under the NHL radar),” he said. “Once you play a lot of national team games you get better and better and he’s at the top of his game right now. I’m looking forward to seeing him play.”
In reality, Pyorala is a nice depth-line utility player or possible 13th forward. He’s mature, makes very few mistakes and has incredible conditioning. But one thing is certain, quiet and reserved Pyorala knows exactly what is needed if he stands a chance to make the big club.
“I have to do well in the preseason games if I’m going to make it to the team,” he said.