Devils selection a “dream come true” moment for Vilen
Topias Vilen knew his NHL Draft dream would come through.
Vilen, who had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 35 games in Liiga, even had the inkling that it’d come courtesy the New Jersey Devils.
The club showed some pretty strong interest in the 18-year-old defenseman playing in Finland’s top circuit, after all.
“It was a dream come true moment, for sure,” Vilen said. “Getting drafted was the first big step towards the NHL. The Devils were pretty active towards me with their calls beforehand, but I also raised interest among other clubs. My season was kind of a success, so based on the talks with my agent and on the amount of phone calls, I was pretty much expecting the draft pick coming for me.”
Vilen, a product of Lahti, FIN, was plucked in the fifth round (No. 129) at the 2021 NHL Draft in July.
FCHockey recently caught up with Vilen to talk his season, draft, and what’s to come.
FC Hockey: What kind of memories last season brings to you, as you think back? It was a good breakthrough season for you as a young player.
Topias Vilen: I remember last season with warmth and positive thoughts as I got to be with the Liiga group. When the season started, I was not sure where I was going to play most of the season. I sure had a thought that I might get a chance in the team, but I did not know whether it was going to be one, two or how many games. It was already great to get in to the training squad, but as I kept getting chances more and more, I got hungrier and worked even harder for my spot.
FC Hockey: Pelicans hired some good players for the upcoming season. What kind of a team you have there in Lahti for the season in Liiga?
Topias Vilen: It’s a good group with a lot of young and talented players. Also some more experienced guys to lead the way. We got a good chemistry and I think we are able to get far.
FC Hockey: You are still lead by head coach Tommi Niemela, who seems to have a positive impact on the players and especially on the youth. What kind of talks have you had with him about the season?
Topias Vilen: As I have already shown what I am capable of, I have a chance to take some role in the defence. We have very high profile core, so I must work a lot to get in. We have the older guys like Teemu Eronen and the captain Joonas Jalvanti in the defense as well, so it is great to get to learn from such guys. Joonas is an amazing leader. Very calm and an exemplary athlete.
FC Hockey: What kind of goals you have for the upcoming season? How about North America, what is your situation with going there?
Topias Vilen: Going to North America is the aim for me. I need to do everything as well as I can to be able to compete in North American leagues. It is very good to prepare and develop myself here in Lahti.