By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
Despite being one of the Boston University men’s hockey team’s biggest defensemen in the 2012-13 season, Ahti Oksanen was also one of its mildest-mannered, with just 12 penalty minutes over 36 games.
However, the 6-foot-3 freshman said when he was growing up in Kirkkonummi, Finland, he looked up to an NHL defenseman known and feared for his mean streak.
“I always liked Chris Pronger,” Oksanen said, grinning. “I know everybody hates him, but I liked him.”
As BU senior defenseman Sean Escobedo pointed out, Oksanen may not be throwing any open-ice hits worthy of Pronger any time soon. But he has worked over the last year to adapt to the more physical style of North American hockey, trying to blend the offensive gifts he developed on a bigger ice surface in Finland with a stronger approach to playing defense.
Oksanen said he was disappointed with his first year at BU, in which he put up four goals and 13 assists. While he improved throughout the year, he acknowledged that his defense needed work early on.
In fact, Oksanen was a forward until four years ago, when a coach back in Finland suddenly decided otherwise. He said it took him a while to feel comfortable on the blue line, although he put up 14 goals and 27 assists for 41 points in the 2011-12 season with the Espoo Blues in Finland.
“[The coach] just said, ‘OK, Ahti, you’re on D today,’” Oksanen said. “And that was it. I never played forward again.”