Columbus signed another former Winnipeg Jet this offseason - Joona Luoto. He has even more similarities to Blue Jackets' star, Patrik Laine: they are both larger forwards with Laine measuring 6-foot-5 and Luoto coming at 6-3, and likely the most interesting similarity is that they were both born in the same city of Tampere, Finland and played junior hockey together during their teens. However, that is where the similarities end, as Luoto's profile, is as low as Laine's is high. That begs the question, who exactly is Joona Luoto?
First off, Luoto is nothing more than a depth signing at this point. He did sign a two-way contract with the CBJ, so he will likely spend most of next season with the club's AHL affiliate, Cleveland Monsters. Although, there is a decent chance he could get some playing time in Columbus at some point during the season, due to injuries.
NEWS: Blue Jackets sign F Joona Luoto to one-year, two-way NHL/AHL contract. Luoto led Tappara to Liiga championship and won Jari Kurri Award as top playoff performer in 2022. https://t.co/xwS6sdONXs— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) June 1, 2022
As previously mentioned the Finnish forward had a short stint with the Jets during the 2019-20 season, appearing in 16 games with an average ice time (ATOI) of 6:35. His stats are very limited with a line of 0-0-0 with nine shots on goal. He also added ten blocks, eight hits, and three takeaways. Though the 24-year-old has very little NHL experience, he at least has an idea of what it is like to play at that level.
Luoto signed a two-way contract with the Jets in 2019, so he also has experience in the AHL, playing for the Manitoba Moose in 29 games over the course of two seasons from 2019-2021. During his time with the Moose, he posted a lackluster stat line of 2-6-8.
Last season he played in Finland, suiting up exclusively for the Tappara Tampere of the Liiga (the top professional league in Finland). Luoto previously skated in the Liiga in between playing in North America, but he ended up staying in Finland for the entire 2021-22 season. During the regular season, he posted fourteen total points, including nine goals and five assists in 27 games.
Part of the reason a lot of his stat lines have not been robust is that he established himself as a two-way forward, doing a lot of his work in the defensive zone. Over the years, he has learned to use his size to his advantage and would most likely be considered a power forward. Though, Luoto did start to show quite a bit of potential on the offensive side during Tappara's most recent postseason run. He was named MVP of the playoffs while posting 17 points in 14 games, with eight of those points coming from goals.
While he is already 24 years old, Luoto still has time to grow, and if he is able to build off of his recent success, he just might find himself as a permanent member of an NHL roster, sometime in the next few years.