Monday, April 11, 2016

Senior Series Post #3- Ahti Oksanen

This is post #3 in the Senior Series. You can read Sean Maguire's here and Mike Moran's here.

Ahti Oksanen came to BU an unknown Finnish defenseman recruited to fill the void left by Colby Cohen signing a professional contract. He left as a fan favorite forward who lead the  NCAA in shots on goal as a senior. He is now one of the most sought after undrafted free agents in the NHL and will certainly have his choice of team when he feels ready to make his decision.

Oksanen continued to improve despite changes through his career. After his freshman year, the coaching staff was changed from legendary Jack Parker and associated head coach Mike Bavis(who recruited Ahti) to current head coach David Quinn. Quinn kept Ahti on defense for a full year before making the switch to have Oksanen play at forward for his junior and senior seasons. Oksanen was hesitant at first and even went as far as practicing on defense the entire summer before his junior season despite Coaches Quinn and Steve Greeley reinforcing to him that he would be a forward.

This excerpt from the SB Nation article at last year's Frozen Four gives a good example of how that conversation went.

""I told him we're not going to put you on the third or fourth line, we're going to put you up front and we think you're going to be one of the top six forwards.  I said you're going to have a chance to play with Danny O'Regan, Cason Hohmann or Jack Eichel," explained Quinn of his time spent persuading Oksanen.
Oksanen certainly wasn't following BU recruiting or early returns on who might go in the top two of the 2015 NHL Draft.
"When I told him Jack Eichel ‑‑ this is in May ‑‑ he said, 'Who is that? Never heard of him,'" said Quinn with a smile.
Back in his native Finland for the summer, Oksanen continued to practice as a defenseman.
"It was a huge change for me. I practiced the whole summer as a 'D' man.  I still believe that I would play 'D' here at BU," said Oksanen.
An ultimatum from Quinn was what finally forced Oksanen to reluctantly switch over to playing up front. Quinn was very blunt, saying, "Well, Ahti, you're never going to play another second of defense at BU.  We'd love to have you back at left wing."
It didn't take long for Oksanen to change his mind, and to validate Quinn's insistence on converting the big Finn from defense to forward."
Once Oksanen was convinced the switch to the forward position, he got to do his favorite thing even more often: shoot. Oksanen would accumulate 363 SOG over the next two season which was substantially more than anyone else in the country. His legend would only grow with each shot attempted. He scored goals from below the the blue line to the goal line and every inbetween. Replacing his 40 goals from the last two seasons will be difficult for BU to replace but he certainly will make the community proud in the NHL sooner before later. 
Best of luck to Ahti. I hope Coach Quinn listens to you and gets more Finns in the program for years to come and some lucky NHL fans are going to get to watch you try to shoot every chance you get for your entire NHL career.

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